Wednesday, January 11


The obstreperous, full-of-himself, Ted Kennedy couldn't budge, strong-arm, or embarrass Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) to take the Senate Judiciary Committee into Executive Session early this afternoon to decide whether or not to respond to a belligerent request of Senator Kennedy's for a subpoena of records from the Library of Congress pertinent, Kennedy contended, to a line of mean-spirited, rhetorical questioning he was engaged in in today's Senate confirmation hearings on SCOTUS nominee Samuel Alito. The 5-minute or so fiery exchange between the committee chairman and Senator Kennedy made for a moment of high drama in the otherwise soporific hearings in which the democratic attack machine has been so obviously jaded in their antipathy for President Bush's nominee that most Americans, regardless of party affiliation, cannot become engaged. Ennui, not electricity, fills the hearing room, save for the spirited salvos between Specter and Kennedy.

FOLLOW-UP: Here's the Washington Post's account of the heated exchange between Senators Specter and Kennedy. Here are excerpts:

Moments after Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) went at it, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told Alito that his opponents were "desperate."

Comparing Alito to a quarterback whose team is ahead in the fourth quarter, Grassley charged that Democrats are going to keep "trying to sack you."

"They haven't hit you all day," he said, so expect some "last minute Hail Marys."

In an apparent reference to Sen. Kennedy's request that the Senate subpoena records from a conservative alumni group that Alito once said he was a member of, Grassley told Alito that his critics are "grasping at any straw . . . to tarnish your reputation."

I should add that Kennedy has gone before the cameras during the committee's afternoon lunch break to say that he had written a letter to Chairman Specter back in December requesting records on the Princeton University's conservative alumni group and that a letter was forthcoming from Specter's staff denying that request. Specter, in the brief verbal firefight with Kennedy, claims he did not see or read that memorandum. Regardless, Ted Kennedy indicates he'll renew his request for a committee-issued subpoena of those records. C-SPAN will be showing video clips of the exchange, I'm sure, and I have no doubt it will be on this evening's cable and network news' coverage of the hearings.

FOLLOW-UP II: Captain Ed says it well vis-a-vis Ted Kennedy's behavior during these hearings.

FOLLOW-UP III: More from Captain Ed, as well as a Kennedy-related post from Balloon Juice.

FOLLOW-UP IV: Scott at Power Line has more on Ted Kennedy's tactics.

FOLLOW-UP V: Forbes termed it a "testy exchange" between Specter and Kennedy.

The questions about CAP led to a testy exchange between Kennedy and Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa. Last month, Kennedy sent a letter to Specter seeking a committee subpoena for private documents of William A. Rusher, a founder of the group, that Kennedy said might shed light on Alito's membership. Specter said he had not received the letter and bristled at Kennedy's pledge to push repeatedly for a committee vote on a subpoena.

"I will not have you run this committee," said Specter, who brushed aside Kennedy's threats.

FOLLOW-UP VI: FOX NEWS terms the brief altercation the "excitement of the day" and reports on the heated exchange:

But the excitement of the day came when Sen. Edward Kennedy said he wants the committee vote on issuing a subpoena to the Library of Congress for papers written by the founder of the Conservative Alumni of Princeton, William Rusher, a former publisher of the National Review.

Alito has said he does not recall his involvement in the CAP, a conservative group formed in 1972 to challenge Princeton University's decision to admit women and minorities and protest the school's treatment of the ROTC program.

"I have to say, Judge Alito's explanations about his membership in this seemingly radical group … are troubling and I don't think they add up," said the Massachusetts Democrat. He said he sent a letter to Specter on the topic but Specter said he never got it.

Kennedy insisted the chairman did receive the letter and that's when the fireworks started.

"You are not in a position to say what I received," Specter fired back. "I take umbrage at you telling me what I received … there's a big difference between what's mailed and what's received."

"I am in a position to know what I sent ... if you're going to rule it out of order, I want to have a vote on that in the committee" about going into executive session, Kennedy responded.

Specter told Kennedy, "don't be premature," adding that since this is the first he's heard about any subpoena, he will consider it in "due course" and not in the middle of a hearing. Kennedy threatened to call for votes on the subpoena until Specter orders one.

"Senator Kennedy, I'm not concerned about your threat to have votes again and again and again," Specter said. "I'm the chairman of this committee ... I will not have you run this committee and decide when we're going to go into executive session."

Specter aides later turned over to the chairman the letter Kennedy sent on Dec. 22, asking that a subpoena be ordered. Kennedy asked that the letter, the responses by Specter's staff denying the request and Kennedy's staff response to Specter's staff saying they disagreed with the conclusion, all be submitted for the record.

After the hearing recessed for lunch, Kennedy said he wants to know more about this organization, whose founder was said to have written racist and elitist stories for the CAP magazine, and wants to find out if Alito did have any involvement with the group.

"I don't understand why those that are in charge of the nominee are attempting to hide? Why don't they want members of the committee to have that information? What is it in that information that they are so concerned about and why are they trying to rush this nominee through?" Kennedy asked.

FOLLOW-UP VII: To cut to the chase, hearings have resumed, and Ted Kennedy is indeed running the hearings despite Chairman Specter's protestations to the contrary. Why do I say this? Because Specter, hat in hand, has agreed to have the requested documents brought before the committee and has conceded that the Kennedy memorandum had been received around Christmastime.

FOLLOW-UP VIII: Captain Ed says that Ted Kennedy is on the verge of doing a reprise of Geraldo's ill-fated exploration of Al Capone's vault. We'll see!

FOLLOW-UP IX: Great title for a post on this subject. Now why didn't I think of that?!

FOLLOW-UP X: Michelle Malkin provides a video clip of the cat fight.

FOLLOW-UP XI: Professor Bainbridge has had enough of Ted Kennedy and returns the serve, so to speak. Don't miss this post!