House Intelligence Committee: Pelosi v. Harman v. Hastings

One of the minidramas developing in the newly minted Democratic House is who will chair the House Intelligence Committee. Here is a sample of the teeth gnashing going on:

If Democrats win control of the House next week, Nancy Pelosi's first test as speaker will arrive long before the 110th Congress convenes. Her choice to head the House intelligence committee -- unlike other House committees, this one is left entirely up to the party leadership -- will speak volumes about whether a Speaker Pelosi will be able to resist a return to paint-by-numbers Democratic Party interest-group politics as usual. Pelosi is in a box of her own devising. The panel's ranking Democrat is her fellow Californian Jane Harman -- smart and hardworking but also abrasive, ambitious and, in Pelosi's estimation, insufficiently partisan on the committee. So Pelosi, once the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat herself, has made clear that she doesn't intend to name Harman to the chairmanship.

The wrong decision, in my view, but one that's magnified by the unfortunate fact that next in line is Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings. In 1989, after being acquitted in a criminal trial, Hastings was stripped of his position as a federal judge -- impeached by the House in which he now serves and convicted by the Senate -- for conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe . . .

Of course Hastings was acquitted in his criminal trial but let's consider the issue on the flip.

Pelosi's position is a tough one, irrespective of her personal feud with Harman. The Congressional Black Caucus is rightly looking closely at this and similar issues. And they need to have their views respected.

However, I believe Jane Harman should be reappointed to the Intelligence Committee, and perhaps a co-chairmanship could be established. The reason? Because Jane Harman has really done her penance for her earlier mistakes and has been extremely tough on the failings of the Bush Administration for the past year. Unlike Joe Lieberman, Harman was not petulant about the criticisms she received. She did not have a temper tantrum when she faced a primary challenger; rather she went out to try and win the confidence of her constituency. In one of the most important blog pieces of 2006, mcjoan at daily kos described how Harman responded to the dissatisfaction with her performance:

Jane Harman, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, had come under extensive criticism from the left. Her support for the Iraq War and her February 12 appearance on Meet the Press in which she expressed support for the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, energized the the progressive left to work against her. Winograd earned the endorsements of "Progressive Democrats of America, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, the Western Region of the United Auto Workers union and a half-dozen presidents of local Democratic clubs."

How did Harman respond? By trying to reach out to progressives and by listening. That included creating an account here at Daily Kos. In what were some often heated exchanges, Harman interacted with this community. And she listened to us. On June 1, the week before the California primary, she wrote:

Now I know that many Kossacks don't agree with me on every issue, and many of you may even be supporting my primary opponent. But you may be surprised at how much we do agree on.

You and I agree that the Bush Administration hyped and selectively released intelligence to build the case for war in Iraq. Had the White House been straight with the American people, diplomacy could have succeeded, making military action unnecessary.

You and I agree that the Bush Administration's NSA wiretap program without warrants is wrong, it violates the law. There's no reason that President Bush and the Justice Department couldn't follow the tried-and-true procedures under FISA that protect civil liberties. That's why John Conyers and I recently introduced the LISTEN Act, co-sponsored by 46 other Members of Congress, to turn up the heat on the White House.

You and I agree that the drumbeat towards war in Iran must end. We don't know nearly enough about Iran's true capabilities or intentions -- nor has the Bush Administration taken advantage of all the diplomatic, political, and economic options available to us.

You and I agree that we must always protect a women's right to choose -- protect and preserve our environment -- guarantee equal rights for all, including gays and lesbians.

That's why we're Democrats -- and that's why it's so important that Democrats win back the House this November. I know we agree on that. [Emphasis in original]

When confronted with a primary challenge from the left of her party, Rep. Harman understood that she had lost touch with an important component of her base. And she understood that she needed to find out why, needed to begin a conversation with those party activists and with the netroots community. Not only did she post diaries, she stuck around to comment. Not all of us agreed with her responses, and were adamant in telling her so. But we had an honest exchange of views and, amazingly, she began to take a harder line against the Bush administration. She came back to being a Democrat.

That's how a good politician, a good Democrat, and a responsible representative responds to a primary challenge. By realizing that they've got a problem back home, and responding to it.

I think that type of reachout, not the phony Lieberman kowtow to Republicans, deserves recognition and respect.

Harman is knowledgeable and respected. She also understands what the Bush Administration has wrought. Alcee Hastings need not be a pariah, but there is also a political component to this as well. Harman is insulated from the type of demagogic attacks that will come at Hastings.

It seems to me that the politic solution is obvious - co-chairpersons Harman and Hastings for intelligence. Has it never been done? So what? Let's do it now.

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    Hastings (none / 0) (#1)
    by Pancho on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 12:48:02 PM EST
    A key element missing from the story here is that one of the reasons for Hasting's impeachment AND for his acquital of the criminal charges is the PERJURY he committed in the criminal trial. This is very important.
    What is "progressive" about perjury and bribery? Does his skin color automatically qualify his promotion to this important post as "progress"?

    Why does the Black Caucus defend any black member no matter what their sins are? What is more racist than that?

    xx (none / 0) (#2)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 05:18:41 PM EST
    The Repubs are pulling for Hastings.

    let's talk about Hastings (none / 0) (#3)
    by teacherken on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 05:39:12 PM EST
    we have the charge that he perjured himself.  Please show me a conviction?   Oh, you can't?

    Let's also note that the vote to remove him from the House was far from unanimous, and a Senator at the time who was aware both of the details of the charges and of Hastings' service on the Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham of Florida, has come out STRONGLY for Hasting taking over the committee.

