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“He visited these tyrants and he was convinced that he could convince them to moderate their policies,” Klein said. “And as we know, he never did.”
Brog said that Specter relished, from his days as a prosecutor, the challenge of going toe to toe with bad guys and getting them to stand down.
“He and Hafez Assad would sit for hours on end drinking tea, seeing who would need to go for a bathroom break first,” Brog said, referring to the late Syrian strongman and father of the country’s current ruler, Bashar Assad.
More seriously, Brog said, Specter was committed to creating an environment friendly to peacemaking for Israel by forging a deal with its most recalcitrant neighbor.
“The prize was, if you could get Syria, the most extreme of Israel’s neighbors, to sign a peace deal, you could create a climate in the region,” he said.
Specter’s independence took a toll on his staff, Brog said.
“Every single vote he wanted a briefing on the merits without just knowing how the party wanted the vote,” he said.
Specter was an exacting boss, Brog said, and notorious for sending staffers packing.
“Those of us who stayed with him saw this as a very good thing,” said Brog, who now serves as executive director of Christians United for Israel. “I look at my professional standards from before and after, and I see how I grew as a professional.”
Nominees for the federal bench were a regular target of his difficult questions, said Sammie Moshenberg, the Washington director of the National Council of Jewish Women.
“He was always independent and was proud of the fact that he went with his conscience,” she said.
Moshenberg found his tough questions gratifying when Specter grilled nominees on reproductive rights, but recalled being “infuriated” when he accused Hill of perjuring herself in accusing Thomas of sexual harassment.