Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Goodbye, Arlen

I've never particularly cared for Arlen Specter, and I confess I will not miss him.  He represents the hectoring political class, like Lieberman, that imagines that they represent higher principles.  In reality the fact that this guy is still trying to hold on to power at 80 tells me that even after all these years he imagines himself too important to allow another generation to step forward.  He's wrong. 

Nonetheless it would be a mistake not to acknowledge Specter's out sized impact on Justice issues and the judiciary in the United States, good and bad.  PennLive had a nice summary:

"Perhaps the most famous defeat of any Supreme Court nominee in history was Robert Bork’s in 1987. Many blame — or credit — Arlen Specter, who criticized Bork intensely and was the only Republican on the Judiciary Committee to vote against him. The Senate rejected Bork’s nomination and created a new Washington verb in the process: to Bork — that is, to defeat a nominee through attacks on his or her character.

While Specter blocked one divisive Supreme Court nominee, he helped elevate another amid an even greater firestorm. Oklahoma law professor Anita Hill made national headlines when she accused nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment, and Hill’s testimony riveted the nation.

As Hill, who had worked for Thomas, described in lurid detail alleged comments, unwanted advances and pornography on nationwide television, she brought the subject of sexual harassment into the spotlight for the first time. Women nationwide hailed her as a hero and came forth with their own tales of harassment in the workplace.

As a former prosecutor, Specter drew the job of aggressively grilling Hill. He even accused her of  'flat-out perjury.' Thomas was approved, but women’s groups went after Specter with a vengeance in the 1992 election"
After the Clarence Thomas confirmation and in subsequent years as Thomas has supplied consistent votes upholding death penalties, despite Thomas' good moral Catholic upbringing--I held Specter responsible.  If you ever want to see a shameful, phony, grand standing, and disgusting performance by a US Senator, Specter's cross-examination of Anita Hill is right up with the best of Joe McCarthy. 

And yet, Specter's a complex guy and Clarence Thomas is not the sum-all, there have been moments I'd point to and say, thank God for Arlen Specter.  Specter was a voice for common sense on many issues, especially Clinton's impeachment.  Hard to believe that at the end of the day, Arlen Specter was too "librul" for the Republican party.


  1. To me, he will be forever tainted by the Anita Hill controversy. He treated her shamefully--and never apologized, although several of her most vocal detractors admitted that they made stuff up about her. Shame on you, Arlen. What goes around, comes around. Eventually.

  2. G--
    Great hearing from you, I need to update my shortcut ot yoru blog, it's beautiful! Your "web designer" needs to enable "registration" for commentary.

    On point, yeah, I really resent Specter's conduct in the Anita Hill situation; but, Anita Hill was immortalized by Specter's cross examination. Great civil rights heroes of the past did not become great civil rights heroes without adversity--and her adversity was fairly mild. Anita Hill will always stand for something very important. When Clarence Thomas and Arlen Specter pass on, Anita Hill's name will be in their obits.

  3. Well, it's true that Hill didn't suffer as much as some civil rights icons--but for all of us women of a certain age, it was humiliating, reminded us of how far we hadn't come. I take comfort in the fact that something like that probably couldn't happen now. Probably.
    The blog: yes, it's up! Not sure how much I can post for the next weeks. I'm all into the authorship issue now, which is fun. Since the site was designed by my spouse, however, he has to actually add functionality for registration. Which means, stop doing his real work to fix this. May take a week or two.