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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

UNDERSTANDING ARLEN SPECTER: Pennsylvania’s senior senator cast his lot with the liberal intelligentsia decades ago. He’s a throwback to the old Ripon Society wing of the GOP, the country club Republicans who worried about whether Nelson Rockefeller was straying too far toward moderation when he didn’t hand over Attica prison to an incendiary mob. Despite paying lip service to conservatives who briefly threatened his tenure as chair of Senate judiciary, Specter’s brave fight against cancer has probably motivated him to return to his liberal roots, consequences be damned. So his call for Bush to postpone naming O’Connor’s replacement to the high court isn’t exactly surprising. It’s Arlen Specter making clear he feels he owes no allegiance to anyone — including the president who supported him over a rock ribbed conservative during a tough primary battle.

Specter thinks keeping O’Connor indefinitely in place would give Congress and the rest of America more time to know John Roberts as chief justice. "When we know a little more about Judge Roberts it’s going to be easier with the next'’ nomination, Specter said. Memo to Sen. Specter: You and your colleagues already know what you need to know about John Roberts to decide whether to vote up or down. It’s no more the Senate’s job today to "balance" the court ideologically than it was the Senate’s job to do so during any other presidential administration in Amewrican history.

And what’s this business of senators calling sitting Supreme Court justices and asking if they’d be willing to postpone their retirement for obviously political purposes? What’s Sandra Day O’Connor got in mind by even taking such phone calls? Arlen Specter and his ilk clearly aim to start running out the clock on Bush’s political capital, hoping to delay the process until more of Bush’s term is history so they can filibuster if necessary. Memo to the White House: Narrow your short list fast and nominate a constitutional conservative with dispatch. There’s a pivotal battle to be fought about the future of the Supreme Court and the future of America. Let’s get ready to fight it now. Let’s be prepared to win.