Senator Arlen Specter got himself into hot water with fire-breathing anti-abortion Republicans for stating the obvious–that no anti-abortion Supreme Court nominee will pass a divided U.S. Senate. Here’s what the New York Times quotes him as saying:
The Senate, Mr. Specter said, would be unlikely to approve "judges who would change the right of a woman to choose.”
Anyone who can count knows that the Republicans now have 55 votes and without five Democrats they can’t beat a virtually assured Democratic filibuster.
The anti-abortionists got themselves into high dudgeon over Specter’s candid remarks:
Michael Schwartz said his organization [Concerned Women of America] would continue to press the case against the lawmaker.
"It is clear to me that with this statement and his past record of performance, Senator Specter has disqualified himself from any right to be considered as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.”
I actually think it’d be a great development if the Republican senators caved to the hard right and shunted Specter aside. Every Democrat in America knows whose side Arlen Specter is going to be on in a Supreme Court fight. He’s not going to be on the side of women or abortion rights. He’s going to be on the president’s side even if his nominee is anti-choice. In fact, in the same Times article, Specter points out that he’s voted for every single execrable nominee Bush has proposed for the federal bench.
But the problem with Specter as chairman is that he adds a veneer of moderation to the process. Republicans can say that with Specter in charge the committee will give fair and balanced hearings allowing both sides to air their views; when everyone knows that the outcome of the hearings will be predetermined.
I’d really like to see someone like Rick Santorum take over that committee. Then the hard-right will be mollified and we will know who our real enemies are. So I say, let ’em dump Arlen. Good riddance to a temporizer. The harder right the Republican party goes, the faster Democrats will get back into the running as a viable contender for national political leadership.
Of course, Bush, Rove and Gonzales will be far smarter than to nominate an out and out anti-abortion nominee. They’ll nominate a stealth candidate who has a record that cannot be construed as overtly anti-abortion. And this will give that nominee cover for refusing to answer questions from Democrats about his or her views on abortion. You can be damn sure that this is the advice that Arlen Specter is giving the bastards as I write this.
Now that I think about all of this, I’ve come to realize why rumors are flying that Ashcroft may not be back for a second term. Can you think of any bigger lightning rod for opposition to a Bush appointee than John "Hatchetman" Ashcroft? I can’t.