Senator Arlen Specter, your book "Passion for Truth" tells us—tells about you, that twice you've been diagnosed with a terminal disease. When?
In 1979, a doctor told me I had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, and it's fatal--couple years perhaps. And by the spring when four or five months passed and no further symptoms developed, I knew it was wrong. And on June 11th of 1993, I had some slight pains in the side of my head and I took an MRI and the doctor looked at the films and told me I had a brain tumor that would kill me in three to six weeks.
And an interesting conversation afterward--I told him that that afternoon my wife, Joan, was coming to Washington. We were going to go to Little Washington nearby for the weekend to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary Monday, the 14th of June. And he looked at me and said, `Well, go and have a good time.' And when he said that after telling me I had three to six weeks to live, I said, `This guy is not my doctor.' I said, `Give me the films. I'm going to Philadelphia.' where I consulted with other doctors. And the following Monday morning I had brain surgery and it was benign.
What was your first reaction the first time they told you had Lou Gehrig's disease?
Shock, terror. Went to the medical library and looked it up and saw what the prognosis was for Lou Gehrig's disease. And I could look at my hand and I knew it was shaking. I knew there was something wrong with my nervous system. Once they told me I had Lou Gehrig's disease and--I held my breath every day for several months. And when several months passed and no symptoms developed, the doctor then told me that he'd made a mistake and that the electroencephalogram I'd had was really consistent with having a mild case of polio as a child.
And in my book I talk about that and give some advice to doctors that they ought to never tell anything which is not true, but they really ought not to present the worst case scenario without saying, `This could be serious, it could be X, it could be Lou Gehrig's disease, it could be a malignant brain tumor, but we don't know for sure and we have to check it out and it'll take some time--or an analysis of the tumor once it's removed to really tell you the facts,' that doctors really need a little bit basic instruction of how their patients respond to that kind of devastating news in absolute terms.
What happened to the cancer diagnosis?
The cancer diagnosis--they operated, took the brain out, the malignant--the mina--mentianoma, and they dissected it and found out that it was benign.
And then you had to go back again.
Well, then it grew back a little, which is common in about 15 percent of the cases. And on this occasion, I undertook what is called a gamma knife, which is a--a procedure where they focus beams on it and--and knock it out. And one of my tough considerations, Brian, is the campaign. I was on the verge of running for re-election. So it was both a medical and a--a political issue. And I checked into the hospital in Pittsburgh early in the morning, about 5:30, and released a very carefully-prepared statement mid-morning after the procedure was over and then held a news conference. And one of the reporters said I looked like I was coming from a picnic. But to the extent you can put on a happy face, it's a good thing to do. And I could put on a happy face.
What's your health like now?
Excellent. Played squash this morning. Play every day and feel very good.
And you'll soon be 71 years old?
Well, I'm not sure about that, Brian. That's what my mother told me. A friend of mine, Tom Coon, the other day said to me, `Arlen, have you considered running for president again?' And I said, `Tom, I looked at the almanac of elected officials and I noted by birth date, February 12, 1930.' And he said to me, `Well, why let a little thing like that bother you? It happened so long ago.'
Speaking of squash, there's one story in the book about Mr. Mubarak, the leader of--of Egypt, and you in squash. What was that?
Well, the first time I met President Mubarak was in the spring of 1982. He came after Anwar Sadat had been assassinated. And I made it a point to travel very extensively in the Mideast and to get to know Mideastern leaders like Assad and Arafat and Shamir and Barak and Netanyahu. And I was very interested in President Mubarak. So--I'd heard that he played squash, so I approached him.
He was seated between Howard Baker, who was then the majority leader, and Chuck Percy, who was the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. And I said, `Mr. President, do you play squash?' He said, `Yes, yes.' He's a very garrulous fella. And I said, `Have you had a game today?' And he said, `No, no.' I said, `Well, how about a game?' And he said, `Well, if I win, do I get an extra $100 million?' And we've made many squash dates in the--the intervening years, and I've gotten to know him very well. But when I arrive, he'll never play. And I suspect that President Mubarak may wa--not want to risk losing to someone who's Jewish. That's a suspicion. But I've never had the game, and he's given up squash recently. He's a--a year older than I am.
Speaking of being Jewish, you have a story about Jack Ruby. I know we're jumping right into the middle of the Kennedy thing, but the story when he insisted that there be a Jew in the room. What was that? What were the circumstances? And who was Jack Ruby?
Well, I went to Dallas with Chief Justice Warren to take Ruby's testimony among another--a number of things. I was one of the young lawyers on the Warren Commission staff. After I'd won a big case in Philadelphia prosecuting teamsters, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy wanted me to join the prosecution team against Hoffa, and I declined. But six months later when President Kennedy was assassinated, I was asked to be one of the young lawyers where I developed the single bullet theory. But...
How old were you at the time?
