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Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK's Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton Hardcover – October, 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Few people have been as involved in the major political investigations of the last 40 years as Senator Arlen Specter, the independent and tenacious Republican from Pennsylvania. With the help of his former press secretary Charles Robbins, Specter tells all, beginning with his prosecution of the Philadelphia Teamsters during Robert Kennedy's anticorruption investigations and ending with his role in President Clinton's impeachment proceedings. Specter is perhaps best known for his controversial opinions. As a member of the Warren Commission, he authored the Single Bullet Theory, which supported the charge that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman. And as Anita Hill's Senate questioner, he declared that Clarence Thomas's accuser had committed "flat-out perjury." But his book presents a picture of an evenhanded man who has merely acted according to his belief that the nation's "political and social health ... rests on government's doggedly following facts to find truth and then acting on that truth to create public policy." In fact, his purpose in publishing the behind-the-scenes activities of the Warren Commission, Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination, the Ruby Ridge investigation, the Thomas-Hill proceedings, and the presidential impeachment, is to restore the public's faith in government and end conspiracy theories born of incomplete facts. "Had congressional oversight on Waco been as effective as it was on Ruby Ridge," he writes, "the militia movement would have been less motivated to mobilize. It is even conceivable the Oklahoma City bombing could have been avoided."

This is not a self-glorifying tale, nor remotely boring. Like the best of books, it opens with a bang: the dramatic re-creation of a little-remembered event--the day General Patton, at the behest of President Hoover, turned his guns on WWI veterans demonstrating for their promised bonus. This was an eye-opening event for Specter, whose family desperately needed the money. Since then, his mission has been to "push government to treat its citizens justly" and to demand the truth. To that end, he sifts the evidence surrounding each controversial event and searches for the lessons to be learned. He makes no demons or heroes out of the actors in these true-life dramas (in fact, he genuinely seems to like most everybody on either side of the aisle). He even acknowledges the ignorance of the "group of aging white males" in the Senate Judiciary Committee (including himself), who, in confronting Anita Hill's allegations, "didn't understand the explosive nature of the [sexual harassment] issue." He writes, "I had not known how painful it was for women who were watching the questioning, so many of whom had been victims of sexual harassment and saw themselves, almost through transference, in Hill's position." While Specter admits his mistakes, he offers no apologies, for it's not forgiveness he holds faith in, but the undying belief that "trust is the glue that holds a democracy together." --Lesley Reed

