Commentary Magazine


Just Hold On

It seems that Sen. Arlen Specter doesn’t want to be rushed on the Marc Holder pardon. Politico reports that Specter took to the Senate floor to hold up the train:

Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, has just thrown a wrench into the Eric Holder hearings planned for early January, saying Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich pardon is a “red flag” and a “very serious matter.”

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) has been pushing for an early January hearing so that Holder could quickly be confirmed at Barack Obama’s attorney general and be in his office by the Jan. 20 inauguration.

But Specter is already applying the brakes, indicating that Republicans are going to make a big deal out of Holder at the hearing. Specter said he sees no way in which the Holder hearings could happen before Jan. 26. Specter said he still needs to see thousands of pages of background documents and Holder’s FBI background check.

“There are questions that need to be addressed,” Specter said in a Senate floor speech. Specter, a former prosecutor himself, said he was troubled that Holder did not stand up to President Clinton on the pardon of Rich, who was a fugitive living abroad at the time of the pardon. “To run counter to the views of the [law enforcement] professionals is a red flag,” Specter said. “We’re looking at a very, very serious matter.”

Specter isn’t yet opposing the nomination, just insisting the facts be explored. This is, I think, is the correct approach. Specter is no right-wing partisan, but he is a former prosecutor with a strong sense of propriety. As I (and others ranging from Richard Cohen to the Wall Street Journal editors) have argued, there is ample reason to take a long look and ask the hard questions. Did Holder engage in unethical behavior for personal or political purposes? Was he candid when Congress investigated in 2001?

The real question is: why aren’t more Democrats who claim to “speak truth to power” and complain about the “politization of the Justice Department” equally concerned or curious? Given the events this week in Illinois, you would think their ethical antennae would be on alert.

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