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Specter Always Rings Twice

Committee Republican Sen. Arlen Specter has sent a second letter to Al Gore demanding an apology for a comment made by Gore's campaign spokesman likening the Pennsylvania senator to former Sen. Joe McCarthy.

Specter first asked for an apology in a letter Tuesday; the second letter arrived Wednesday.

"Since you have not responded to my (first) letter and your surrogates are repeating their outlandish, defamatory statements, if your campaign intends to continue your character assassination of me, I think you ought to be man enough to say it yourself," Specter wrote.

Gore campaign spokesman Chris Lehane's comment came after Specter disclosed the head of the Justice Department's campaign finance task force, Robert Conrad, was recommending a special counsel be appointed to investigate Gore for possible false statements in connection with fund raising for the 1996 campaign.

Lehane accused Specter of "McCarthyite tactics," a reference to the Wisconsin lawmaker who led a bitter campaign in the 1950s to expose public figures suspected of having communist sympathies. Lehane also accused Specter and other Republicans of "turn[ing] the Congress into a scandal industrial complex designed to manufacture and create partisan scandals and inflict political damage on the vice president a mere four months before voters go to the polls."

Specter took exception to Lehane's "McCarthyite" remark and said he "will take up personally with the vice president" whether Gore authorized such a statement.

Senate Republicans admit they don't expect Reno to open a new investigation but they want to keep the heat on Gore during this summer's presidential race.

"I have full confidence in the judgment of the American people. I think the timing of this whole thing kind of speaks for itself and I think people see that," said Gore.

Telling reporters that he stood by his campaign spokesman, on Wednesday Gore declared, "I think Chris does a great job and I'm going to let him speak for himself."

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