I was 33 when I joined. And we went to Dallas, and they wanted to keep as small a group as possible, and I was odd man out. I was the only fellow excluded. So I was sitting watching a baseball game in the sheriff's office in the Dallas jail. San Francisco was playing Philadelphia that day. Chief Justice Warren, who was a Giant fan, and I had speculated about the game coming down.
But at any rate, part way through the proceeding, Elmer Moore of the Secret Service came to me and said, `Arlen, they want somebody Jewish in the room. Jack Ruby wants somebody who's Jewish.' So I walked in and sat down, and about as far as I am from you. And there was a court reporter taking notes. And Jack Ruby looks over at me and he goes (mouths words). And I sit there, he was mouthing the words, `Are you a Yid?' Yid is a word for Jew. And I sat there. I'd been chief of the appeals division of the DA's office. And I know--when they type it up what it's going to look like in print. So I said nothing. He leaned over again. (Mouths words). And I sat there. Again, `Are you a Yid?' And fortuitously, the court reporter ran out of paper.
And Jack Ruby called the chief justice and me over into a corner. And he said, `Chief, you got to get me to Washington.' And Warren said, `Well, I can't do that.' Earl Warren, for all of his greatness, did not respond well when something came up on the--on the spur of the moment. And at any rate, Joe Ball walked by, one of the senior lawyers, and he started to listen in. He thought, `If Arlen Specter could be in this, half my age, why--why am I not there?' And Ruby looked over at Ball and said, `Are you Jewish?' And Ball said, `No.' He said, `Get out of here.' And--and Ball did what he was--what he was told. But Ruby said to Warren--and I go into great detail on this in the book--he said, `They're cutting off the arms and legs of Jewish children in Albuquerque and El Paso and you've got to get me to—to Washington.'
And about this time, the court reporter had her notes back in and Ruby went back and sat down. And seated in the back of the room were Gerald Ford, then a congressman and a member of the commission—of course, later president--and Joe Tonahill, Jack Ruby's lawyer. Tonahill did such a great job. And Tonahill handed Gerald Ford a note. And Ruby saw this happen. And Ruby said, `I want that note.' And it's hard to picture this. I describe it in some detail in the book, but Ruby was in charge. He just nominated the whole proceeding. When--when it started, before Warren could call the meeting to order--and I read this in the notes of testimony 'cause I was watching a baseball game, as I say, involuntarily watching the game instead of there--Ruby said, `How do you know I'm telling the truth? I want a lie detector test.' And Warren, as I said, doesn't--didn't respond well to instantaneous instances. `Well, Mr. Ruby, if you want a lie detector test, of course, we'll give you a lie detector test.' And later, I went back as the commission representative when his lie detector test was taken.
But at any rate, coming back to this note being passed, Ruby demanded it. And Gerald Ford jumped up, walked up, did what he was told. He handed the note to Ruby. So Ruby's reading this note--or trying to read it--and he can't read it. So the chief justice of the United States takes off his glasses and hands them to Jack Ruby and Jack Ruby puts on the chief's glasses and he reads the note. And the note says, `You see, I told you he's crazy.' And Ruby throws the note down. He doesn't care anything about that. And the--and the proceeding went on.
But later when we took his polygraph, he denied having any connection with Oswald or being involved in a conspiracy. Said it was a very emotional thing when he read about the assassination and knew that Mrs. Kennedy would have to come back to testify. He knew the police because he ran a strip joint. And he brought them sandwiches and coffee, ingratiated himself because he didn't want to be arrested. And that morning he walked into the jailhouse and everybody knew him. And on national television, as so many people know, he pulled out a revolver and put it in Oswald's stomach and--and--and murdered him. And the lie detector examiner, who went with me to take his polygraph, thought that Ruby was telling the truth when he denied any involvement in the assassination. But when the report got to J. Edgar Hoover, he decided that it was not valid because of Ruby's mental state.
My own evaluation was that although Ruby was delusional at times that at other times, like his polygraph, he knew what he was saying. And on our trip back, the polygraph examiner, Bell Herndon, told me that he thought Ruby knew what he was doing, was telling the truth. But when Hoover got ahold of it, Hoover ran the show and said it wasn't to be used. And what I did in writing up the report was to put the whole section in and put the tapes in so that they can be examined historically and history, not Hoover, can be the judge.
When did you first see the autopsy photos of John Kennedy?
I first saw them in 1999 when I made a special trip to the archives. I was not permitted to see them, nor was anybody on the staff or the commission with the possible exception of the chief justice. And I was very unhappy about that and wrote a very strong memorandum to Lee Rankin, who was the general counsel, complaining about it, that although we had the autopsy surgeon's testimony, that the photos and the X-rays were corroborative evidence and we should have had them. And I thought the commission would be subject to a lot of justifiable criticism.
As you know, there's been enormous controversy about what the commission has done. And I--I could sense at the time that when we had closed hearings and the people did not know what we were doing, that we had to be as meticulous as we could be. And one of the reasons that I wrote this book--I've been urged to do so for a long time--to recount what we did on the Warren Commission.
