The last word

    You probably heard about Arlen Specter’s farewell speech in the Senate, but you’ve been to busy to watch it. It’s worth 26 minutes of your time, if you have a little holiday break.

    I never found Specter a particularly likable guy to talk to, and he’s notoriously tough on staff. And to many his record is marred with unforgivable sins – his grilling of Anita Hill, or the stimulus vote, depending on your point of view.

    But the speech reminds us that he’s a man of substance who speaks plainly more than most. In what he called his closing argument, Specter excoriated the Supreme Court for conservative judicial activism, and made a strong case for televising it’s proceedings.

    He noted that “a citizen can only attend an oral argument for three minutes in a chamber holding only 300 people,” and that high court hearings are televised in Canada and Great Britain.

    He also offered thoughtful insights on international dialogue and especially, the demise of collegial debate in the Senate.

    Listening to Specter’s shaky voice, I’m convinced it was time for him to retire. But in his long Senate career, he brought ideas, analytical abilities and a temperament for compromise that the body could use more of.

    You can read his farewell speech here.

    You watch the first half of it above, and click here for the rest.

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