RUSH: We’re gonna talk with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, about his new book. It’s Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate. Senator Specter, welcome to the program. It’s nice to have you back with us here.
SEN. SPECTER: Rush, thank you very much for the invitation. It’s a great pleasure to talk to you and your listeners. Thanks.
RUSH: The title of the book is Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate. You were battling more than cancer in the Senate. I’ve read the summary of the book. It’s 11 to 14 pages here. It is incredibly detailed about the process you went through when you were diagnosed. It was lymph cancer. But that was not the first health crisis you had. You had a brain tumor, am I correct about that?
SEN. SPECTER: Rush, that’s right. I had a brain tumor. The doctor gave me three to six weeks to live, once. I was really shocked, and I sort of blurted out in the chain of consciousness — it happened back in June of ’93 — I said, ‘Oh, my. My wife and I were going to go away for the weekend to celebrate our anniversary,’ and the doctor looked at me and said, ‘Go, and have a good time,’ believe it or not, and I thought to myself, Rush, ‘This guy must be crazy.’ I said, ‘Give me my films. I’m going to see another doctor,’ and I had it removed, and it was benign, and I found out that you couldn’t tell for sure until you took it out, froze it, sliced it down, and looked at it under a microscope. So that in telling people this story in my book, Never Give In, I want them to know they sometimes need to get a second opinion and not lose hope until they do so.
RUSH: What year was the brain tumor?
SEN. SPECTER: That was 1993.
SEN. SPECTER: Yup.
RUSH: And here we are 15 years later.
SEN. SPECTER: Yeah.
RUSH: You were given three to six weeks. When was the lymph cancer discovered?
SEN. SPECTER: It was discovered mid-February of 2005.
RUSH: 2005. Now, that was the same year that Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer.
SEN. SPECTER: That’s right.
RUSH: And he was going through cancer treatment, chemotherapy at the same time you were.
SEN. SPECTER: Right.
RUSH: And I remember, Senator Specter, he made his appearance announcing to his audience on World News Tonight that he had been diagnosed and that he was undergoing treatment. We didn’t know at the time what stage his lung cancer was, but we knew he was going to be getting treatment for it, and he assured the audience he’d be in when he could, but we never saw him again. His disease was devastating. But during the period of time there were people, Ted Koppel, friends of his that would speak to him and somebody came out and quoted him that he had so much admiration for you because you were going through chemo at the same time, and you were at work every day, and he didn’t understand how you could do it.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, Rush, I wrote him a note and told him that I was staying on the job and, as tough as it was to drag myself out of bed, I was doing it; I urged him to do the same thing. And he put on his website a thanks for notes that he’d gotten and mentioned me and said that he tried my approach, but he simply couldn’t do it. So he had a tougher time. But I had written to him, and he was a courageous fellow.
RUSH: My mother had brain cancer and she was on chemo, and it was debilitating for her, too, which is one of the reasons why the subject of your book fascinates me. I want people… When you’re in the midst of your treatment, you have lost all your hair, you’re bald and you’re in the midst of probably what’s the worst time in your chemotherapy, and yet you are at work every day and you’re at work in the Senate where a lot of things are going on. You are a member of the Judiciary Committee plus other committees that you’re on. Would you take people through this? You want to inspire people with this book and tell them to hang in, that the mental attitude is as important here as getting proper medical treatment.
SEN. SPECTER: Yeah, that’s right, Rush. I want them to know that it can be done. I know that there are some limits as to what people can do physically, but when it comes to determination, when it comes to a mind-set, I think that a lot can be done if you just are determined to do it — and you are right. I was chairing the Judiciary Committee. We had really tough confirmation hearings. Take the confirmation hearing of Justice Alito, for example. We had a real battle with Senator Kennedy right in the middle of it. It was a day when I wasn’t feeling so hot, which was most days, and Kennedy interrupted the questioning, addressed me as chairman and said, ‘Mr. Chairman, I move we go into executive session to get a subpoena for the records of Alito with respect to the Concerned Alumni of Princeton.’ That was a group which was a little tough on minorities and women. I looked at Kennedy, and I said, ‘Well, Senator Kennedy, if you really were sincere about that, why did you wait to make a grandstand play on national television? Why didn’t you mention it when we were talking in the hall a few minutes ago,’ or later, as I would joke about it, ‘in the Senate gym.’ But of course Kennedy hadn’t been in the Senate gym since the Johnson administration, Rush.