Since coming to the Senate and saying the tremendous distrust in government and working on cases like Ruby Ridge and the Gulf War syndrome and having had a personal experience as a child when my father was denied his bonus in World War I, veterans marched on Washington. And today there's a demonstration on the Mall, they roll out the red carpet. When the veterans marched on Washington in 1932, they brought out the cavalry with Major Patton and drawn sabres and chased them down Pennsylvania Avenue, and killed some of them. One of the blackest days in American history. And as I say in the book, I've been on my way to Washington ever since to get my father's bonus. Still haven't gotten it, so I'm still here.
How many members were there on the Warren Commission?
There were seven.
Who were some of them?
The seven members were: John McCloy, former head of the international bank--World Bank; Allen Dulles, former head of the CIA; Richard Russell, United States senator; John Sherman Cooper, a United States senator; Hale Boggs, majority leader in the House; and Gerald--and Gerald Ford.
But co--coming back to the photos and X-rays for just a minute, Brian, I thought we should--we should look at them. And there was grown up tremendous distrust of the commission. And in writing this book—and I go into great detail as to how I developed the single bullet theory and how the lawyers came from all over the country, Des Moines and Chicago and Cleveland and Philadelphia, so they didn't go to bureaucrats in Washington, so that we avoided the possible charge of a--of a--of a cover-up. And in writing this book trying to tell people in America that there are ways of dealing with the government and that the free fall we've seen in voting and the tremendous skepticism; and we're seeing it now in the wake of President Bush's election over Vice President Gore and the cynicism about the Supreme Court decision and what's happening with the Ashcroft nomination and what's happening with the Planned Parenthood money overseas. These are issues which we need to deal with to restore public confidence.
But go back to the autopsy just for a moment. How did--how did you get to see the pictures and had anybody else seen them besides you?
Well, they were examined in 1971 by a group of forensic pathologists. And eight forensic pathologists, as I recall, looked at them and they all confirmed what the Warren Commission had found, what the autopsy surgeons had testified to with a possible exception of Dr. Cyril Wecht of--of--of Pittsburgh. But I had to ask special permission to--to see them. And if you have a good reason, you can see them. But they're not--they're not available generally. And--and they're--they're--they're--they're gory, to be very blunt about them.
What do you see?
What do I see?
Yeah. What did you see?
Well, I saw pictures of President Kennedy. I saw the small bullet hole in the back of his head, which was fatal, blew out the top of his head. And I saw the top of his head, thick head of hair, handsome young man. And I saw the bullet hole in the back of his neck, the bullet which hit him first and then went through Connally. And as I say in the book, I think that Chief Justice Warren did not want the pictures shown because they might get into the public domain, so much does, as you know. And people would not have the picture of Kennedy as a handsome, vibrant young man, but instead with significant wounds and part of his--part of his head shot off. It—it was rumored that Warren did look at the photos and X-rays. But that was no substitute for having the staff look at them and have them examined and have testimony and have the other commissioners see them.
Where was the autopsy done?
Was it controversial?
Well, because the autopsy surgeon, Dr. James Humes burned his notes. And inexplicable that the notes would be burned on such a major event. And when I wrote this book, Brian, in collaboration with Charles Robbins, who was my director of communications, he and I went back and reinterviewed a lot of people to refresh my recollection and to get different views. I talked to the doctors in Parkland. I talked to lawyers who were on the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas case. And one of the interviews we had was with Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell. They came to the Senate dining room for lunch about three years ago and we sat and talked. And Charlie wanted to use his tape recorder and I said, `No, no tape recorder, that's inhibiting.' Not as much as the television camera, but it's inhibiting. And Dr. Humes told us a story. And then when Charlie was walking into the train station, he was smarter than I, which is not too hard to do. He--he asked him if he minded repeating story for the tape recorder.
And the story was that Dr. Humes had been on a site where they had a recreation of President Lincoln's office. And on the desk there was a doily which they used to cover furniture and the representation was made, falsely, that some of the staining on the doily was blood from the Lincoln assassination. And it turned out to be some sort of hair tonic. But Dr. Humes was so offended by that that when he took his notes--and an autopsy surgeon writes his notes during the course of the autopsy--there was a lot of blood on the notes. And he didn't want anybody seeing those notes and from the bad reaction he had to the Lincoln situation, he burned his notes.
But even as I recite what--what Dr. James Humes told me, I know many people are going to be doubting it. And I go into great detail in the book because there has been a lot written about Humes having burned his notes, and people will be speculating about that and the whole Kennedy assassination for years. It's been more than 100 years since President Lincoln was shot--136 years, and there's still conspiracy stories. And they'll be talking about President Kennedy for who knows how long, centuries.
Who started calling you Boozy Boy?
My Aunt Rose.
Well, a friend of the family, the Greenbergs, had a son born about 16 months ahead of me. And Al Jolson was popular, and they called him Sonny Boy. And they wanted to have a similar name and how they got Boozy Boy, I don't know. But that's what my aunt calls me when I telephone her. She's 88 and I talk to her all the time. She's sort of become my surrogate mother.
