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Specter: Mukasey Is 'Still Wearing His Robe'

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today accused the Bush administration of being overly obstinate on a range of controversial issues, expressing particular frustration at Attorney General Michael Mukasey's unwillingness to compromise.

"Mukasey is non-negotiable," Specter said at a meeting with the Washington Post editorial board. "Mukasey is still wearing his robe."

Feisty and opinionated as ever despite a recent recurrence of Hodgkin's Disease, the top Judiciary Committee Republican was especially pointed on the subject of Mukasey and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, lamenting that the former federal judge refused to budge from the Bush administration's position that telecommunications companies must be granted retroactive immunity for their past cooperation with intelligence operations.

Echoing the complaint of many Democrats, Specter said, "I think retroactive immunity is exactly wrong. ... How can you ask for retroactive immunity in a context where you don't even know what you're immunizing?"

Specter has proposed a compromise by which the U.S. government would be substituted in for telecom companies as the defendant in any lawsuit stemming from warrantless wiretapping operations, but his suggestion has drawn little support from his fellow Republicans and none at all from the White House. Specter complained that he had received "no valid answer" from Mukasey and the administration for why they oppose his plan.

Specter's criticisms go well beyond FISA; he also accused the White House of obduracy on the media shield law, on updating the state secrets law, on the use of national security letters and on the issue of preserving attorney-client privilege for military detainees (Specter called the administration's position on that issue "atrocious"). At every turn, Specter said, Mukasey has been immovable.

"There's nothing that has been proposed that he's proposed to make the slightest concession on. Not anything," Specter said, later adding: "He doesn't have any flexibility."

Spected did give Mukasey faint praise by acknowledging that he was better than his predecessor as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

"He's a big improvement," Specter said. "It would be impossible not to be."

"Judge Mukasey is a very learned guy," Specter continued, "but he's a very, very rigid guy. And he was rigid during the confirmation process. He was not easy to deal with when I had the job of shepherding [him] through the confirmation process. But I was for him and I'm still for him compared to either Gonzales or a vacancy."

Specter was similarly downcast on another issue close to his heart: The Senate's progress -- or lack thereof -- in confirming judicial nominations.

"We had a little breakthrough, but so far it's only a little breakthrough," Specter said of a recent bipartisan compromise to allow three circuit-court judges to move through the Senate.

"What I'm looking for is really something more than solving the problem for this year," Specter said. "We really ought to have a truce, and we ought to establish a protocol that will survive whoever controls the White House and whoever controls the Senate."

Many Republicans suspect Democrats are deliberately stalling on Bush's nominees to run out the clock until a Democratic administration can come in and send up new court picks. Specter said there would "absolutely" be payback from Republicans if a Democrat wins the White House and tries to move his or her own judges through the Senate. "The guys in the [GOP] caucus are madder than hell. They can barely wait to retaliate," he said.

On the subject of the supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, Specter -- a senior member of the Appropriations Committee -- predicted that Democrats would eventually cave in to Bush's demands that the measure not include extraneous domestic funding or exceed his total request.

"I think that battle's pretty much over," Specter said of the Iraq funding issue. "I think the next battle line on that is going to be the election, not congressional action."

Specter was speaking of the general election, but the current campaign focus is on home state of Pennsylvania, ground zero of the Democratic nomination fight between Sens. Barack Obama (Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).

"There was a time about 10 days ago ... that I said publicly I thought Obama was going to win, but ... people are looking for a way to knock Obama down and make more of a horse race out of it," Specter said.

Of Obama's infamous "bitter" comments, Specter said: "I think the guy on the street doesn't care much about 'em. He could have made a better choice of words but I don't think he was out of line on it. He might have been better off if he'd said, 'I said it and I meant it.'"

Specter sees the Clinton campaign as being on the upswing in Pennsylvania, largely due to the efforts of Gov. Ed Rendell (D). "I think Rendell has done a very good job for Hillary, and I think she looks like she's going to be in pretty good shape," he said. "It's by no means certain because the Philadelphia machine, the Philadelphia African-American vote is going to be enormous. There's a lot of pride in Senator Obama."

Specter said the question of whether Obama has enough experience to be president is "a very legitimate, real concern," but he called the Illinois Senator "very intelligent" and "a phenomenon" on the stump. Specter said the two men have a friendly relationship and have joked about having roots in the same state.

"He approached me the other day on the floor and said, 'If a Jewish guy from Kansas can carry Pennsylvania, why can't a black guy from Kansas carry Pennsylvania?'" Specter said.