RUSH: (laughter) Well, but this is the point. You’re in the midst of it, and at that point you’re probably at the worst of the chemo. You had your wits. You had our sense of purpose about you. You were able to muster enough energy. Would you please — I’m just curious about this myself, because I saw my mother and I’ve seen a lot of people. They wake up in the morning, and they feel so bad physically, they just don’t even want to get out of bed. You got out of bed every day. What time did you get out of bed? What time did you get to the Senate? How long were you there? When did you get home? How much sleep a night did you get?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, I’ll answer all your questions. I’ve been getting up for a long time at 5:15 to play squash, and I got an automatic alarm clock, which means I gotta go to bed early. But I’d get up and I’d really drag myself to the squash court, and sometimes I couldn’t play more than a couple games. Usually I’d play five or six before, but a couple. Then I’d really drag myself through a shower, go to the office and have some meetings and maybe a hearing and I’d try to duck out midmorning and take a nap. When the votes would come, I’d have an office close to the floor, a so-called hideaway. I’d go vote and come back; do as much resting as I could. In mid-afternoon I’d take another nap, and I had meetings and I had hearings. We had a lot of confirmations. We confirmed Bill Pryor and Janice Rogers Brown and some others, and I’d try to get home early in the evening and be in bed by 8:30 so I could get sleep from 8:30 to 5:30 and get up and start doing it all over again.
RUSH: I, frankly, am amazed. There are days, Senator, I have a cold and don’t want to do all that. I, you know, mush through it. But a cold is not chemotherapy. I’ve never experienced chemotherapy so I don’t know. I’ve seen it in others, but I don’t know what — other than the nausea and the hair loss — it feels like.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, it’s very debilitating. You get it and you’re sort of in a stupor. I got it on Friday afternoon so that I could have a little recuperation time in the next 48 hours, and then I wouldn’t take the train. I was also with my immune system down, I would be driven and I would leave my house early in the morning about seven, drive to Washington. Fortunately, I’m close. I’d get there about 9:45 and take a nap. You just don’t… You feel like doing absolutely nothing, but you know with a little experience that if you stay in bed, you’re going to feel worse. And if you get up, when you have as tough a job as I did, candidly, Kennedy was a great distraction. I wasn’t thinking about myself; I was thinking about how to deal with the Alito confirmation.
RUSH: Well, that’s key, isn’t it, because that took your mind off your suffering?
SEN. SPECTER: Right. It’s good to be busy, so you don’t think about, frankly, how lousy you feel.
RUSH: The Alito hearings, those were filled with fireworks, Mrs. Alito running out in tears over something. I think it was Senator Leahy had made some comments, and you were chairing those committee hearings. I remember people were applauding your work then, who knew that you were suffering, knew that you were in the midst of chemotherapy. How long were you being treated and how long did it take from the time you discovered you had lymph cancer, until they told you that either you’re cured or in remission or whatever your current condition is?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, just another word about Alito. They were trying to get enough traction, Rush, to filibuster. They felt with a Supreme Court nomination, Kennedy felt he couldn’t filibuster unless he got some traction and if they got him pegged as a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, they thought they could do it. They knew we didn’t have 60 votes. We ended up with 58, and they knew we had more than 50. So they were trying to get traction. But to answer your question directly, I was diagnosed mid-February, and I took chemotherapy until near the end of July. On part of those days right when I was in the middle of the worst of it we were having meetings with the president on scheduling Chief Justice Roberts, and then when the Roberts hearings were on, I had almost no hair, and when Alito came up couple months later I had a little bit of hair.
RUSH: The picture in the book of you with the president when you had no hair, was that the meeting with Roberts that you’re referring to?
SEN. SPECTER: That’s it. That’s the meeting on July 21st. It’s kind of an interesting picture, Rush, as you can see from the picture, the president’s body language is — I sort of joke about it and think that the president might have been thinking, ‘Well, I gotta shake Arlen Specter’s hand, he’s the chairman. They say it’s not contagious, but who knows.’
SEN. SPECTER: The way, as you see, he’s sort of leaning the other way. But the president and I have gotten to be good friends over the years. He’s come to Pennsylvania a lot, and when he comes he likes to talk. He invites me to the car or plane and he wanted the Roberts hearings finished. He wanted them started in August, and I had to tell him. I said, ‘Mr. President, you’re lucky you’ve never been a senator. If you bring people back in August, they’re going to be in a foul mood. I need to get Roberts confirmed,’ and after we followed my ideas, he was very pleased.
RUSH: Senator Specter, we gotta take a brief commercial time-out. We will continue when we come back, his book is Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate.
RUSH: We are back, Rush Limbaugh, the Excellence in Broadcasting Network, and we are talking with Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. His book is Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate. Senator, one more question about this in our remaining few minutes. I want to touch on just two other things involving your present business. Have you heard from people who have been inspired by your message in the book, or people that you met while you were getting treatment who were having a tougher time than you did and were inspired by what you went through and did?
