This morning, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) took to right-wing talk radio to continue his politically-motivated crusade against President-elect Obama’s Attorney General designate Eric Holder. Appearing on Bill Bennett’s Morning In America, Specter complained that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) had declared his support for Holder’s appointment before the confirmation hearings had even begun. Additionally, Specter took issue with Leahy’s recent prediction that Holder would be confirmed:
BENNETT: Do you have confidence that the Democrats on your committee will look at [Holder’s record] honestly? […]
SPECTER: I think they will be strongly inclined to confirm him regardless. … Sen Leahy has said that he “guarantees” the confirmation of Holder.
BENNETT: Well, how can you say that ahead of time?
SPECTER: Well I can’t say that ahead of time. I wouldn’t and haven’t.
Specter said further, “I think it’s very important for people in my position to deal on a factual basis and a professional basis and not to make up my mind in advance. That is what a hearing is for.” Listen here:
Specter’s dismay at Leahy’s prediction is ironic, considering his past statements. On December 24, 2000, two days after then President-elect Bush announced that he had selected John Ashcroft for Attorney General and three weeks before Ashcroft’s confirmation hearings, Specter went on Face the Nation and confidently predicted that Ashcroft would be confirmed by the Senate:
SCHEIFFER: Senator Specter, you’re on the Judiciary Committee. Can John Ashcroft be confirmed?
SPECTER: Yes, I think he can be, and will be. I think the president is entitled to great latitude in the selection of his Cabinet officers. And I know John Ashcroft very well. He’s a first-rate lawyer. He was attorney general of Missouri.
Additionally, Specter’s emphasis today on the import of senators not making up their minds “in advance” of confirmation is disingenuous considering that fact that he decided to vote to confirm Ashcroft before that set of hearings began. A day before Ashcoft’s hearings began on January 16, 2001, Specter told a reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I’ve said publicly that unless something comes up which is extraordinary, that I do intend to vote for him.”
Similarly, on January 17, 2001, Wolf Blitzer asked Specter, “you have made up your mind, basically, already, haven’t you?” Specter responded, “I have said that unless something unusual happens, I will support John Ashcroft.”
Specter appears increasingly alone in his opposition to Holder’s confirmation. Today, former judiciary committee chair Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) announced his support for Holder. Other prominent conservatives backing Holder include former Solicitor General Ted Olsen, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR), and former Deputy Attorneys General Jim Comey and Paul Mcnulty.