If conservatives successfully block Arlen Specter’s rise to the chairmanship of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, it will be largely with the help of the Pennsylvania Republican himself. It is not just that Specter is one of the Senate’s most liberal Republicans, a profligate spender, a tax hiker, and a loyal friend of labor unions. Nor is it simply that he is pro-abortion, either. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani calls himself pro-choice, but he does not stick that position in people’s faces. As such, he remains enormously popular among Republicans, and even among some conservatives, such as NR’s David Frum, who believe Rudy could win the White House if he said things that might comfort pro-lifers sufficiently to secure the 2008 GOP nomination (e.g. opposing partial-birth abortion, accepting parental-notification restrictions, and protecting infants who survive abortion procedures).
Specter is something completely different. He is abrasively, loudly, snarlingly pro-abortion. To see how much so, consider a fundraising letter Specter signed that appeared Friday on grassrootsPA.com, a conservative Pennsylvania website.
In the May 15, 1995 letter, Specter sought money for his bid for the 1996 GOP presidential nod, a project that went nowhere. Specter wrote, “I want to strip the strident anti-choice language from the 1996 Republican National Platform and will lead the fight to do so at the next National Convention.”
After complaining about religious conservatives who would not support a pro-choice nominee, Specter remarked, “I don’t think that the Republican Party should be blackmailed by any special interest group,” as if pro-lifers, central to the GOP base, were a Washington lobby, like the National Restaurant Association.
“I will not give up our party to radical extremists without a fight,” Specter added, before calling pro-lifers “the far-right fringe.”
“I resent people like Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, and Pat Buchanan trying to give litmus tests to determine who can be a Republican candidate,” Specter wrote. That’s certainly an odd comment from a man who wants to apply his own litmus test to federal judges.
Specter did exactly that Wednesday as he lectured the just-reelected President Bush on who he should and should not appoint to the federal bench.
“When you talk about judges who would change the right of a woman to choose, overturn Roe v. Wade, I think that is unlikely,” Specter told reporters. Specter compared Roe with the 1954 desegregation decision, Brown v. Board of Education. He high-handedly added that he “would expect the president to be mindful of the considerations which I mentioned.”
While Specter could have shared his advice privately with Bush or intelligently asked if America is ready to see Roe v. Wade overturned, Specter took the tacky road by condescending the man who rescued him from a nearly successful challenge by pro-life, free-market stalwart Congressman Pat Toomey of Allentown.
Specter has evoked conservative ire not just for his positions, but for the nasty way he advances them. It’s difficult to imagine very many weeping were the judiciary chairman’s gavel pried from his liberal fingers.