Friday, November 17, 2006

Should House Democrats dump their new speaker?

Timothy Noah wrote in Slate Magazine I'll admit my timing could be better, since the incoming House Democrats, on a unanimous voice vote, just made Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaker of the House. But I think her party should give serious thought to dumping her.

It is nice to see the Dems are as upset at the selection of their party's leaders as I am upset at the Republican's choices.
The proximate reason, of course, is that she tried (and, thankfully, failed) to install as House majority leader Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa. It's bad enough that Pelosi promoted Murtha (over the perfectly acceptable Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who won the caucus vote) in spite of Murtha's having once been named an unindicted co-conspirator in Abscam, a 1980 FBI sting operation in which G-men posing as representatives of an Arab sheikh offered $50,000 bribes to members of Congress. Even worse is that Pelosi persisted even after a videotape of Murtha's Abscam performance ("I'm not interested … at this point") turned up on the Web, and Democrats began fretting that they were about to erase all distinctions between themselves and the Abramoff-tainted Republicans from whom they'd only just wrenched a House majority.
Maybe that is why she was pushing Murtha, who had said that her proposal to get rid of earmarks was a "load of crap". Maybe she really did not mean it, but thought it maked her look good by saying they were going to dump earmarks in the first 100 hours.
Almost before it began, Pelosi's honeymoon is over.
Probably just as good. Who would want to take her on a honeymoon?
As a preview of the sort of instincts Pelosi will display as House speaker, her steadfastness in supporting Murtha was discouraging on two levels. Most obviously, it suggested that Pelosi lacks a sincere interest in maintaining ethical standards. On a more Machiavellian level, it suggested that Pelosi harbors the crude and entirely false notion that in order to lead, she must demonstrate an ability to prevail even after she realizes, or ought to realize, that her initial judgment was faulty.
Her initial judgement is faulty frequently.
This is the same infantile notion about power embraced by President Bush when he pretended, prior to the midterm elections, that he would keep Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.
Not at all. He just thought that dumping him prior to the elections would hurt Republican chances, and we will never know whether he was right or not.
One plausible interpretation of the midterm-election results is that voters find it terrifying when a leader is unable, even implicitly, to admit error.
The main thing is they were tired of the Republican overspending on earmarks (and now they will have Democratic overspending on earmarks), and they were tired of Republican scandals (and now they will have Democratic ones)/
Hoyer's victory is already being portrayed as a humiliating defeat for Pelosi, which it was. But it would have been an even greater defeat for Pelosi to push Murtha through and then suffer the consequences of her own idiotic decision. I doubt she understands that.

Pelosi is about to go through an almost-identical test once more. As my friend Ruth Marcus, an op-ed columnist at the Washington Post, outlined earlier this month—she can also take credit for jumping early on the Murtha story—Pelosi has apparently decided not to allow her fellow Californian Rep. Jane Harman to become chairman of the House intelligence committee, even though Harman is in line to do so. (In the cases of both Hoyer and Harman, the reasons for Pelosi's animus are cloudy and in all likelihood personal, which is discouraging in itself.)
Not cloudy at all. Both are moderates, and as an extreme Lefty she wants to take the Democratic party far left, where it will fall off the cliff.
The problem is that next in line for the job is Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge who, though acquitted in a criminal trial, was impeached by the House and convicted in the Senate of conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe while he sat on the bench. (Hastings won election to the House after all this happened.) Pelosi, reportedly, has promised the post to Hastings, who is African-American and therefore has the backing of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. The danger now is that Pelosi will honor that promise, creating precisely the same impression that she threatened to create with Murtha, i.e. that House Democrats who engage in bad behavior but manage to escape indictment or beat the rap in court are welcome to positions of high responsibility. In the case of Hastings, we lack videotape, and the evidence is circumstantial. Nonetheless, it is still, as Marcus wrote, "too much to explain away"

Perhaps Murtha and Hastings should start a caucus of their own for House members who can't seem to close the deal.

Here's what I propose. Let Pelosi remain speaker for now. But let her know that, before the new Congress even begins, she has placed herself on probation. If she chooses Hastings to chair House intelligence, that's two strikes. One more strike—even a minor misstep—and House Democrats will demonstrate that they, unlike Speaker-elect Pelosi and President Bush, know how to correct their mistakes. If this scenario strikes you as unrealistic, I will only say this: Remember Bob Livingston.


Simon said...

Pelosi doesn't need the heat that would come with naming Hastings.

Already questions are being asked about more recent ethics violations than his impeachment.

You only need to google Alcee hastings to find documented misuse of tax payer money by Hastings. has already contacted Pelosi on this matter.

Don Singleton said...

I hope you are right, but she is afraid of offending the black caucus