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December 5, 2006
Harman Starts Looking Better To The Left?

One has to wonder what strategy Nancy Pelosi has decided to pursue in the next session of Congress. After a couple of major missteps in the days following the Democratic Party's midterms successes, she has managed to transform what had they described as a mandate for clean government and an end to the American involvement in Iraq into a serious muddle. First she champions two men for key leadership posts that have serious questions of corruption in their backgrounds. Now the man she selected to replace one of them wants to back the Pentagon and expand the American commitment in Iraq (via Hot Air):

In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq, Rep. Silvestre Reyes, the soon-to-be chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a stepped up effort to “dismantle the militias."

The soft-spoken Texas Democrat was an early opponent of the Iraq war and voted against the October 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to invade that country. That dovish record got prominently cited last week when Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi chose Reyes as the new head of the intelligence panel.

But in an interview with NEWSWEEK on Tuesday, Reyes pointedly distanced himself from many of his Democratic colleagues who have called for fixed timetables for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Coming on the eve of tomorrow’s recommendations from the bipartisan Baker-Hamilton commission, Reyes’s comments were immediately cited by some Iraq war analysts as fresh evidence that the intense debate over U.S. policy may be more fluid than many have expected.

“We’re not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies,” Reyes said. “We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq … We certainly can’t leave Iraq and run the risk that it becomes [like] Afghanistan” was before the 2001 invasion by the United States.

Reyes also stressed that there needed to be greater “political accountability” demanded of the Iraqi government. But on the core issue of the U.S. commitment, Reyes—a Vietnam War veteran who partially lost his hearing in that conflict—even compared his position to that of another Vietnam vet, Sen. John McCain, a staunch supporter of the Iraq war. Like Reyes, McCain also has called for an increase in U.S. troop strength. When asked how many additional troops he envisioned sending to Iraq, Reyes replied: “I would say 20,000 to 30,000—for the specific purpose of making sure those militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military.”

It gets better, as Newsweek makes clear in the article. Not only does Silvestre Reyes align more or less with John McCain on Iraq, it turns out that he told Pelosi how he viewed the issue before she selected him to replace Alcee Hastings, who replaced Nancy Harman. Reyes said that he made his position "very clear" to the Speaker-elect during their discussions on the subject.

Pelosi will undoubtedly have many Democrats making their views very clear on her selection of Reyes, now that Newsweek has reported it. They expected that key chairs would go to Democrats opposed to the war in Iraq, not those who supported an escalation of American involvement. Newsweek quotes Ray McGovern, a former intelligence analyst that has campaigned for Bush's impeachment, as almost apoplectic:

Reyes’s comments were immediately blasted by one Iraq war critic who expressed concerns that they would give new respectability to an idea that has lost considerable support in official Washington as the violence in Iraq has escalated. “I think he [Reyes] needs a course in Insurgency 101,” said Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst who has been active in an anti-war group called the Steering Group for Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. “Have they learned nothing from Vietnam? If he pushes this and gets some support for it, and with McCain in the Senate, it could become more respectable … I think Reyes has got a lot to learn.”

McGovern has a track record of oddball pronouncements, which makes Newsweek's use of him as an analyst somewhat odd. He "testified" at John Conyers' mock impeachment hearing in June 2005, when the upcoming chair of the Judiciary Committee decided to produce articles of impeachment from his kangaroo hearing in an unused chamber in the basement of Capitol Hill. McGovern cast a damper on the festivities, as Dana Milbank reported, when he fired up the anti-Semites cheering the committee by testifying that

the United States went to war in Iraq for oil, Israel and military bases craved by administration "neocons" so "the United States and Israel could dominate that part of the world." He said that Israel should not be considered an ally and that Bush was doing the bidding of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Pelosi stripped Harman of the chair that she gave Reyes primarily because of her support of the war in Iraq and a lack of partisan animus on Harman's part. While Reyes promised to vigorously pursue the issues of the warrantless NSA surveillance of international calls and other counterterrorism efforts by the Bush administration, clearly the Democrats expected someone less inclined to keep troops in Iraq, let alone add to the contingent. Even Harman has not gone on record in support of an expansion of troop levels.

So why did she replace Harman? It seems obvious that the decision had much more to do with personal issues than with policy. Democrats may want to rethink her Speakership in light of the series of strange decisions she has made in the wake of their victory. The rule of personal whim has just about destroyed their momentum and may have set up the House caucus for a devastating split at the moment of their greatest unity in a generation.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 5, 2006 7:13 PM

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Shock: Pelosi’s new intel chair wants more troops in IraqAllahpundit The best part? This is the guy she picked over Alcee “Sorry, Haters” Hastings. Turns out he’s a wingnut who believes, for whatever crazy reason, that it’d be a better [Read More]

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