During the last two years of his life, Arlen Specter sought to settle some scores. In Life Among the Cannibals, the former U.S. senator’s third and final memoir, he took swipes at Republican senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and even President Obama himself.
He railed against the intolerance and political correctness that defined Washington.
And as he neared the end of his life, Specter expressed to friends his wish to reconcile with Anita Hill, the young lawyer whom Specter, had grilled so mercilessly during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1991.
At least , that’s what he told Robert Reich, who told Salon.com: “As far as I know there was no reconciliation,” the former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton said. “He expressed to me, one evening when we were having dinner together, his wish for there to be one.”
Of course, we all remember the fallout from those 1991 hearings, which brought the issue of workplace sexual harassment to the forefront. The backlash Specter experienced from women voters almost caused him his Senate seat to Lynn Yeakel.
For his part, Specter admitted in his memoir that he “didn’t understand the explosive nature of the [sexual harassment] issue.” He wrote he “had not known how painful it was for women who were watching…., so many of who had been victims of sexual harassment and saw themselves…in Hill’s position.”
And while he struck a tone of contrition in his book, Specter never offered a personal apology to Hill, according to a story written by my collegue, Thomas Fitzgerald, in 2010.
In fact, in the same story, Specter told Fitzgerald that he may have helped Hill’s cause.
“Anita Hill has done more to advance women’s interests in our society and the world than almost anyone. I aided and abetted,” he said, tongue stuck firmly in cheek.
Here’s the kicker: Clarence Thomas proved to be an ultra-conservative on the court, not the moderate Specter hoped he would be.
Thomas, and his far-right ideology “was my biggest disappointment,” Specter said.