What are some of the things she said to you in your political life that you remember?
Well, she called me up when the 1986 tax bill was being considered for a single rate and she said, `Boozy Boy, why do I have to pay the same rate as millionaires?'
And I said, `Rosie, that's a good question. I'm going to ask Senator Bradley.' So the next day I went down to the Senate floor. Bill Bradley, who's the chief sponsor, was orating about the bill. One of the great things about the Senate is that until C-SPAN started to cover it--and, Brian, I thank you for that--there's nobody listening. Bradley was there and there was one senator presiding, and I walked in and I said, `Would the senator from New Jersey yield for a question?'
He said, `Yeah.' I said, `I talked to my Aunt Rose last night. Senator Bradley, she wants to know why she has to pay the same ri--rate as millionaires.' He didn't have a good answer for me. And I put--I sent Rosie a copy of the transcript. And then she called me the night before I questioned Professor Anita Hill, and she said, `I hear on television you're going to question Professor Hill.' And I said, `Well, that's right, Rosie.' And she says, `Don't do it.' And I said, `Well, I can't exactly not do it. I'm on the committee, and it's a responsibility.' She says, `You should not do that.'
They say Peoria is a microcosm of America. Rosie is a microcosm of anywhere. She lives in Wichita. I won't tell you her age because she's going to watch this show. And she has great instincts. And I talk to her with some frequency about the impeachment of President Clinton and about the Gore-Bush race, and she has wonderful insights.
You suggest in your book that your sister, Hilda, should have been prime minister of Israel?
That's right. Hilda was way ahead of her time. She graduated from Wichita University in 1942, and she got a scholarship to study in Syracuse kind of for a master's degree in--in government. And she had met a handsome young artillery officer, Arthur Morgenstern, who had come from Brooklyn to Ft. Riley. There're not very many Jewish boys in Wichita. The people in Wichita, the young women, are always complaining, but he came to Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah services and they fell in love, and he was shipping out to the South Pacific, so she took a transcontinental train and met him in San Francisco and they were married and have lived happily ever after for, I guess, about 57 years.
And she's a brilliant woman, and she lives in--in Israel. And on the analogy of Golda Meir, who was born in Milwaukee, became prime minister of--of Israel, I thought Hilda would make a great prime minister. And as I s--tell in the book, it's a fairly well-kept secret but for more than a year I tried for the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1996. I knew it was a steep uphill fight given my views, pro-choice and for the Department of Education. I thought it'd be great if Hilda were prime minister of Israel and I was president of the United States.
Your dad died in Israel.
A little--a little wishful thinking, Brian, but...
Your dad died in Israel.
My dad passed away in Israel.
You have to bury a Jew within 24 hours?
So you all had to--I mean, do you account--recount it here; did you get there in time to--to bury him.
Sure. Sure. My father, who was an immigrant from Ukraine, literally walked across Europe, barely a ruble in his pocket. He did not want to go to Siberia under the czar's heel. This was 1911. And he came to the United States, and he didn't know that he had a round-trip ticket to France, not to Paris or the Follie Bregere, but to the Argonne forest, where he was seriously wounded in action. And it was his experience where the government broke its promise to pay him the bonus, which I told you about. And he had a lifelong ambition to--odd as it may s--sound, to be buried in Israel. And in October of 1964 he and my mother made a trip to Israel. And when he got there, he was so excited that he exerted himself and had a serious heart attack, was in the hospital for 10 days and unfortunately died. And it was a very tough telephone call I got from my mother on November 2nd at about 5:30 in the morning--it was 12:30 in Israel--telling me what had happened. And my sister Hilda lived in Denver, and I was able to keep the office open--or we were--kept the office open to get her a passport, and we caught a plane flight that night and arrived in time to bury my father and--and bring my mother home.
What year did you change from being a Democrat to a Republican?
1965. I had--I had been interested in being district attorney of Philadelphia. And Philadelphia was a very corrupt city. And the chairman of the Democratic Party said, `We don't want a young Tom Dewey in the DA's office.' I had just finished investigating magistrates, the corrupt minor judiciary of Philadelphia, where they extracted bribes from people to get discharged, and they went after gays. They had a theater called the Family Theater on the East Market Street where gays assembled, and the vice squad would go and arrest them and take them before magistrates, who would extort large sums of money to--to discharge them or then, if they didn't pay off, to hold them. And I had convicted quite a number of magistrates in this—in this probe, and the head of the Democratic Party didn't like that because these were a lot of very powerful political leaders.
And the Republican leader, Bill Meehan, came to me and asked me if I'd consider running for district attorney on the Republican ticket. And the nomination wasn't worth a whole lot because, the year before, Lyndon Johnson had beaten Goldwater in Philadelphia by 640,000 to 200,000, or a 440,000 majority. But I thought it over and I considered DA a--really a non-political office, and I--I agreed to run on the condition that I would not change my registration, that I have a free hand in selecting assistants. And I was elected DA on the Republican ticket, sort of a fusion ticket. And I tell the story in my book about Joe Clark. I go on to see Senator Clark when I w...