As for Clinton, Specter called her "very smart and very hard-working," though he cautioned that "you never know exactly where she's coming from."

"I think she sometimes tries too hard," Specter added. "I think it would be refreshing if she didn't have a frozen smile on all the time."

Specter called Clinton "very ambitious," though he said the same thing of Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "The place is loaded with ambitious people, and I think it's healthy," Specter said. "Somebody once told me I was ambitious."

By Ben Pershing  |  April 17, 2008; 6:40 PM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Branch vs. Branch , Senate  
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My fellow Californians - please remember that Diane Feinstein voted for Mukasey. Remember this when she is up for election. She is the Lieberman of the West - a Republican Torturer in Democrat disguise.

Posted by: martiniano | April 17, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Specter also seemed to be frustrated by Alberto Gonzales in particular and the Bush DoJ in general, but that never inspired him to do anything meaningful about it.

Posted by: Castanea | April 17, 2008 7:29 PM | Report abuse

"Specter said there would "absolutely" be payback from Republicans if a Democrat wins the White House and tries to move his or her own judges through the Senate. "The guys in the [GOP] caucus are madder than hell. They can barely wait to retaliate," he said."

Payback. Retaliation. Rather than resorting to threats and bullying, that's what the GOP deserves for getting the United States screwed up. The GOP needs to be chased out of the country for creating the economic and war messes that we are in. The GOP should be ashamed and embarrassed for all this. McCain would not make things any better. I sure don't want to have him picking the next Supreme Court judges or federal attorneys. Shudder!

Posted by: Jon Stephens | April 17, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Castanea is quite right about Specter's modus operandi. For seven-plus years, it has been: (1) appeal to moderates and independents by criticizing the excesses of the Bush Administration and (2) appeal to conservatives by doing nothing meaningful about those excesses. Which is why a lot of us tuned out Specter a long time ago.

Posted by: lydgate | April 17, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Mukasey is right and Specter is wrong.

Posted by: Dwight | April 17, 2008 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Specter has expressed far more concern about Patriot's coach Belichick's signal stealing than he has about the steady erosion of our constitutional rights. I lost my respect for him as a legislator a long time ago but dread the prospect of a return by Rick Santorum.

Posted by: bassetwrangler | April 17, 2008 7:55 PM | Report abuse

The Senate should frog-step old "Mucus" Mukasey up before their panel, SWEAR HIM IN, and grill him like never before. Contempt of Congress citations should already be prepared and ready to be thrown in his face as soon as he obfuscates or pulls some other Bush admin BS.

Posted by: Chris | April 17, 2008 8:05 PM | Report abuse

I've complained frequently and bitterly (to no avail) to Diane Feinstein for her support of Mukasey. She is not running for re-election, hence her ability to fend off her constituents' outrage.

Posted by: Slats | April 17, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Dont you people know the Bush Administration is above the law? What is wrong with you people?

Posted by: Ben Matheny | April 17, 2008 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Specter talks a good game but that's all. He covered for Bush admin. for all those years when he was chairman. Could it be that he's worried about his legacy?

Posted by: arny | April 17, 2008 8:31 PM | Report abuse

Arlen Specter voted to CONFIRM AG Mukasey. Arlen Specter voted to CONFIRM AG Gonzales. My guess would be that Arlen Specter voted to confirm John Ashcroft.

Now he's talking about "integrity" but the fact is that he helped move along and voted to confirm three lying cheating weasels. That makes him not only a weasel, but also a contempible coward, since he "appeals" to the moderates and pushed these three pieces of utter scum, and then has the temerity, the unmitigated gall, to say that they don't "measure up."

What a piece of work.

Posted by: Judy in Fairfax | April 17, 2008 8:44 PM | Report abuse

God bless Arlen Specter and may he overcome his health issue. He has often spoken up in a worthy way and then folded under the republican pressure. I hope this will be a different time and he will join with everyone who is trying to bring back justice to the government again.

Posted by: Vicki | April 17, 2008 8:51 PM | Report abuse

How bad an appointment must Mukasey be if the Republicant who Shepherded him through the Democratically controlled Senate?

But why is he even there. Oh, that's right. The Democratic Party who campaigned in 2006 on "change" did their usual Bananaback routine and folded rather than fight to protect our COnstitution.

And to this the Democrats want to add as president a man with little or no record of taking on anyone, who as a political record of failing to make tough decisions, of taking a public stand, of being in love with his own words and mistaking words for deeds: Barack Obama.


Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Men of principle. They recognize loyalty to President and party are important. But loyalty to the Constitution, the law, and the people are paramount.

This is what Arlen Specter is, a true man of principle. This is what Michael Mukasey isn't. People who know what's right and wrong, but choose wrong because they hear their master's voice. He joins the long list of Bush "Yes-men (and women), whose loyalty is to their own comfort at the expense of principles and people.

The list is long and undistinguished: Tenet, Gonzalez, Ashcroft, Rice, Rumsfeld, Yoo, Addington, Libby and on and on and now Mukasey.

Posted by: Andrew | April 17, 2008 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I have written Feinstein on more than one occasion about her absolutely dead wrong vote on this guy and what I got in response was that "he was the best we could have hoped for" at the time. This is how weak and useless the Congress has become. I agree with the other Californian poster that if she doesn't want to represent us, then she should be voted out of office or just quit now. Mukasey is a disgrace to the Department. He seems to have forgotten it's the Department of Justice and not a wing of the National Security Agency. He'll be gone soon, along with his fool boss. Fienstein can go too, for all the help she's been in protecting habeus corpus and the Constitution.

Posted by: So-Cal Mike | April 17, 2008 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Specter's frustration isn't worth the air it's uttered with. What on earth did he expect? Mukasey is after all a man who claimed he didn't have enough information to say whether waterboarding was torture or not, despite American legal precedent, and needed some months to figure it out. Then, ensconced as AG, he refused to say what he thought, after presumably having had the months necessary.

Posted by: Viking | April 17, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

One thing is clear, Feinstein needs to be fired for extremely poor judgement; we trust she was well paid!

Posted by: Chaotician | April 17, 2008 9:42 PM | Report abuse

I am an independant. And I can tell you its voices of reason like Specter that make me believe in the spirit of America. Unfortunately we have been beseiged by the polorizing retoric of the left and the right. I just want to make progress. This is a perfect example of why we can't get anywhere. Please -- everyone -- recognize those that are trying to uncover the truth and reward them for their valor. Do not cave to the emotions of poloraiztion. It will lead us nowhere. We all want the same thing. To have a healthy economy, a world environment thats not endangered, and a future for out children. Let's speak now!

Posted by: shaun | April 17, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Specter, by looking at the Judiciary Committee website, it can be seen that one DAVID NOVAK has managed to claw his way up through the judicial nominee process, as a nominee for the district court vacancy in the Eastern District of Virginia, perhaps with Sen. Specter's assistance. If this deceptive, thug-like prosecutor who "silences" people who have dared to allege unethical and unprofessional behavior against him by filing federal lawsuits against them, thus effectively chilling any further criticisms by those lawyers and others who might want to report him, this prosecutor, who has been the subject of an almost 15 month prosecutorial misconduct investigation by DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility in 2007-2008, THE THIRD KNOWN COMPLAINT AGAINST HIM ALLEGING PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT, if this Jekyll/Hyde personality who has misrepresented and deceived federal court judges is sheparded through the nomination process, then, quite simply, the Judiciary Committee is not doing its job. David Novak is unfit, and should never have been nominated for the Eastern District of Virginia vacancy in the first place. He has a powerful little group of former DOJ officials who are "helping" him through, BUT THIS NOMINATION FOR FEDERAL JUDGE OF THIS DOJ PROSECUTOR, CANNOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE-IT WOULD BE A TRAVESTY OF THE FEDERAL JUDICIARY SELECTION PROCESS OTHERWISE.

Posted by: Amazed | April 17, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

The article makes it seem in successive breaths that Specter is frustrated with Mukasey, who's resignation will be pro forma offered and pro forma accepted in about nine months, and angry that the Democrats won't move on far worse nominations of Republicans who will then have lifetime tenure (to be Bush's REAL legacy), to frustrate the Nation with their store bought opinions.

Mukasey is the fin est demonstration that NO MORE Bush appointees ought to so much as get a hearing. No Bush incompetent is better than any Bush incompetent for the next nine months.

The we can have competence as the primary criteria for Executive and Legislative appointments.

Posted by: | April 17, 2008 10:06 PM | Report abuse

The whole "need" for retroactive Telco immunity goes to 9/11.

Specifically, the Telcos have the evidence of Bush/Cheney culpability involving the attacks.

It is so obvious no dare speaks of it.

Posted by: budfox | April 17, 2008 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Like the fish, the Bush Administration rots from the head. Everything else follows. It still amazes me how so many Republicans in the Congress will follow this dismal leadership (apparently) anywhere. Apparently, they have nowhere else to go.

