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Ruth Marcus in today's Washington Post notes that Senator Arlen Specter has hardly mellowed after the compromise that left him in his Judiciary Committee chairmanship or with the recent diagnosis of Hodgkin's Disease. In a visit with the Post's editorial board yesterday, Specter appears to have backtracked significantly on his agreement with the GOP on President Bush's judicial nominations, in spirit if not in fact:
If you thought that his brush with losing the committee chairmanship had chastened the legendarily contrarian Specter, if you thought his recent diagnosis of Hodgkin's disease might have tempered his approach -- well, that wasn't the Specter on display in a visit with The Post editorial board yesterday. Instead, the discussion featured Specter Unbound: the Specter who voted against Robert H. Bork rather than the one who rallied to the defense of Clarence Thomas.
Specter had some cautionary words for Democrats as well -- chiding them for opposing qualified nominees such as Miguel Estrada, urging them to allow votes and avoid an ugly showdown, and placing blame -- properly so -- on both sides for inflaming and escalating the judicial nomination wars. For two decades, he said, Democrats and Republicans have been blocking the other side's judges, using increasingly unappetizing tactics. "Now," he said, "it's a situation where nobody wants to back down." Still, he reserved his toughest words for the extremists of his own party, pressed for accommodations from his own side and made clear that his cooperation with the administration would have its limits. All he had promised the president, Specter said, was a "prompt airing" for his nominees and a vote out of committee. "Those are the extent of my commitments," he said flatly.
Marcus leaves little doubt that she likes this Specter persona much better than the one who capitulated to the White House to save the assignment he cherished late last year. She lauds his independence as what "the country needs," and speaks approvingly of his insistence on having his aides pop the little tab on his coffee cup so he doesn't have to be bothered with such proletarian tasks. In fact, in the same breath, she calls him "serious", while that little detail about the way he treats his subordinates as butlers and maids sounds as though he has a serious case of self-love.
Apparently, Specter felt in his element with the Post's editors, as Marcus quotes him attacking the "far right" by deriding their Christianity:
His post-election comments that a Supreme Court nominee who opposed abortion rights was not likely to win Senate confirmation was reported as a warning to the president, and the groups that had hoped to unseat the moderate Specter in favor of a more conservative Republican then mobilized in an effort to deny him the chairmanship. Or, as Specter not so diplomatically put it, "the far right was ready to pounce on me if I'd done nothing but said the Lord's Prayer, and that was a crevice and they went after it."
And just to complete the picture of Specter sucking up to the center-left at the expense of the GOP, Specter let the Post know that he has no enthusiasm for the so-called "nuclear option" eliminating filibusters when dealing with executive-branch confirmations, including the judiciary:
But yesterday, though he said he had not yet taken a position on the nuclear option, Specter made clear his serious reservations about infringing on the traditional rights of the minority. "Once you plant the seed, that has enormous flourishing power in the Congress," he said. And when asked whether filibustering a nominee is ever justifiable, Specter paused for several seconds before delivering a lengthy answer that boiled down to yes: "It ought to be reserved for a truly extraordinary case and not to make it an everyday practice as the Democrats have."
So this is what Bill Frist won for the GOP -- a Judiciary Committee chair that openly derides the party base and refuses to support Frist on dismantling the unconstitutional roadblocks Democrats erected to block judicial nominations? Obviously Specter learned nothing from his hot-water episode last year and goes out of his way to make sure everyone knows it. Marcus practically laughs out loud with delight throughout her entire piece, clearly thrilled that Specter wants to buck Republican leadership and feels strong enough politically to do so in an on-the-record meeting with the Post.
So what to do next? Bill Frist needs to get his butt out of his chair and hie thee hither to Specter's office forthwith. The GOP leadership needs to make a decision, along with the White House, as to what their legislative priorities are this session. For many of us, judicial nominations are the first and most pressing priority, especially with the certainty of one Supreme Court nomination this year and possible three in this session. If the GOP also believes this to be a pressing issue, then they obviously have the wrong man as Judiciary chair, and they need to determine how best to correct that situation.
Marcus praises Specter's intelligence and independence, but Specter wasn't above getting Bush to campaign for him during his tough primary fight against a true conservative. That doesn't mean Specter should simply rubber-stamp whoever Bush nominates, but these comments go far beyond retaining his moral privelege. They demonstrate a particular contempt for the people who helped elect him as well as the people who continued to support him. While I argued earlier that the GOP should reach some sort of accommodation with Specter, it appears that Specter isn't the kind of man who honors such agreements.
It's time to exercise the nuclear option with Specter.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» The Spectre of Specter from Pajama Hadin
Captain Ed has a Specter update. Ruth Marcus in today's Washington Post notes that Senator Arlen Specter has hardly mellowed after the compromise that left him in his Judiciary Committee chairmanship or with the recent diagnosis of Hodgkin's Disea... [Read More]
Tracked on February 24, 2005 3:19 PM
» CAPTAIN'S QUARTERS BLOG: The Spectre Of Specter Rises Again, And Again from Whither The Fool?
O Captain, My Captain! When is Specter (and the Dems) gonna get it?... [Read More]
Tracked on February 24, 2005 5:58 PM
» The Return of Spectre from TriggerFinger
Spectre's back. Yes, the same senator who voted against arming pilots is trying to influence the judicial nomination process and supporting the Democratic filibuster option. Do you think this Republican-in-name-only will support our gun rights -- or ... [Read More]
Tracked on February 25, 2005 1:39 AM
» Time to Go Nuclear? from Virtual Fret Noise
Captain Ed: While I argued earlier that the GOP should reach some sort of accommodation with Specter, it appears that Specter isn't the kind of man who honors such agreements.[Read More]
Tracked on February 26, 2005 8:59 PM
Tracked on March 28, 2006 7:52 AM
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