...a Democrat, when I wanted to run in the primary. S--Senator Clark had written a letter--this goes back to before I took the nomination on the Republican ticket, and he wrote a letter suggesting of me and others for his DA. And, of course, that was the kiss of death. So I went to Senator Clark and I said, `Senator Clark, I'd be willing to take on a tough primary fight if you'll help me raise some money.' He said, `Oh, I can't do that.' And I said, `Well, maybe I'd do it if you'd come out for me and help me cam'--`Well, I couldn't do that,' he said, `but I'll vote for you.' You know, big deal. Here's a vote already.
So the Saturday before the election, he called me up, and I was campaigning around town and I returned the call. And he said, `Arlen, I think you're going to win this election.' He said, `Don't do anything about registration until you talk to me.' So I went to see him after the election, and he said--he said, `You ought to stay a Democrat.' And I said, `Senator Clark, up until now, I hadn't decided.' But Bill Meehan and the Republicans: no strings attached, very comfortable, independent DA's office. And I decided to try to bring back a second major party in Philadelphia, which I think is very badly needed. So I changed my registration. I haven't succeeded, Brian, but I'm still working on it.
You, in your book, talk about going back and interviewing people that you dealt with years ago. Sec. SPECTER: Right.
You--you went to see--or got together with Clarence Thomas. You got together with Joe Biden, your own colleague, who you see every day and ride that Metroliner with, I assume, up the--up the road here. And you took a tape recorder along some of the time. What was the reaction to Senator Biden when you sat down with a tape recorder?
He didn't mind. Joe Biden and I are very good friends and--and very candid, and when I wrote about our conversation—before I published it, I sent him a copy of it because if there was any suggestion of confidentiality or reluctance on his part, I wanted him to see exactly what was happening. And I sent him the first copy of the page proof, so if he had any questions--and as you're surmising, what he told me was pretty significant.
The testimony of Professor Hill was extraordinarily difficult for many points of view, and the greatest difficulty of it was that when I was questioning her, I had no idea how many women were watching--and some men, too, but mostly women--who knew that they have been sexually harassed. And when they felt Professor Hill wasn't believed, it was almost by transference as if they weren't being believed.
And I almost lost an election, came within an eyelash of losing the 1992 election, not really understanding the dynamics of--of what was going on. I think that those hearings have produced enormous progress for women around the world, but especially in America, because no one understood sexual harassment. The Supreme Court had only defined it on hostile environment working place in 1984, and since that time, there have been enormous advances.
But at any rate, when I questioned Professor Hill, there was an article which appeared in--on the front page of USA Today, which said that she had been told by Senate staffers that if she came forward, she would never have to testify because Clarence Thomas would withdraw rather than face these hearings. And I asked her about it, and she said she didn't remember. So I asked her the next logical question: `Well, how can you recount in detail what happened between you and Justice Thomas a decade ago if you can't remember what happened a few days ago?' She said, `I just don't remember that.' And she said it seven times. And I found that very--very disconcerting because the whole question was one of credibility a--as--as to--as to what had happened.
She went with Thomas from the Department of Education to EEOC. When she was in Oklahoma, she invited him to make a speech, she drove him to the airport, she came back and called him repeatedly. And ultimately I decided that whatever it was which happened--and who could tell what happened between a man and a woman 10 years ago? My wife and I have arguments--some married people do that--and we can't remember what happened 10 minutes ago. But I decided that on the totality of the circumstances, whatever happened, it wasn't bad enough to be a disqualifier in light of the--her going back to him, as I have said.
But at any rate, seven times she said she didn't remember about the substance of the USA Today article, and then in the afternoon she came back and changed her testimony when I concluded that she had not been telling the truth. And when I talked to Joe Biden, he said, `Arlen', he said, `I had the same reaction you did; that she wasn't leveling with the committee. And I sent word to her over the lunch break that if she persisted in her testimony that I was going to pick up your line of questioning.' And that afternoon she came back, and I was asking her about a different subject, and she said, `I was told that if I came forward, that Thomas would withdraw and I would never actually have to testify.' And I thought that was an important point on the question of credibility.
What year was the--were those hearings?
October of 1991.
How many days did the second round last? I know we televised all the first round, but no one was there until the second round when Anita Hill showed up.
The second round started on Friday, October the 10th; there was Saturday the 11th and Sunday afternoon, the 12th, and ended at 2 AM on Monday morning. The vote had been set by unanimous consent for the--Tuesday, and I made a motion in open proceedings to delay—to have further hearings. I thought we had not done nearly enough.
There was testimony from Angela Wright, who told the same story. Her deposition was taken by staff over the telephone, and I was given the job of questioning Angela Wright, which was going to occur at 2 AM on Sunday morning as the sequence evolved. But it was done much, much too fast. And Senator Danforth, who wrote a book about this, in retrospect, agreed with me that we needed more time. We were under heavy, heavy pressure, and I had literally 24 hours to prepare. If this were a case in court, they'd have five lawyers on it for six weeks. And the Senate--and this will not come as a surprise to anybody--did not distinguish itself in those--in those hearings.
