After confessing that he has a “fetish for facts,” Senator Specter (R-Penn.) proceeds to dish up plenty of them in this hefty memoir.
As Specter tells it, the hallmark of his four decades in public service is a commitment to finding the truth regardless of the political consequences. In his view, “when people can agree on the facts and what is true, they can agree on what should be done in a just society.” While this sounds reasonable enough, the senator’s memoirs illustrate how elusive truth can be. Most of the issues he discusses in depth, ranging from the Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas to President Clinton’s impeachment, produced lots of facts but very little consensus on what was true. That reservation aside, Specter offers a great deal of information about his role in some of the more interesting investigations in recent history, beginning with the Kennedy assassination and ending with the impeachment. Inevitably, a memoir by a sitting politician will be somewhat self-serving. Certainly readers who disagree with Specter’s positions will tire of hearing about how ferreting out the truth and voting his conscience have allowed him to rise above the ranks of his venal colleagues. Also, the senator has a tendency to digress, sapping the story of its narrative momentum. In the middle of discussing Anita Hill, for instance, he lapses into an unrelated recollection about the 1988 presidential race. But most of us have learned to expect some wind when talking to a pol.
One too many war stories, but fun for political junkies. (16 pp. photos, not seen)