Specter, Teary-Eyed But Not Sad (Or Sick)
For a moment today, it sounded as if Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican-turned-Democrat from Pennsylvania, had undergone a new round of chemotherapy.
"If you've seen me dab at my eyes, I'm not sad," Specter said, wiping away tears during the Senate Judiciary Committee's deliberations on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
"It's, uh, chemotherapy," the 79-year-old senator explained. "And I've made the Kleenex industry wealthy. But I'm glad to say that I'm fit as a fiddle, ready for re-election, I'm not infirm in any way, just a little consequence of chemotherapy."
Specter, who has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy for Hodgkin's disease over the past three years, said he felt compelled to explain his teary-eyed state "because people wonder about it."
Specter's office released a statement clarifying that the senator had not had chemo or other cancer treatment in over a year, or been hit with a recurrence of cancer. "During his comments on Judge Sotomayor, Senator Specter was dabbing his eyes which were tearing," spokeswoman Kate Kelly said. "He explained that he wasn't crying but simply that his eyes tear as a result of chemotherapy which he finished more than a year ago. Subsequent tests have given him a clean bill of health."
Specter could be facing the toughest reelection fight of his career in 2010. He switched parties in April in part because he did not think he could win reelection as a Republican. But when it comes to off-the-cuff comments, he's still the same old Arlen Specter of any political stripe.
Earlier today he made news by defending Sotomayor's infamous "wise Latina" comment, saying, "I think it's a pretty healthy thing to have a little ethnic pride."
As Politico reported, Specter said, "I didn't find fault with the 'wise Latina' comment, I find it commendable. There's nothing wrong with a little ethnic pride."
Mary Ann Akers
July 28, 2009; 2:46 PM ET
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