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)
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