It seems our old pal Arlen Specter is taking shots at Eric Holder, Barack Obama's choice as attorney general. Specter has previously expressed doubts about Holder, who was involved in the messy Marc Rich pardon in the final days of the Clinton era. But on the Senate floor, Specter kicked it up a notch, arguing
After our recent experience with Attorney General Gonzales, it is imperative that the Attorney General undertake and effectuate that responsibility of independence. Mr. Gonzales left office accused of politicizing the Justice Department, failing to restrain Executive overreaching, and being less than forthcoming with Congress ... I am convinced that many of Attorney General Gonzales' missteps were caused by his eagerness to please the White House.
As Talking Points Memo notes, comparing Holder to Gonzales is hitting below the belt. But perhaps this all says a lot more about Specter than anyone else.
As the Rustbelt Intellectual observes, Specter "has carefully crafted a public persona as an 'independent' and 'moderate' Republican, while voting far more often than not to hold the Republican party line."
Specter often does get lumped in with moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe, largely because of his pro-choice stance. But Specter's voting record has shown that he is far to the right of Snowe and (now-departed) Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee.
In recent years, Specter has repeatedly pronounced grave Constitutional doubts about Bush Adminstration initiatives like warrantless wiretapping -- but he always ends up caving. The end result, if any, is that citizens get the vague, and entirely false, sense that someone in Congress is doing some due diligence on what the executive branch is up to. Obviously, that isn't the case -- or it wouldn't be possible to use names like "Alberto Gonzalez" as epithets. (Epithets Specter is using against DEMOCRATS, no less.)
And who can forget the fact that, by demonizing Anita Hill, he helped put ensure the Supreme Court appointment of Clarence Thomas -- arguably the biggest floater on the bench today?
Maybe Specter's objections to Holder will be just another in a long line of head-fakes. It's already clear that he'll be facing spirited opposition from arch-conservative Pat Toomey in 2010 ... maybe this is a sign that Specter plans to tack to the right prior to the election -- again.
Conservatives have long groused that Specter does this sort of thing every time the election cycle rolls his way. But maybe it's time for moderates and liberals to get pissed off as well. Philadelphia-area moderates have long been Specter's base of support ... but Philly went hard for Obama in November. How much patience will they have for Specter throwing up roadblocks against Obama's cabinet choices?
In the long term, Specter's shenanigans could mean the Dems pick up a Senate seat in 2010. But in the short term, I find it troubling. It means that we can count on Republican obstructionism despite the scope of the Democratic win in 2008 -- and despite the crisis this country is in. I know Obama wants to play nice, but I'm pretty sure the GOP isn't interested in joining the game.