SEN. SPECTER: Rush, I heard from quite a few people just like that, and it’s very gratifying, telling me that they were very pleased to see what I was doing and they were fighting harder themselves. One incident involved a good friend of mine, the husband of one of Joan’s, my wife’s, school girlfriends, Marvin Park; that lives out in Southern California now, and he has lymphoma, and he became very dejected, very morose. He wouldn’t get out of bed, didn’t pay any attention to his dog, which he loved dearly, and we sent him an advance copy of the book. And he read it and later his wife, Harriet, called Joan and said, ‘Marvin read Arlen’s book, and he said, ‘If Arlen Specter can do it, so can I.’ He said, ‘Get me my clothes.’ He got dressed, he walked the dog, and he got out of bed for the first time in weeks,’ and physically he was the same guy before he read the book that he was after he read the book, but the example and the person led him to say, ‘Well, if Arlen can do it, so can I,’ and he got out.
RUSH: That’s exactly the purpose in writing the book. That has to be heartwarming for you.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, it really is, Rush. When you’re somewhat in the public eye and people know what you’re doing — especially because I had all the exposure during the Roberts and Alito hearings — I wanted to tell the story. It’s a little more open, frankly, than I feel comfortable doing, but it doesn’t have any real meaning or impact, if you don’t let it all hang out there. So when I hear about people responding to it and finding it a little easier to cope, that’s very gratifying.
RUSH: A couple other things here before we go.
SEN. SPECTER: Sure.
RUSH: I’ve got roughly four and a half, five minutes. What’s the status of important judicial confirmations on nominations sent up by President Bush? I know that there are very few that happen during the final year of a two-term president. Where are we, say, compared to the number of judges you Republicans confirmed for President Clinton in his final year?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, we’re way behind for President Bush. In the last two years of Clinton, he confirmed 15 circuit judges, and for President Bush, only six. On district judges, the last two years for Clinton, 54, and the last up ’til now, only 37. So we’ve got a long way to go. Rush, we haven’t had one single federal judge confirmed in 2008. We didn’t have a hearing on the circuit judge since between September of 2007 and late February 2008. We’re reviewing our options now to see if we can find some way to exert enough pressure to get a little fairness here.
RUSH: Who leads that? Is it you, because you’re on Judiciary, is it Senator McConnell? Who do you talk to, Pat Leahy, or do you talk to Harry Reid?
SEN. SPECTER: All of the above. I’ve taken the lead on it, and I wrote Senator Leahy a very tough lawyer letter a couple weeks ago and went to the floor and laid it on the line, and I talked to Senator McConnell, the leader, about our options, and I brought it up with my colleagues. We had lunch on Tuesday, and I even talked to Senator Leahy. Well, I’ve talked to Senator Leahy about it a lot, and I’ve talked to Senator Reid about it. But it’s up to me to take the lead and to be backed up by Mitch McConnell and then to be backed up by the caucus. As I say, we’re weighing very heavily now what we may be able to do. I don’t want to start something, Rush, unless I’m prepared to go through with it. Phil Gramm had a great statement. He said, ‘Never take a hostage you’re not prepared to shoot.’ It was a great statement.
RUSH: It is. It is. Well, that’s pretty descriptive of what you face.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, yeah.
RUSH: My final question is… I’m dealing with just a couple of minutes here.
SEN. SPECTER: Yeah.
RUSH: Lot of football fans in this audience. Since the Super Bowl we’ve heard very little about this guy in Hawaii, Matt Walsh, that claims to have videotape of the New England Patriots and the St. Louis Rams walk-through the Saturday before their Super Bowl. What’s the status of that?
SEN. SPECTER: Well, the status of it is that there has been an exchange of correspondence between Walsh’s lawyers and the NFL lawyers. I’ve seen the letters. Walsh’s lawyer let me see them on a promise of confidentiality, and I believe an objective and fair reading of those letters is that the NFL is discouraging Walsh from coming forward.
RUSH: Really? Because their statements are just exact opposite.
SEN. SPECTER: Well, the NFL says they’re trying to encourage them, and I issued the challenge to the commissioner a couple of Saturdays ago, and they put out a Sunday release that they were making substantial progress. Well, we’ve had almost two weeks since that Sunday release, and nothing has happened. I believe those… Listen, I think the NFL has a duty of integrity. They have an anti-trust exemption, which gives them a preferred position. They are role models. If you can cheat in the NFL, you can cheat in college or high school or sixth grade math test. I think ultimately, Rush, if we get enough fire under it, they’re going to have to show those letters — and when they do, they’re going to have to change their tune and let Walsh testify, because those reports are looking pretty strong, but there was filming for the 2002 Super Bowl.
RUSH: Senator, ten seconds, enough time to thank you for your appearance here. Congratulations on your book. It’s extremely well done, and congratulations on your recovery from the disease. Thank you very much for your time, today.
SEN. SPECTER: Great talking, Rush. Thank you.
RUSH: You bet.