Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., wanted to “find out what is on Pennsylvanian’s minds these days.” He held an open forum on Main Campus last week with criminal justice and political science students.
“We Americans have the reputation around the world for being the ugly Americans, and I believe that if we have direct talks, showing respect, showing cordiality, showing dignity to other countries, that would do a great deal to try to work through the problems,” Specter said, opening the discussion. Specter spoke about political issues that he said are particularly important to him, including
warrantless wiretapping, the nuclear power crisis and foreign relations.
In the forum, held Oct. 12 at Beury Hall, students asked the senator questions about his politics and the government in general.
When asked what he thought was the biggest problem America is facing today, the senator said terrorism.
“We are facing Islam fundamentalism with a culture that despises our ways of life, and the radicals make no bones about wanting to destroy the United States,” Specter said.
“Islam is a religion and they are entitled to all the benefits of any other religion, to be treated with respect and dignity, but when they teach hatred and teach people to be suicide bombers it’s a tremendous
The senator was also asked about his thoughts on illegal immigration in the U.S.
“We need comprehensive bills, a guest work program, to find a way to deal with the 11 million undocumented immigrants and keep in mind that we are a country of immigrants,” Specter said. Matt Higgins, a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, said he agreed with the senator’s remarks. “Immigrants should pay taxes if they work here and also have the chance for citizenship.” Higgins said.
Liz Thomas, also a junior in the College of Liberal Arts, said she was surprised when the senator asked whether the abortion laws should be overturned and no one responded.
“He asked about Roe v. Wade and no one said anything,” Thomas said. “I was just really surprised.”
The senator also spoke about nuclear weapons development.
“Some of the countries, I think, want to flex their muscles and be part of a nuclear club,” Specter said. “If we give them a little status, maybe they will be willing not to be part of the nuclear club. They will be willing to submit their nuclear power to international controls.”
The senator said he is currently developing
legislation that would deal with the question of “rule of law and appropriate judicial review before searches and seizures of wiretaps.” He also said he hopes to create a legislation that would submit data from the Electronic Surveillance Program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This court, he added, is set up to handle classified information in a constitutional manner.
Specter, who is not up for re-election until 2010, also spoke about his projections for the November primaries.
“First of all, I like Santorum,” Specter said. “Second of all, I think ultimately he will win. Seniority is very important.”
Although some students at the lecture had a negative view of the senator, others, like junior Doug Heiduk, said he agreed with Specter’s political ideas and that his discussions were also very educational.
“From his speech, he opened my eyes,” Heiduk said. “Now I know him on a personal level and I’ll definitely vote for him. His views are pretty much like mine.” Specter has been a member of the U.S. Senate for 26 years and chairs the Senate Judiciary
Committee. Earlier this year, Specter was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease and ended chemotherapy treatment in July.
Liron Milbar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.