THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Transcript of a Feb. 4 interview with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, in his Capitol office:
Q. Were you disappointed by the opposition in the 60-36 vote confirming Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General?
A. I had hoped for a bigger vote and a bipartisan vote. The hearing did not go well. Senator [Patrick J.] Leahy initially said he was going to support him and [Sen. Joseph R.] Biden said he was going to support him and I thought if the two of those did, then others on the committee would follow.
But the hearing proceeded in a way that Judge Gonzales was blamed for a lot of stuff he didn’t do. Blamed for a memorandum he didn’t write from the Department of Justice. Blamed for questions which he didn’t structure or ask, made by the FBI and the Department of Defense. And his words were misconstrued. He said that there is a certain deference to be paid to the Department of Justice — otherwise the White House is viewed as dictating to the Justice Department and that would result in politicization, if the White House was viewed as telling the Department of Justice what to do.
His words … about deference [were used] to try to twist them into agreement with the [Justice Department lawyer Jay] Bybee memo, which wasn’t so. He rejected torture. He rejected the idea of the president immunizing anybody. He answered my question head-on where the memo said the president has as much authority on questioning [detainees] as on the battlefield — which was palpably absurd. Gonzales said so.
I got a call from the president about [the confirmation] this morning. He was very pleased with it. He called from Air Force One. He was very pleased. He said he understood the political problems and was glad we worked through them and glad we got it done very promptly.
Q. Could Mr. Gonzales have done anything differently to speed his confirmation?
A. I think [Gonzales] really did about as well as he could under the circumstances.
Q. Do you read anything about Democratic opposition into the 60-36 vote?
A. We have had a pretty cooperative process on getting Judge Gonzales on and off in a day. They could have dragged it out. We had a good executive session on him where we finished him in a tough morning. We had a vote at 11:30. We were able to work through and get that done. We finished the Class Action bill out of committee yesterday where people said we couldn’t get that done. We turned that out. I have started the meetings, as you may know, exactly on time.
Q. I’ve been late a few times.
A. Come at 9:31 and you’ll be late to more. The NPR reporter — what’s her name? Nina Totenberg — complained that I started at 9:29 and we had a little discussion about whether my watch was set by the Naval Observatory. And I told her my watch is exact, because it is. And I limited [Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward M.] Kennedy’s speech. Did you see that sequence? And the person whose remarks I curtailed at the start, the most forcefully, were mine.
People like it. You hate like hell when the other guy goes overtime but if everybody stays within bounds, people are prepared to do it.