Who--who asked you to question her?
I was asked to question her by Senator Thurmond, who was the chairman of the committee. I--I was actually--we were in recess on that week, and I was on my way to New York. I was getting ready for the campaign the next year, going up to see my counselor, David Garth. And they called me on my car phone, and Strom said, `I want you to take the lead in questioning Professor Hill.' And then I said, `OK. I'm on the committee; if you want me to take the lead, I'd be glad to do that.'
And then I was asked to be Clarence Thomas' advocate, and I write all about this in the book. And I said, `I'm not going to be his advocate. I don't represent Thomas. I represent the people of Pennsylvania.' And I did my very best to be even-handed about it. You may be interested in this, Brian: When I was on a radio program on public radio, NPR, in Philadelphia recently, I got six calls right in a row berating me for Anita Hill. I still get that. Not a week goes by someone doesn't stop me on the street. It's...
Well, let me ask you, though--this is really off the subject; I'll come back to it in a moment. But you tell a little story in there about Senator Thurmond and Ralph Yarborough. And were you there when they had that little...
Wh--when did that happen?
Well, I think it happened during the civil rights era.
Oh, '64, right.
Well, let me--let--let--let me finish Hill, Brian.
I'll come right back to Yarborough from that.
It's just a short story, any way you tell it.
Well, but the sequence here. But any rate, I was on the radio; I get a half a dozen calls berating me about Professor Hill. And I finally said to a caller, `Hey, look, I've gone over the tapes. There's not one question I asked her which was harsh. And I'll make those tapes available to you, and we'll watch them together.' I mean, I've seen them. And I ran an election, and my opponent ran solely on my questioning, but not once did my opponent in this campaign in '92 bring on a tape. So I knew I was all right.
So at any rate, I s--put Election Day because it was the day I wer—I wasn't busy. The guy comes in; he doesn't want to see the tapes. I--I made that--I made that offer because I was confident. In the aggregate, it looked terrible; 14 men in white shirts and blue suits and red ties and Professor Hill on television, isolated. She had a lot of people behind her, but on TV she was alone. And there were all sorts of questions asked by others. But when you take them, one at a time, The New York Times said I was painstakingly polite. But they'll be arguing about that for a long time.
But back to Yarborough and--and Thurmond. I've gotten to know Strom Thurmond very well, and I tell a lot of stories in the book about Strom, about how in 1949 he was on the reviewing stand after he'd run as a Dixiecrat candidate and almost cost Truman the election. And he was going by the reviewing stand, and there was Alvin Barkley, who's his colleague in the Senate, the vice president and President Truman. And Strom was the governor of South Carolina, and he walked--dro--drove by in an open car and a top hat, and he tips his hat to President Truman and to Barkley, and Barkley starts to lift his hand to wave, and Truman pulls his hand down and says, `Don't you wave at that SOB.' And Strom talked about all those young kids who were in the Senate while he was there, this young fellow, Kennedy, who came in from Massachusetts and Lyndon Johnson. And he's really legendary; he's 98, etc. But he told me this story about Yarborough on the Judiciary Committee...
From Texas, Ralph Yarborough. And...
A liberal and a Democrat.
A liberal and a Democrat. And in the motorcade where President Kennedy was assassinated, there was--interesting story in the book about Ralph Yarborough and the assassination. But on this occasion, Yarborough was standing right outside--str--Strom was standing right outside the Judiciary Committee room, and Yarborough went out and said, `Come on inside, Strom. We need a quorum.' You can't conduct business unless you have 10 people there. And Strom said, `I'm not coming in there to--for a quorum.'
He didn't want the committee to conduct any business. But he also—in the event the committee got a quorum and started to conduct business, he was going to be right in there to throw a monkey wrench into what they--what they were doing. So Yarborough grabs ahold of Strom and starts to try to pull him into the room. So Strom twists him around, throws him on the floor and puts a scissors lock on him. And the two of them are out there in the corridor, as the story goes, with Strom on a scissor lock on Yarborough and wouldn't let him up until Yarborough promised not to go back into the hearing room.
Last year we had a hearing and Strom came in that same door, 226 in the Dirksen Building. And when he came in the door and sat down, I regaled the audience with that story.
Back to Anita Hill for a moment, because you tell a story in the book about meeting Anita Hill a couple of year--about four years ago. It just so happens that right after you had that meeting with her in the Oklahoma airport, she came here and she did BOOKNOTES.
Oh, did she?
