Conservatives' 'Unlikely Hero': Chairman Specter

In today’s Washington Times, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is praised as conservatives’ new "unlikely hero."

As the Times points out, Specter (R.-Penn.), who is known for his adamant pro-choice views, isn’t often considered a friend of conservatives. But, after smoothly running two hearings for Bush’s judicial nominees and refusing to take any guff from Sen. Edward Kennedy (D.-Mass.), some conservatives can’t contain their admiration for the chairman’s performance.

Joseph Cella of the conservative Catholic group Fidelis was quoted by the Times as saying:

"Our organization doesn’t agree with Senator Specter on many of the issues. But on the issue of handling these hearings with dignity, he gets an A-plus."

Leonard Leo, a former Federalist Society executive vice president added some remarks as well:

"He has a very distinct view of what the chairman’s role is, which is to be a referee who sets the tone of questions early on."

"He’s not looking for a nominee who blindly defers to Roe. He’s looking for someone who can basically keep an open mind. Those are the answers he wants to hear."

Again, the topper was Specter’s now-famous exchange with Kennedy.

"Conservatives saw it as a moment where Mr. Specter — famously prickly with friends and foes alike — had put the biggest Democrat on the committee in his place," the Times reported.