Senator Specter: You Drive Me Nuts

Before I address the recent AP article about Senator Specter, a bit of background. I'm from Pennsylvania. A rather conservative part of Pennsylvania. In my dealings with people outside of the state, I defended my state's seeming political incongruity with New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland by pointing to Mr. Specter. "Even Pennsylvania Republicans are a different sort" I would say, pointing to Sen. Specter's pro-choice position, his warnings to the Administration upon becoming chair of the Judiciary Committee, his general lack of 'fundie-ness.' I'd call Santorum an aberration, disliked by a solid majority of Pennsylvania soon to be recalled from Washington in favor of a moderate Democrat. This, I said, a moderate from each party, would more fairly represent my state.

Needless to say, Senator Specter has disappointed me lately. He buckled in his role as moderate Chair of the Judiciary Committee, allowing an obviously anti-choice candidate for Supreme Court Justice to go through with his support. His independence from the Administration waned. I was saddened. I moved to Maryland. Now, it seems, Mr. Specter has shown another glimmer of 'nonfundie-ness'. We'll see if it lasts.

The AP is running a story in which the first story labels my former favorite Senator from Pennsylvania a "vocal Republican critic of the Bush administration's eavesdropping program ." Go read the whole thing, but here are enough excerpts to give you the basic idea:

A vocal Republican critic of the Bush administration's eavesdropping program will preside over Senate efforts to write the program into law, but he was pessimistic Wednesday that the White House wanted to listen.

"They want to do just as they please, for as long as they can get away with it," Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think what is going on now without congressional intervention or judicial intervention is just plain wrong."


The Senate Parliamentarian last week gave Specter jurisdiction over two different bills that would provide more checks on the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program.

One bill, written by Specter, would require a secretive federal intelligence court to conduct regular reviews of the program's constitutionality. A rival approach -— drafted by Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record) and three other Republicans -— would allow the government to conduct warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days before seeking court or congressional approval.

Specter said the House and Senate intelligence committees could have had authority over the program under the 1947 National Security Act, which lays out when the spy agencies must tell Congress about intelligence activities.

But, Specter said, the committees haven't gotten full briefings on the program, instead choosing to create small subcommittees for the work.

"The intelligence committees ought to exercise their statutory authority on oversight, but they aren't," Specter said. "The Judiciary Committee has acted. We brought in the attorney general. We had a second hearing with a series of experts, and we are deeply involved in it."


Specter's bill would require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to provide a broad constitutional review of the surveillance activities every 45 days and evaluate whether the government has followed previous authorizations that are issued.
Is this just posturing or has my on-again-off-again Senator really had enough? Mr. Specter claims to have Democratic support for his efforts. This could be a good sign but the way that the Democratic Leadership has behaved lately gives me very little faith.

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