Hard-bitten and tenacious yet ever the centrist, Mr. Specter was a part of American public life for more than four decades. As an ambitious young lawyer for the Warren Commission, he took credit for originating the theory that a single bullet, fired by a lone gunman, had killed President John F. Kennedy.He was, for better or worse, a fixture of the Senate for decades. RIP.
In the Senate, where he was long regarded as its sharpest legal mind, he led the Judiciary Committee through one of its most tumultuous periods, even while battling Hodgkin’s disease in 2005 and losing his hair to chemotherapy.
Yet he may be remembered best for his quixotic party switch in 2009 and the subsequent campaign that cost him the Senate seat he had held for almost 30 years. After 44 years as a Republican, Mr. Specter, who began his career as a Democrat, changed sides because he feared a challenge from the right. He wound up losing in a Democratic primary; the seat stayed in Republican hands.
He relished his work on the Judiciary Committee. In 1987, he enraged conservatives by derailing Judge Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court and then delighted them four years later by backing Justice Thomas. The Thomas confirmation nearly cost Mr. Specter his Senate seat; even now, millions of American women remain furious with him for his aggressive questioning of the law professor Anita Hill, who had accused Justice Thomas of sexual harassment.
If he had any regrets, Mr. Specter rarely admitted them.
“I’ve gone back and looked at every frame of the videos on Professor Hill, and I did not ask her one unprofessional question,” he said in a 2004 interview with The New York Times. Of both the Bork and Thomas confirmations, he said, “I may be wrong, but I’m satisfied with what I did in both those cases.”
Brash confidence and outsize ego were characteristic of Mr. Specter, a man so feared by his own aides and so brusque with colleagues that he earned the nickname Snarlin’ Arlen on Capitol Hill. In 1992, when Mr. Specter’s Senate seat was in danger after the Thomas hearings, Paul Weyrich, a founding father of the modern conservative movement, campaigned for him. His rationale was expressed in a statement he made to fellow conservatives, as quoted by the conservative magazine National Review.
“Arlen Specter is a jerk,” he was said to have remarked, “but he’s our jerk.”
Sunday, October 14, 2012
RIP Arlen Specter
Remembering the controversial legacy of Arlen Specter: