An Angry Specter

by TChris

Shortly after being reelected in 2004, Arlen Specter earned the wrath of conservative extremists by suggesting that anti-abortion judges would have difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Specter learned the power of conservative outrage when his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee was threatened. Specter executed a quick flip-flop by assuring extremists that he "would never apply any litmus test on the abortion issue."

A year-and-a-half later, the inability of conservative extremists to govern has been exposed, and their death grip on Specter has weakened. While Specter has shown little inclination to oppose any of the president's judicial nominees, he's recently been slapping the Bush administration, apparently content in the knowledge that the president and his supporters are too weak to hit back with any force.

Yesterday, the Justice Department sent Matthew Friedrich to stonewall the Judiciary Committee's interest in Alberto Gonzales' assertion that journalists can be prosecuted for divulging classified information. Specter put up a fuss when Friedrich dodged his questions.

Mr. Specter grew irritated when Mr. Friedrich declined to say whether prosecutors have actually considered indicting journalists for their role in publishing classified information. "I don't even understand your point in declining to answer whether the Department of Justice has ever considered it," the senator said.

Today Specter sent Vice President Cheney a testy letter (pdf) complaining that Cheney went behind his back to sabotage the Judiciary Committee's investigation of reports that telephone companies have handed over customer calling records to the NSA.

I was advised yesterday that you had called Republican members of the Judiciary Committee lobbying them to oppose any Judiciary Committee hearing, even a closed one, with the telephone companies. I was further advised that you told those Republican members that the telephone companies had been instructed not to provide any information to the Committee as they were prohibited from disclosing classified information.

I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the Committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point. This was expecially perplexing since we both attended the Republican Senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions enroute from the buffet to my table.

It seems the senator is a bit peeved. And rightly so. Instructing a witness not to appear before a Senate committee smacks of obstructing justice. And Cheney's failure to disclose his back-stabbing by Specter's second trip to the buffet was downright disrespectful -- the greater source, perhaps, of Specter's consternation.

Extreme conservatives have painted Specter as a crazy liberal because he occasionally shows some interest in protecting the Constitution. Specter is no liberal. He is, however, chair of the Judiciary Committee, a position that meant something before the administration decided that the legislature is irrelevant. Specter plainly wants the position to mean something again. If he finally believes it's safe to remind his colleagues that Congress has an oversight role even when Republicans are in the White House, more power to him.

Specter has harsh words for the administration's continuing violation of the law.

There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which sets forth the exclusive procedure for domestic wiretaps which requires the approval of the FISA Court.

Specter argues that the president's claim of inherent Article II authority to ignore legislation he doesn't like isn't a "blank check" to keep Congress in the dark about the details of its domestic spying.

< Wednesday Open Thread | Our Failure of a Prison System >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#1)
    by rdandrea on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 05:59:08 PM EST
    Puh-Leez Specter never wanted to hold hearings. He only wanted to pretend he did. This gives him political cover, and also gives him another opportunity to posture and pretend he's mad. The best of all worlds to a nothing like Specter. If Specter really wanted to exercise appropriate congressional oversight, he's had many years and dozens of issues. He doesn't. He just likes getting his face on TV.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#2)
    by DonS on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 06:20:05 PM EST
    The very definition of eunuch. Oh so too little too late.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 07:28:52 PM EST
    Well, I guess a eunuch wouldn't be able to do it at all, huh? Still, closing door after cows left barn time. And, he's not alone ... need some noises to show voters you aren't lapdogs.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#4)
    by Joe Bob on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 08:14:58 PM EST
    There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act...
    Really Arlen? Those are strong words, so what are you going to do about it? It's likely that the Bush administration is going to continue to grab whatever power they feel they need, until someone with the power to stop them (I'm talking about you Congressional Republicans.) actively tries to stop them. This latest thing from Specter is just another version of "Pretty please with sugar on top, stop breaking the law.", which we have heard for several years now.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 09:42:47 PM EST
    Cafferty just called himself a fool for ever believing Specter ... the little worm who cried wolf. In the last 6 months, he's made about a dozen dramatic, front page statements denouncing Bush Administration tactics. Every last one has been followed by a reversal where he, as quietly as possible, knuckled under 100%. I think it's completely premeditated. I think Karl's just letting him do it so he doesn't end up as unpopular as Santorum.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 10:51:21 PM EST
    I am glad you put your comment on this topic here, Jeralyn. So far the Judiciary Committee only has posted the prepared statements of Jack Anderson's son, one academic whose arguments are a lengthy justification of the case for reporters having essentially no first amendment rights yet, and your cited DOJ representative whose grilling is depicted in a WaPo article that puts a little more of the opprobrium of several senators in print. The gist as I interpret it is Gonzales declares the right to review all Washington DC journalists' files for any document that needs classification or reclassification. Among the classic investigative journalism Jack Engaged in were, of course, the current president's father, the first president Bush, and even as far back as Watergate. Anderson evidently was working on material which has surfaced in recent scandals, now, posthumously, though he ceased active writing a few years ago. As you likely recall, the National Archives was reported in the NYT in February 2006 to have followed a program to reclassify 55,000 documents dating back as far as 1999; though I expect NYT has that behind the paywall now. NYT archives most articles very quickly these days, limiting research to people willing to pay $3./per view, or whatever the terms of Select access are. Also worth mention is the appearance at the Judiciary hearing of George Washington University professor Feldstein, to whom the Jack Anderson family had entrusted the contested 188 cartons of Anderson' papers for a research project writing a book to be entitled "Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson and the Rise of Washington's Scandal Culture" scheduled for publication in 2007; Feldstein is a GWU associate professor of media and public affairs and director of the journalism program. The people who want to honor the privacy of Andersons' records mentioned at the Judiciary Committee hearing that some people whose information is in those files are still active in political life in WA-DC, and had contributed their information only on a nondisclosure basis. This reminds me of technology company contracts for nondisclosure. Congress is developing a federal shield for reporters. It sounds like the Judiciary Committee is wearying of incooperativeness on the reporter privacy matter. Maybe this hearing's fireworks yesterday will be the final impetus for congress to devise a fair law to help reporters at a time when information management has become a key part of the administration's approach to public policy.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 10:52:35 PM EST
    Appreciation to TCK, as well, for the article.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 01:12:44 AM EST
    This was expecially perplexing since we both attended the Republican Senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions enroute from the buffet to my table.
    Did he just call Cheney a fat oaf??!

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#10)
    by marty on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 07:16:39 AM EST
    Golly gee whiz, Arlen.....are you maybe, finally, after all this time coming to the conclusion that they really don't give a flying **** what you or anyone else thinks????????? Are you maybe, maybe waking up to the fact they despise any oversight by anyone?

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 08:55:44 AM EST
    No Senator Spector. You shouldn't claim to be surprised by Cheney's backdoor trickery. You know, I know, we all know this is how Cheney operates. (Case in point: the Plame affair) What is a surprise, is that you continually play the dupe.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#13)
    by swingvote on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:09:13 AM EST
    goodasgold, What makes you think Arlen is "playing"? Ever heard of the single bullet theory? And then of course there is Arlen's client Ira Einhorn, who never would have spent 20 years living on the lam in France if Arlen hadn't helped him get out on bail. Arlen isn't playing. He is a dupe.

    Re: An Angry Specter (none / 0) (#14)
    by scribe on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:11:01 AM EST
    Here's a link to the whole letter. Not that I expect this eunuch will have much of anything to come from his bleatings.