Posted by: David | April 17, 2008 10:19 PM | Report abuse

mukasey's a dick. he should never have been confirmed. he and cheney and mccain used to be viewed as absurdly far to the right, will again someday soon.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 17, 2008 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Whoever writes the titles for the WP must be a comedian. Sen. Specter knew what he was getting when he voted for Mukasey. The noise that he makes is just that noise, to cover the fact that he would not stand in the way of a fellow ewish-American.

Posted by: Stelios | April 17, 2008 10:53 PM | Report abuse

This administration has demonstrated it has no intention of listening to anyone else in government except their own counsel. They have been shown to be breaking the law and as such BUsh AND Cheney should be impeached now. There is no other course if not the next president might as well be Kengis Khan or Adolph Hitler who would object, everyone is so afraid to make waves , the consequences for not making waves are this country will sink and may never rise again. Where is the courage of congress why do they fear this regime so, what hold do they have on them???? Corporate terrorism ?

Posted by: REBCO | April 17, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I guess ol' Arlen was for Mukasey before he was against him.

Posted by: Bob22003 | April 17, 2008 11:16 PM | Report abuse

Spector's presumed outrage once again makes headlines, but based on all his past headlines we can now expect his usual act of closing his mouth and lie down with the dogs. He's all talk with no walk.

Posted by: infuse | April 18, 2008 12:05 AM | Report abuse


If you think like Barack Obama, that WORKING CLASS PEOPLE are just a bunch of "BITTER"!, STUPID, PEASANTS, Cash COWS!, and CANNON FODDER. :-(

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think Barack Obama with little or no experience would be better than Hillary Clinton with 35 years experience.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with no experience can fix an economy on the verge of collapse better than Hillary Clinton. Whose ;-) husband (Bill Clinton) led the greatest economic expansion, and prosperity in American history.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with no experience fighting for universal health care can get it for you better than Hillary Clinton. Who anticipated this current health care crisis back in 1993, and fought a pitched battle against overwhelming odds to get universal health care for all the American people.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with no experience can manage, and get us out of two wars better than Hillary Clinton. Whose ;-) husband (Bill Clinton) went to war only when he was convinced that he absolutely had to. Then completed the mission in record time against a nuclear power. AND DID NOT LOSE THE LIFE OF A SINGLE AMERICAN SOLDIER. NOT ONE!

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with no experience saving the environment is better than Hillary Clinton. Whose ;-) husband (Bill Clinton) left office with the greatest amount of environmental cleanup, and protections in American history.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with little or no education experience is better than Hillary Clinton. Whose ;-) husband (Bill Clinton) made higher education affordable for every American. And created higher job demand and starting salary's than they had ever been before or since.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that Obama with no experience will be better than Hillary Clinton who spent 8 years at the right hand of President Bill Clinton. Who is already on record as one of the greatest Presidents in American history.

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think that you can change the way Washington works with pretty speeches from Obama, rather than with the experience, and political expertise of two master politicians ON YOUR SIDE like Hillary and Bill Clinton..

You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you think all those Republicans voting for Obama in the Democratic primaries, and caucuses are doing so because they think he is a stronger Democratic candidate than Hillary Clinton. :-)

Best regards

jacksmith... Working Class :-)

p.s. You Might Be An Idiot! :-)

If you don't know that the huge amounts of money funding the Obama campaign to try and defeat Hillary Clinton is coming in from the insurance, and medical industry, that has been ripping you off, and killing you and your children. And denying you, and your loved ones the life saving medical care you needed. All just so they can make more huge immoral profits for them-selves off of your suffering...

You see, back in 1993 Hillary Clinton had the audacity, and nerve to try and get quality, affordable universal health care for everyone to prevent the suffering and needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of you each year. :-)

Approx. 100,000 of you die each year from medical accidents from a rush to profit by the insurance, and medical industry. Another 120,000 of you die each year from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don't die from. And I could go on, and on...

Posted by: jacksmith | April 18, 2008 1:28 AM | Report abuse


Large numbers of Republicans have been voting for Barack Obama in the DEMOCRATIC primaries, and caucuses from early on. Because they feel he would be a weaker opponent against John McCain. With Hillary Clinton you are almost 100% certain to get quality, affordable universal health care very soon.

But first, all of you have to make certain that Hillary Clinton takes the democratic nomination and then the Whitehouse. NOW! is the time. THIS! is the moment you have all been working, and waiting for. You can do this America. "Carpe diem" (harvest the day).

