As regular readers already know, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) irritatingly tends to stand by his maverick principles right up until his influence might mean something, and then drop them like a prom dress. During the GOP trifecta years his behavior got so predictable that I named a category after it.
In a narrowly Democratic Senate Specter’s position becomes tougher because he has fewer chances for empty gestures and more moments when he has to stand up or back down on matters of real consequence. So far Specter has largely delivered what I expected, but Specter’s dignity-ectomy was never as complete as the rest of his party’s Congressional delegation so there is always a chance for hope.
For instance, via Steve Benen:
The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Arlen Specter (Pa.), emerged from a crucial Monday briefing and gave the Bush administration 18 hours to resolve the controversy over apparent contradictions in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s congressional testimony.
Gonzales took issue last week with former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s description of internal dissent in 2004 over the legal authority for the National Security Agency’s (NSA) warrantless eavesdropping program. Frustrated Democrats called for a special prosecutor to investigate Gonzales for perjury, noting that several officials have publicly echoed Comey’s account. Those calls prompted Specter to request a classified briefing to clear up the dispute.
Specter aides released a statement late Monday that suggested a bombshell to come on Tuesday afternoon.
Before getting too excited about what this “bombshell” might be, remember that Specter always delivers less than he promises. He values his committee seat too much to let it go, or he lacks the spine to follow through on his threats, or maybe just plays his “maverick” role to keep Democrats off balance as part of the GOP’s general kabuki theater. Nobody knows but Arlen. Regardless, gird yourself for the inevitable announcement that Specter’s bombshell amounts to a very, very angry letter to Gonzales, cc’d to the president.
If events prove me wrong and Specter stands up for one of those very uncouth Democratic proposals (special prosecutor, impeachment hearings, it’s all good), super. But I don’t think that I am. Few bets in Washington pay off more reliably than Arlen Specter backing down from one of his principled stands.