And I've got about a minute and a half clip. I want to run it, and then get you to tell your side of the story, because you didn't get a chance then. Here's Anita Hill. (Excerpt from October 23, 1997)
Professor ANITA HILL (Author, "Speaking Truth to Power"): Well, I think we were both a little shocked, and he recovered more quickly than I did, I think. He looked at me at the security X-ray belt and said, `Professor,' and I said, `Senator.' And--and then it was almost bizarre because he began to talk with me about what--asked me if I was on a book tour and told me that he was at the--at the university for a reunion. He'd actually gone to the University of Oklahoma and was there for a reunion weekend. And he had--w--it was though we were having a conversation between acquaintances that--but for me, it was as though those six years didn't matter. When someone's called you--accused you of flat-out perjury on national TV, especially when they have no basis for it, it--I--I could not just jump into a conversation with him as though we had just been civil acquaintances.
So it was difficult for me and I hurriedly tried to get out of the way. Later on he encountered me--it turns out we were on the same flight. He encountered me and made some overture about working on issues that he--giving him some advice on issues that he was working on, on women's issues. It was at that point I realized that--that he reali--he had no sense of how my life had been impacted by his behavior; that he was just that out of touch with the reality of my experience. For him, I think it was another political episode, and for me, it was really about my life. And I don't think he--he got that at all. I didn't get any sense that he had. So I--you know, I don't know if I want an apology from him, but I do want some sense that he understands what he did and what was wrong about what he did. (End of excerpt)
Well, that's substantially accurate, what she has said as to the encounter. There was a little more to it. When I said `Professor, Professor Hill,' I mentioned her name. When she said `Senator, Senator,' she didn't mention my name and perhaps she didn't want to. I thought she might have forgotten it, but--but doubted that. When we'd gone through security--I was at the University of Oklahoma attending a reunion. I was born and raised in Kansas and went to OU for a year. And Joan and I were on our flight to Houston, Texas, regrettably to raise money on a fund-raiser. And Joan has a luggage c--carrier, and it got tangled up in Professor Hill's purse. So I did have a few words with her there.
And on the plane, Joan and I were in the--seated just a row behind her, and when we landed, I did approach her and asked her if she would be interested in commenting on some of the issues which we had before my subcommittee on women's health and--and education. I chair the subcommittee which funds the Departments of Health and Education. And she said, `Well, give me a call.' And I said, `What's your number?' And she said, `I'm in the telephone book.' And early the next week, I got a call from The Washington Post saying, `Did you bump into Professor Hill at the airport in Oklahoma City?' And I said I did. And the reporter said, `She says you didn't apologize.' And I said, `Well, that's true. I did not apologize.'
Now when Professor Hill talks about the impact on--on her life, I do understand what--what she's saying. But the Judiciary Committee was looking at a nomination of Clarence Thomas for Supreme Court of the United States, and she had come forward 10 years after the fact with some very serious charges. And as you said earlier, there was phase one, and it was apparent that Thomas was going to be confirmed with perhaps as many as 60 votes. And then she made these charges. And in our American system, when charges are made, they have to be examined.
And I had respect, really admiration, for Professor Hill for coming forward to testify, but that did not mean that what she had to say would be taken at face value. For one thing, when she gave a statement to the FBI on September 23rd and an identical statement to the Judiciary Committee, there was a very substantial variance with what she said on October the 10th. There was quite a lot which had been added.
Now what occurred between Clarence Thomas and Professor Anita Hill, I don't know. But I do know that she had to be questioned about how she could have such a continuing, detailed, friendly relationship with him if what had happened had been so bad, had been--had been harassment. By the way, she never concluded that Thomas had harassed her. She left that up to the committee. So I asked her, `Why did you go with him from the Department of Education to EEOC if he was so bad?' She said, `Well, I needed the job.' OK. Then I said, `Well, why did you invite him to Oklahoma to Oral Roberts University?' `Well, we needed a speaker and I knew him.' `Well, why did you drive him to the airport?' `Well, I thought it was the courteous thing to do.' `Well, why did you call him?' We had all these records that Thomas produced when he wasn't there. `Why did you call him so often?' `Well, to stay in touch.' Now these are all questions to be--to be asked out of fairness to Thomas. And again I would invite people to look at the--at my questioning of her. Some of the others may have had a little differing.
You went back and--at a meeting with Clarence Thomas. When would that happen, and where did it happen?
It happened in June of 1999.
He came over to my office. I'll tell you the circumstances. Senator Grassley and Justice Thomas were having breakfast in the Senate dining room one morning, and I'd only seen Justice Thomas maybe two or three times. Now the Senate has dinners with the Supreme Court from time to time. And I said hello; never had a talk with him. I was invited to go to the victory celebration the night he was confirmed, and I wasn't participating in any victory celebrations. To me, it was a--a job which was finished.
But at any rate, I walked over and I said hello to Senator Grassley and Justice Thomas. I said, `Justice Thomas, this may surprise you to know how hard it was for me to persuade Grassley to vote for you.' And they both about fell off their chairs, 'cause Chuck is archconservative. And we--we then made a date, and I was actually on my way to his chambers, which--across the street, Constitution Avenue, when I bumped into him in the lobby of the Hart Building. We walked upstairs to my office and had a long talk.
What'd he tell you that you didn't know?