I think Hillary Clinton see's a beautiful world of plenty for all. She's a woman, and a mother. And it's time America. Do this for your-selves, and your children's future. You will have to work together on this and be aggressive, relentless, and creative. Americans face an even worse catastrophe ahead than the one you are living through now.

You see, the medical and insurance industry mostly support the republicans with the money they ripped off from you. And they don't want you to have quality, affordable universal health care. They want to be able to continue to rip you off, and kill you and your children by continuing to deny you life saving medical care that you have already paid for. So they can continue to make more immoral profits for them-selves.

Hillary Clinton has actually won by much larger margins than the vote totals showed. And lost by much smaller vote margins than the vote totals showed. Her delegate count is actually much higher than it shows. And higher than Obama's. She also leads in the electoral college numbers that you must win to become President in the November national election. HILLARY CLINTON IS ALREADY THE TRUE DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE!

As much as 30% of Obama's primary, and caucus votes are Republicans trying to choose the weakest democratic candidate for McCain to run against. These Republicans have been gaming the caucuses where it is easier to vote cheat. This is why Obama has not been able to win the BIG! states primaries. Even with Republican vote cheating help.

Hillary Clinton has been OUT MANNED! OUT GUNNED! and OUT SPENT! 4 and 5 to 1. Yet Obama has only been able to manage a very tenuous, and questionable tie with Hillary Clinton.

If Obama is the democratic nominee for the national election in November he will be slaughtered. Because the Republican vote cheating help will suddenly evaporate. All of this vote fraud and republican manipulation has made Obama falsely look like a much stronger candidate than he really is. YOUNG PEOPLE. DON'T BE DUPED! Think about it. You have the most to lose.

The democratic party needs to fix this outrage. Everyone needs to throw all your support to Hillary Clinton NOW! So you can end this outrage against YOU the voter, and against democracy.

The democratic party, and the super-delegates have a decision to make. Are the democrats, and the democratic party going to choose the DEMOCRATIC party nominee to fight for the American people. Or are the republicans going to choose the DEMOCRATIC party nominee through vote fraud, and gaming the DEMOCRATIC party primaries, and caucuses.

Fortunately the Clinton's have been able to hold on against this fraudulent outrage with those repeated dramatic comebacks of Hillary Clinton's. Only the Clinton's are that resourceful, and strong. Hillary Clinton is your NOMINEE. They are the best I have ever seen.

"This is not a game" (Hillary Clinton)


jacksmith... Working Class :-)

Posted by: jacksmith | April 18, 2008 1:30 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: Anonymous | April 18, 2008 1:48 AM | Report abuse

Also don't forget that Schumer was also involved in letting the Mukasey nomination get out of committee. New Yorkers as well as Californians should remember that Schumer and Feinstein (not to mention Lieberman) enabled the current administration to continue its lies, politically motivated prosecutions, torture,limiting our civil liberties, etc. I am curious just what they were offered by the administration for betrayal of peoples trust. I voted twice for Schumer and I won't again. I will work for whatever demacrat opposes him when he is up for election next time.

Posted by: larry albany ny | April 18, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I see that someone else remembers Chuck Schumer's support for Mukasey. Schumer also took the opportunity to recommend Mukasey to Bush as a nominee that could make it through the confirmation process with Democratic support. Why??? More to the point, why do we keep re-electing politicians like Schumer??

Posted by: shellynm | April 18, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

But when it comes time to cast his vote in the Senate, Arlen Specter -- as he always does -- will cave and vote for whatever Bush and Cheney want. Specter's words are meaningless.

Posted by: jle | April 18, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Mukasey isn't supposed to be policy wrangling, he's supposed to be enforcing the law of the land. He may want the law to be different, but right NOW, what the telecoms did was ILLEGAL. He should be prosecuting them.

Posted by: BobN | April 18, 2008 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Folks, this is the same Arlene Specter who in order to make the Committee Report concerning the JFK assassination "theory" work was to have a single bullet go Kennedy, make a 90% turn to the right, then a 90% turn to the left pass through Connelly's seat then Connelly, then into Connelly's wrist shattering bone and then mysteriously appear on a gurney at Parkland Hospital in "pristine" condition.

Then there was his scurrilous attack on Ms. Anita Hill during the hearings on the confirmation of Clarence Thomas.

If Specter told me the sun was shining, I'd be sure to go outside and check. The republican party has reached that point where the highest compliment one can say about any particular Republican is;

"He/She isn't as bad as (name another Republican)

Posted by: The Skeptical Cynic | April 18, 2008 5:59 PM | Report abuse

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