In Defense of Specter

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There's this movement to suspend a Republican rule for how they govern themselves within the Senate to prevent Senator Arlen Specter from getting the judiciary committe chair. He isn't the next in line, but the next in line is expected not to take it due to not wanting to give up being chair of another committee, and the rules state that no senator can be chair of two committees. The only thing I keep seeing is that, because Specter is pro-choice, he won't be able to be fair in pushing Bush's nominees through. In other words, his view on abortion will make him unable to do his job, which shouldn't be affected by his views. What does this remind you of?

Beware, for you shall be judged according to the standard by which you judge. It wasn't too long ago that roughly the same group of people was complaining that Democrats were saying they couldn't trust John Ashcroft to do his job. Why? He's pro-life. Not too long after that, they kept saying the same things about any judge nominee who was pro-life who got blockaded by Democrats in the Senate. Now the Republicans are doing it to one of their own in an exactly parallel situation. It's because of his views on abortion that they're saying he can't do his job.

I just can't figure out what Specter said that was so bad. Sure, he's pro-choice, and he Borked Bork, but he also voted for Scalia and even fought for Thomas, both stalwarts for resisting the revisionism that allowed Roe v. Wade and has furthered its cause with subsequent decisions that they voted against. Specter himself disagrees strongly with Scalia and Thomas on abortion, and I doubt he didn't at least suspect that during their confirmation process. What he said recently that everyone is up in arms about was in response to whether thought Roe would be overturned, and he said it wasn't likely. He didn't think Bush nominees who are too pro-life would get through. He didn't say he wouldn't vote for them. He didn't say he'd join the Democrats in obstructionist techniques. He did remind people that the Democratic filibuster prevented such nominees from getting to the bench, which makes it likely it would prevent them from getting to the Supreme Court. Did I miss something he said, or are people just going way beyond what he's said to do the same thing to Specter that they complained about Democrats doing to judicial nominees? I say the latter until I see a broader context to the quote that shows it's not the most obvious way to take it given what I've seen of his actual words.

3 Comments

Yeah, but Jeremy, the borking of Robert Bork was a disgrace. I don't think it can be easily "yeah, butted". It's like saying "Why is everybody so hard on O.J.? Yeah, he killed those two people, but he has always done a lot of charity work...."

It's not because of his view on abortion that I think he can't do his job. It's because of his past work in exactly this area that makes me think he can't do his job. The spin that Specter was simply pointing out the objective facts to Bush doesn't wash. The incoming chairman of the judiciary committee, who has great power over nominations and who led the disgraceful attack on Robert Bork, made his statement the day after the elections. He's been around long enough to know how to issue a subtle warning, and how to give himself an out (which he's using now). But his out doesn't hold water: did he really think the president would appoint LESS conservative judges, or that he was informing the president of something that has been occuring for the last four years that he didn't know about?

Sure, Specter hasn't been all bad. Nobody is. Even Hitler didn't murder his own mother. But as the guy slated to head the committee in the one area where Bush has faced the most intense resistance, the one area where most power is exercised in our nation today, conservatives are hardly out of line to be demanding someone else based on his abysmal record.

Part of what I was saying is that he did that but seems not to be doing that sort of thing since. I'm not entirely sure of the chronology, but I believe Bork was before Scalia and Thomas, definitely before Thomas. I'm not talking about whether we should respect the guy. I'm talking about whether there's any good reason to think he won't push Bush's nominees through when he's saying he will.

His statement seemed to me to be to pro-choice supporters reassuring them that there probably won't be any overturning of Roe v. Wade. Is there more to the context that should make it rather a statement to Bush?

Well the good news is, I think he will push Bush's nominees through now, whereas I think before there was at least good reason to doubt it. Yes, Bork was before the other two, but that's part of the problem: Specter was a wild card. There was no telling what he might do to a good nominee.

But now he's been brought to heel, and I tend to think it will be better to have him there heeling than to have him embittered on the committee and hardened against the administration. So it may be that all of this has worked out for the best of all involved (from a conservative standpoint).

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