He told me that he greatly admired my standing in the breach, an expression he used repeatedly, because he was surprised that I would defend him when my views were entirely different from his views. And I told him I wasn't defending him; I was participating in the process, that I thought he was entitled to have these questions asked because they were serious charges which were brought against him.
And I asked him if he had it to do all over again, that I had a suspicion he would prefer not to even be on the Supreme Court rather than to have gone through what he went through. And he pondered that, and I could see that he sort of felt that way, but the response he gave me was, `Well, it's a great experience, and it's a great court,' and he's thoroughly enjoyed it. And he told me about meeting President Bush.
And then I asked him why he never asked any questions in arguments; he--he's notorious for remaining silent. And he said he wanted to give the lawyers a chance to--to speak. And then I asked him about the court. I said to him, `The Supreme Court has handed down a whole series of decisions declaring acts of Congress unconstitutional because Congress hasn't "thought them through." Now I can understand the Supreme Court declaring acts unconstitutional if they're at variance with a clause of the Constitution, but to say that the Congress hasn't thought it through, what makes the court think that it can think it through better?
And I'm very much concerned about what the Supreme Court is doing, and I registered in a collegial conversation they have taken over a tremendous amount of authority, which has a Rehnquist agenda. And we're now facing a situation of Roe vs. Wade where there may be an effort to dismantle Roe vs. Wade, and I discussed with him the question about what questions are appropriate for a senator to ask. There's sort of a--there's sort of...
At a confirmation hearing?
At confirmation hearings. There's sort of a practice, Brian, that you don't ask a senator--you don't ask a nominee a question on a case which is likely to come before the court. And in the book, I talk about Scalia. He wouldn't even answer whether he would support Marbury vs. Madison, which is 1803, supremacy of the court. And I talk about the Rehnquist hearings, which were pretty contentious on this. And I've come to a view that the Senate may have to assert its authority to ask questions. I don't think anybody would--would disagree that we have a right to say to a justice, `Are you going to stand by Brown vs. Board?'
At--we just have a short time left. But you did say, though, that because Judge Bork answered all your questions, he probably lost.
Well, that's true.
I mean, did...
That's--that's true. But, Brian, what I go into in the book is that the nominees answer as many questions as they think they have to to be confirmed. And Judge Bork answered a lot of questions because he had a lot of writings. And if he hadn't answered the questions, he would have been rejected surely.
Now you voted for Clarence Thomas, but against Judge Bork?
And there was one thing that was a surprise to me. You went back to Tom Coralovis, who I believe worked for the Reagan administration...
...and was the man who shepherded Judge Bork through the process, and he was very candid with you about what--they weren't very happy with Judge Bork back then.
Well, Judge Bork, as I write in the book--behind the scenes, they were trying to figure out a way how to get Arlen Specter on board. And Coralovis told me a lot about what happened with Bork and Rehnquist, and he wouldn't participate. And as I write in the book, Judge Bork, a brilliant man and a constitutional law professor, was not prepared. When we went through the cases--and I detail them. For example, Hess vs. Indiana, Bork said it was an obscenity case. It wasn't. It was a speech case.
And by the time he got through talking about his view of original intent, absent original intent, no judicial legitimacy and no judicial review, had he been confirmed--and we had three elderly justices on at the time, Brennan and Blackmun and Marshall. If we'd had three more vacancies and you'd had Bork as a dominant intellectual force, added to Scalia and Rehnquist, they could have turned the Constitution upside down.
Can this president, George W. Bush, get somebody through the process up there to get on the Supreme Court in the next four years? Is it possible?
He can, providing they are not going to dismantle a—a woman's right to choose. If they're going to dismantle a woman's right to choose, I believe the Senate is going to be a lot tougher on asking questions about matters that are going to come before the court.
If they won't answer that question if they come before you, would you vote for them?
Well, I'm seriously considering that. In light of what's happened in the intervening time, I'm supporting Ashcroft, have supported him. But the family planning money overseas is now in jeopardy in a very controversial, contentious issue. And if there's a sense that there's going to be an effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and this is something I want to talk to others about, my inclination would be to insist on answers and assurances and to withhold confirmation absent that.
When are you up for election again?
Do you think you'll run?
Did this--what was the main motivator in writing this book, and how--how long did it take? We only have about a minute.
It took three years dictating into a machine. The main motivator was my concern about the free fall of voting in elections and the enormous skepticism and distrust in America by the people and what happened at Ruby Ridge and Waco and the Gulf War syndrome, p--the government lying to Gulf War veterans in 1991, like they lied and mistreated my father, and to tell the details on the single bullet theory so people would have it from the guy who came up with it as to what had happened, and, really, to tell my children about and my grandchildren about what my father had gone through and to tell them about my generation so that they could build on that and improve upon that.
Well, if folks want to hear about the single bullet theory, they're going to have to buy the book.
It's not too expensive, Brian.
Here's what it looks like. It's called the "Passion for Truth." Our guest has been Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Brian.