Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is the squishiest of the squishy. But he appears to be growing a backbone when it comes to Attorney General-designate Eric Holder. Reports the New York Times:
Before Tuesday, Mr. Specter had been mildly critical of Mr. Holder’s role in President Bill Clinton‘s pardon of the fugitive financier Marc Rich. He said Tuesday that he would wait until the hearing next week to decide how he would vote, but in the Senate speech he let loose on Mr. Holder, comparing him with Mr. Gonzales in his ability to maintain independence from the president.
Mr. Specter raised questions about Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general on a range of issues that included an investigation into the 1993 federal siege in Waco, Tex., that left David Koresh and about 80 of his Branch Davidian followers dead, and an espionage investigation involving a nuclear scientist, Wen Ho Lee.
But he saved his sharpest criticism for Mr. Holder’s role as deputy attorney general in three controversies in Mr. Clinton’s second term: Mr. Clinton’s pardon of Mr. Rich in 2001, the president’s decision in 1999 to grant clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican militant nationalist group, and the Justice Department’s rejection in 1997 of an independent counsel to examine accusations of campaign finance abuse by Vice President Al Gore and the White House. In each case, Mr. Specter said, Mr. Holder appeared to go against the advice of career professionals at the Justice Department.
“Further inquiry is warranted on the issue of Mr. Holder’s independence to follow the facts without respect to political bias,” Mr. Specter said in his prepared statement.
It could be all talk, of course. But Sen. Specter has pointed to reasons for fighting the Holder nomination. A return to the bad old Clinton Justice Department surely isn’t “change that we can believe in.”
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