Specter’s tired routine

SPECTER’S TIRED ROUTINE…. Apropos of nothing, Arlen Specter just wants everyone to know that he really doesn’t like the idea of Eric Holder becoming the next attorney general.

A leading Republican senator issued a broad attack on Tuesday on President-elect Barack Obama’s pick as attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., questioning his political independence.

The senator, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who is the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said Mr. Holder’s support of the White House’s stance on three contentious issues when he was deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration suggested that he was too willing to do the president’s bidding.

“He’s had an outstanding academic and professional record, and I acknowledge that early on,” Mr. Specter said of Mr. Holder in a 25-minute speech on the Senate floor. “But aside from these qualifications on Mr. Holder’s resume, there is also the issue of character, and sometimes it is more important for the attorney general to have the stature and the courage to say no instead of to say yes.”

As part of the broadside, Specter compared Holder to Alberto Gonzalesseriously, he did this out loud, in front of witnesses — and announced his intention to re-litigate the Clinton administration’s handling of the Marc Rich pardon. And the Elian Gonzalez controversy. And questions about Al Gore’s fundraising efforts in the 1996 presidential campaign. And the 1993 federal siege in Waco, the espionage investigation involving Wen Ho Lee, the 1999 clemency for members of a Puerto Rican militant nationalist group, and anything else that might pop into Specter’s mind.

Holder’s ties to each of these “issues” are, at best, tenuous, and the likelihood of actually derailing this nomination is remote, but Specter doesn’t care. He’s doubling down.

Remember, Specter is considered one of the more moderate members of the Republican Senate caucus, and the kind of lawmaker Democrats can reach out to in the spirit of cooperation.

I’m trying to wrap my head around what Specter hopes to accomplish here. He’s ostensibly gearing up for a re-election campaign in 2010, and maybe Specter thinks picking pointless fights with Obama he’s likely to lose will pay dividends if he’s challenged in a GOP primary.

But in the interim, Specter’s ranting and raving about Holder appears kind of silly.

Post Script: I should add, by the way, that Specter’s anti-Holder campaign will not go unchallenged. The NYT noted, “In a counteroffensive, civil rights leaders, law enforcement officials and members of Congress are planning events beginning Wednesday to voice support for Mr. Holder, who they say will help turn around a department wracked by charges of politicization.”