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Friday, November 24, 2006

The Washington Times: All Eyes On Pelosi

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has an important decision to make, and the The Washington Times is among those paying close attention to this impending decision:

The intelligence community and Capitol Hill are awaiting House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi's choice to lead the chamber's intelligence panel, an explosive decision that will anger key members of her party no matter who she selects.

Even before Democrats won control of the House, reports surfaced that Mrs. Pelosi would skip over Rep. Jane Harman of California, the highest ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and opt instead for Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida or Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the second- and third-ranking on the panel.

Mrs. Harman is backed by many centrists and is seen as hawkish on defense matters, while Mr. Hastings has the support of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) but is tainted by his impeachment and removal as a federal judge in 1989.

Mr. Reyes has the backing of many Hispanic members and of those who want a compromise candidate.

"Harman's well-known and quite respected by those involved in national security affairs," said Gary Schmitt, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a public policy group, and former minority staff director for the Senate intelligence panel.

"Hastings is obviously less well-known and given the impeachment is a far more problematic choice for chairman. ... His record is one that's going to give the intelligence community something of a pause."

A choice to sidestep Mrs. Harman would be portrayed by Republicans as the second bad political move on Mrs. Pelosi's part, after her decision to back Rep. John P. Murtha in his failed bid to become House majority leader.

"It shows very flawed judgment on her part," Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois, the second-ranking Republican on the intelligence panel said of a possible Hastings choice. "Her first flawed judgment was backing [Murtha]."

Mr. LaHood said Mrs. Harman "deserves to be chair. She has earned her stripes; she has done the hard work." He said Mr. Hastings has paid attention to intelligence issues as well but simply doesn't have Mrs. Harman's experience.

Calls to Mrs. Harman's office were not immediately returned, and Mrs. Pelosi has been officially mum. She refused comment at a press event Monday, and a staffer would only say "no decision has been made yet."

The Associated Press has reported that Mrs. Pelosi already has told Mrs. Harman that she won't be reappointed to the panel next year, and several publications, including The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, have said Mrs. Pelosi does not think Mrs. Harman has been tough enough on President Bush.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hastings' office released a letter he sent to his colleagues seeking their support, denouncing as unfounded the bribery case against him.

He said he has been the victim of "misleading, poorly informed, misinformed and sometimes venomous attacks ... by pundits, politicians, and editors screaming the word 'impeachment,' " while making no mention of his acquittal in a court of law.

House Majority Leader-elect Steny H. Hoyer, says he'll give Mrs. Pelosi his advice on the matter privately. Mrs. Pelosi will make that decision "in a timely fashion, consistent with the interest of the United States and the intelligence community," he said on ABC's "This Week."

Mrs. Pelosi ruffled more than a few feathers when she backed Mr. Murtha of Pennsylvania to be majority leader over Mr. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and her second-in-command as whip of the minority.

Mrs. Harman is the most qualified for the slot, and there's also "no question" Mrs. Pelosi would prefer someone else, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.

He said that since the CBC wants Mr. Hastings to be named, Mrs. Pelosi would be seen as making a politically pressured decision if she chooses him.

"She will tend to be viewed as someone who puts politics above broader concerns like national interest," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Reyes has intelligence knowledge and lacks the "checkered past" of Mr. Hastings, he noted.

In 1981, Mr. Hastings, appointed to the federal bench in Florida by Democratic President Carter, was accused of soliciting a $150,000 bribe in return for a light sentence for two men convicted of racketeering.

A jury cleared Mr. Hastings, but a panel of judges urged he be impeached by the House, which did so in 1988. A year later, the Senate convicted Mr. Hastings and removed him from the bench. In 1992, he was elected to Congress.

Let me make this as perfectly clear as we can. Rep. Hastings does not even belongon the Intelligence committee because of his impeachment, and it matters not that a court of law found no wrongdoing. The Senate did, which is why he was removed. We should remember that it is a rarity that a judge is ever removed from the federal bench by the Senate, and such moves are not easy decisions to make. I am sure the Senate went through a panstaking process to make such a move. The House voted overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment, and the Senate did vote to remove him. He cannot avoid this glaring fact.

And it does seem with her support of Hastings that this is politically motivated by the CBC. She is completely ignoring his record, and Rep. Harman';s when it comes to such matters. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that Rep., Harman has earned her spot on the committee, and knows far more about intelligence matters than Rep. Hastings does. They also acknowledge that Speaker Pelosi's motivations seem to be purely political.

Not only does it come fromt he pressure being exerted by the CBC, but her flap with Rep. Harman over her handling fo the bush Administration goes right ot the heart of her disdain for Rep. Harman. For Speaker Pelosi, this is all about politics, just like the Murtha endorsement. Speaker Pelosi has no intention of changing any sort of tone in the House. She appears to have every intention of ramming her agenda down the House's collective throat. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a serious mistake, and a grave miscalculation. She is acting as though she wields power like a hammer, and that she will rule the House with an iron fist. What she forgets is that she has a caucus that has already sent a clear message in their rejection of John Murtha to be majority leader that they will not tolerate the politics game.

It is almost as though the caucus understands the stakes more than she does. By pushing her agenda, she runs the risk of costing the party their gains in the midterms. Conservatives are worried about what the next two years could bring us, but they seem to be lightening up a bit in light of Speaker Pelosi's foolish missteps. She is not uniting her caucus; she is dividing them in the worst possible way. When it comes time for the projects she would like to push--a minimum wage increase, reexamining the idea of national health care, looking into the Iraq theater of the War on Terror, etc.--she may be left out in the cold if her caucus rebels, and refuses to give her any oxygen for the debate.

She needs to watch her step here, and the best course of action would be for her to kiss and make up with Rep. Harman, and give her her rightful seat. To do anything other than this sends a message to the caucus, and the Democrat base as a whole, that to her, the status quo of Left-leaning politics will be the norm in the House, and her vow to make changes is empty and nothing more than lip service.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

The House Intelliegence Committee should never have anyone one it that the FBI can't clear for top secret and eye's only classified information. I disagree with Rep Ray LaHood (R) that Harmon deserves to be chair. She has earned her stripes; she has done the hard work." and Gary Schmitt, Senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute evaluation that Mrs. Harmon is well known and respected by those involved in National Security. As I recall Harmon's staff member was leaking and removed from the committee. She didn't know what was going on and she's qualified? I think not. I also question LaHood's judgemen in recommending Harmon. And what is hastings doing on the committee to begin with with his record? It seems that the committee is a little social political club that lacks recredibility. Politics has no place on this committee. Rawriter

11:56 PM  

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