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October 24, 2006
Meet The Democratic Leadership, Part III

Jane Harman serves on the House Intelligence Committee as the ranking Democrat on the critical national-security panel. As such, her seniority should get her the chair in the event of a Democratic majority after the midterms. However, personal and political conflicts with fellow Californian Nancy Pelosi will likely get her and her experience passed over in favor of a disgraced former federal judge:

Representative Jane Harman has gained national prominence as the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, but even her supporters now concede that she is unlikely to become chairman if her party wins control of the House.

Standing in her way is another California lawmaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats’ speaker-in-waiting, who would have the power to pick the leader of each committee. The relationship between the two has soured in recent years over political rivalries and policy disputes, and Congressional officials on both sides of the divide say Ms. Pelosi would most likely look elsewhere to fill the Intelligence Committee’s top job. ...

Ms. Harman, a moderate from Southern California, has been one of the party’s most outspoken voices on national security matters since the Sept. 11 attacks. But she has also drawn sharp criticism from more liberal Democrats, including Ms. Pelosi, who have privately said that she has not sufficiently used her position to attack the Bush administration for its prewar intelligence failures on Iraq and for its use of secret programs like the domestic eavesdropping carried out without warrants by the National Security Agency.

Two candidates whom Ms. Pelosi is said to be considering for Intelligence Committee chairman are Representatives Alcee L. Hastings of Florida and Silvestre Reyes of Texas, both of whom currently serve on the panel.

The selection of Mr. Hastings, who is black, would help Ms. Pelosi shore up support from the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. But he has a checkered past, having been impeached and removed from a federal judgeship in 1989 on a bribery charge. Some Democrats fear that installing him in so sensitive a position would only invite Republican charges of weak Democratic leadership on national security matters.

The New York Times has this wrong. Just considering Alcee Hastings, who got impeached by a Democratic Congress for bribery and malfeasance, to lead a key national-security committee will confirm Republican charges that Democrats don't take national security seriously. It also highlights the hypocrisy of their "culture of corruption" theme from earlier this year. They still talk about cleaning corruption out of Congress -- and they propose to elevate a judge impeached for bribery to be part of the leadership that will accomplish that.

This shows that the Democrats put petty politics above national security. The only reason Harman has gotten the ouster is because she didn't participate enthusiastically enough in Bush Derangement Syndrome. Never mind that she focused on her national-security assignment ahead of partisan sniping, and never mind that she still criticized the Bush administration on a number of issues. She didn't get strident enough for Nancy Pelosi -- and so she needs to go.

I don't carry any portfolio for Jane Harman, and would love to have California replace her with a Republican. However, she has built a reputation for nonpartisan efforts on national security and extensive experience in the field. Pelosi wants to dump all of that just to ingratiate herself with the Congressional Black Caucus after her timid request to William Jefferson to step down from his committee assignments after the feds found $90,000 in his freezer in a corruption scandal. To apologize for challenging corruption, she'll replace Harman with a corrupt former judge. And who's talking about a "culture of corruption"?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 24, 2006 6:49 AM

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