From Publishers Weekly

"Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts," asserts Specter in the opening of his political memoir, which greatly resembles the senator's (R., Pa.) public persona: gruff, direct, given to long, detailed explanations leavened with an appealing touch of humor. Specter has been a major player in some of the most dramatic political events of late 20th-century America, and with his single-minded focus on "combating distrust," he describes his role in these events and the logic and reasoning that led to the conclusions he drew. Having begun his political rise as the district attorney of Philadelphia, Specter brings to each episode a prosecutor's dogged pursuit of truth. The "single bullet theory," which he developed as a member of the Warren Commission, simply fit the facts, he claims. Similarly, it was his "fetish for the facts" that led Specter to vote against Robert Bork for the Supreme Court ("He said our system could function without judicial review"), to conclude that Anita Hill was lying and to find Clinton not guilty of the charges in his impeachment. Specter emerges as a figure who lets neither party loyalty nor political expediency deter him from doing what he believes to be the right thing. This has not always made him a popular figure, but in today's political atmosphere, certainly a rare one. While there is little here to startle his readers, the sheer details of Specter's stories make this an informative and enjoyable read. 16 pages of b&w photos, not seen by PW. Agent, Deborah Grosvenor. (Nov. 1)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 564 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow & Company; 1st edition (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060198494
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060198497
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,374,015 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am quite torn on how to rate this book. Given that people should know the thought process of many of those who serve in government, this book is well worth reading. Specter seems to see himself as the great diviner of justice, rather than a bit of a hack who plays independent but seems to always buckle to the right wing of his party. Particularly shocking is that he does not seem to understand what he has done wrong, instead insisting on rather strange defenses.
I will not go into his continued insistence in the so-called "magic bullet" theory. I for one do not support the Oliver Stone fantasy of events, but whatever your predilection, no bullet does what that bullet did. Indeed, Specter still fails to discuss the fact that no one seems to be able to recreate that famous bullet's trajectory of multiple wounds creating right turns.
Where I think Specter should be really ashamed is his half apology that he did not understand how he and his colleagues shredding of Anita Hill looked or that he did not understand how women felt about sexual harassment. Left undiscussed is the evidence that has come to light indicating that Justice Thomas, in collusion with the first Bush administration, conspired to hide evidence that lends a great deal of credibility to Hill's charges. Specter just doesn't want to talk about it, less he tarnish his self image as the man of great principal.
People should know how many politicians have warped views of reality. For that reason this is a good read. Just take it with a grain of salt.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm somehow uneasy about 'Passion for Truth'. There's no denying that it's a well-written version of events, but it's clear to me (a non-American living in Europe) that the senator tells it how HE sees it, not, maybe, how it was. I can't identify exactly WHY I hold this view, but something tells me that the author is not being wholly honest with himself. Maybe he set out to be honest, and maybe he believes that he has been honest, but I just have nagging doubts. It's possibly got something to do with his over-inflated opinion of himself - a trait spotted by other reviewers.
A while ago, I read and reviewed John Major's autobiography. Whatever you may have thought about Major as a Prime Minister, his autobiography was refreshingly honest, and that sincerity shone through. I'm afraid I cannot say the same about Senator Specter. I had the feeling that he was trying to justify his decisions and actions.
All that said, Passion for Truth was an intriguing read - particularly Sen. Specter's support for 'The Single Bullet' theory - a theory as flawed as a cracked diamond. But there's no doubting Sen. Specter's passion for sticking to his guns, be he right or be he wrong. Clearly he has been a highly successful politician, so maybe his overt narcissism is well-earned. Anybody, whether you agree with them or not, who has had a career as high profile as Specter's is worthy of a retrospective (auto)biography, and 'Passion for Truth' delivers what it says - one man's view on his own life.
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Format: Hardcover
Our country's central problem is its citizens do not trust its government, proclaims U.S. Senator Arlen Specter in "Passion for Truth". Spector was a politician who spent a career carefully taking the political center in most controversies, except the Kennedy assassination (where he is a leading defender of the single assassin theory). One cannot help but realize that Mr. Specter must have spent a career facing constituents expressing disappointment and distrust. By his own admission, Arlen Specter sees himself as a political moderate who won admiration from the liberal spectrum for opposing Robert Bork for the Supreme Court and then won admiration from the conservative spectrum for supporting Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. Political activists can count on Arlen Specter to be with them half the time. Readers will see a politician driven by ambition. This may explain his ability to pick and choose ideology at will. Many political autobiographies announce a startling revelation to provoke sales. The great secret exposed in this book is the physician who performed the autopsy of John Kennedy burned his notes because he didn't wish to see them someday crassly displayed in a museum. In case you were losing sleep on this great mystery, now you know. This book doesn't offer any more great new gems. Instead, the reader follows Arlen Specter's life journey. Students of politics will appreciate the many experiences detailed in this book. The book shines when the Senator discussed his personal struggles with a brain tumor and overcoming being told, incorrectly, he had less than six weeks to live. Overall, this is a decent book. There are no flashy revelations. It is a good book, with much personal insight, for political and Congressional enthusiasts.
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Format: Hardcover
I roomed with Charles Robbins, the co-author, for three years in college, so I had to buy Passion for Truth! Nevertheless, I can confirm that this book is a most interesting read. Specter writes about a handful of important moments in recent US history - the Warren Commission, the Bork and Thomas supreme court confirmation hearings, and Clinton's impeachment. Passion for Truth is an easy read, so its 500+ pages are not overwhelming. Senator Specter himself is an anti-hero of sorts. The events described in this book are much more interesting and important than he is (although he might argue that point), however the senator's ringside seat at several major historical events affords him a unique perspective. The chapters on Clinton's impeachment completely wrapped me around the axle - the authors have done such a good job describing the behind-the-scenes process that I found myself infuriated once again, just as I felt during the actual impeachment process. For anyone interested in how our government works in practice, rather than in theory, Passion for Truth provides a window into the Washington morass.
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