    The voters in Florida have overwhelming returned Hastings to office.  The jury that heard his criminal case rejected the testimony of his principal accuser, whom they viewed as cutting a deal for himself.

    I have no dog in this fight.  I do think the overreaction to Hastings having been removed from the Bench is irrelevant to the issue at hand, whether or not there was a proper basis for so doing.  The impeachment charges could have included barring him from future federal office or benefit (as those against Clinton did, but interestingly those against Nixon did not), but they did not, thus he legally holds his current position.  Is there any evidence that his service in the House as a whole, or on the Intelligence panel in specific, is less than honorable?  If so let's hear it, if not, then there is no legitimate reason for him NOT to head the committee on which he has already been serving.

    xx (none / 0) (#5)
    by jimakaPPJ on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 06:19:53 PM EST
    The Repubs are pulling for him.

    What don't you understand about that?


    Hastings (none / 0) (#4)
    by Kewalo on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 06:13:09 PM EST
    Lawrence O'Donnell was on TV and he said something that made me think. He contends that if Hastings is appointed chair that many people will take it that the democrats are not serious about the culture of corruption. Even though Hastings may not have been convicted he was impeached. I'm not so sure that O'Donnell isn't right.

    I think we should think about the appearance of impropriety. Maybe it's not fair, I'm not going to make that assessment, but it is reality.

    Fun House Mirrors (none / 0) (#6)
    by aw on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 06:21:09 PM EST
    I think we should think about the appearance of impropriety. Maybe it's not fair,

    You're right, it's not fair.  Let's not do it.  The way things are going lately "appearances" may be fun house mirrors.

    Love (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 06:53:59 AM EST
    The Repubs are going to love Hastings.

    Jane Harman (none / 0) (#7)
    by ding7777 on Sun Nov 12, 2006 at 08:20:28 PM EST
    Was Jane Harman fooled by the Bush Admin for 5 years? If so, do you really want her as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee?

    Burning (none / 0) (#9)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 07:07:56 AM EST
    First it is Hastings now this morning we see Pelosi wanting Murtha:

    But the reluctant Murtha wouldn't touch the $50,000. Here on secret videotape was this all-American hero, tall and dignified in a disheveled way, explaining why he wasn't quite ready to accept the cash.

    "All at once," he said, "some dumb [expletive deleted] would go start talking eight years from now about this whole thing and say [expletive deleted], this happened. Then in order to get immunity so he doesn't go to jail, he starts talking and fingering people. So the [S.O.B.] falls apart."...

    I have seen anything start to burn as fast since the Hindenberg.

    One thing from you Jim (none / 0) (#10)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 07:37:22 AM EST
    Will you stop the charade you are not a Republican? You come here and spew the same GOP lies everyday.

    It's like reading Little Green Footballs with you.


    You are not a liberal. (none / 0) (#12)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 09:20:54 AM EST
    BTD - And will you stop the game that you are a Liberal?? You are a rock solid Left Winger who cares about nothing but trying to help the Demos get power because you think the Left can control them.

    As for my position, I have been commenting that I am a social liberal who is strong on defense for over three years. Check the archives. I am an ex-Demo who watched the party leave me. Think Scoop Jackson. I am a registered Independent and my quarrel with the Demos is that they cannot support the war effort and they have become the party of defeat, just as they were during Vietnam.

    Here is just one example of one of my comments about truly liberal ideas and needed changes:

    justpaul - BION, when someone without insurance goes to the ER, someone is going to pay for it. Now if they can't pay, the usual way is to fold that cost back into the operating cost and charge the paying customers. Just like anyother business. As to how to pay for National Health Care, it is obvious that it will be a tax. My favorite is a 5% national tax on everything except none processed food. You probably won't see it, but your employer will, a huge insurance savings. i.e. They aren't paying anymore. Maybe you can get some of that, maybe you won't. But if you decide to leave and start your own business, health cost issues won't stop you. To those who will cry look at Canada, fine. We don't have to repeat their mistakes. To those who say that the government will mess up the system I say you just haven't taken a close up and personal look at what we have now.

    I am a Democrat (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 10:38:29 AM EST
    My name say so.

    Liberal? Left Winger? What do those labels mean to you?

    Free trade? You need new talking points.


    Social Liberals --- you gotta love 'em. (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 11:04:14 AM EST
    The link button not working for you today , Jim?

    Here. I fixed it for you.

    Check the archives.

    Your head is in the sand. (none / 0) (#13)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 09:23:45 AM EST
    BTD - If you don't think Hasting's and Murtha's legal and ethical problems won't be a problem in 2008 you have your head in the sand.

    Any leadership position they have will just compound the problems.


    Murtha has no troubles (none / 0) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 10:22:11 AM EST
    It is a lie to say he does.

    BTD (none / 0) (#11)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 08:31:29 AM EST

    You guys are now running the show.  While repubs had all the majorities you guys took pot shot after pot shot at anything and everything.   Now PPJ points out the obvious mistake it would be for democrats to appoint Hastings and Murtha to big positions and you can only make a personal attack?

    Come on now.  Tell me why Hastings and Murtha are good choices.   If you can't just admit he's right.  Don't just name call.

    For 2 years Democrats went on and on about a culture of coruption and now if they nominate Hastings it is basically admitting that they were only spewing partisan garbage for political gain.   The culture of Washington hasn't changed, just the management.

    Isn't that one of your favorite sayings?   "Open under new management?"

    A GOP Lie (none / 0) (#14)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 10:00:46 AM EST
    is what Jim posted.

    That is called trolling.

    If he continues it, I will ask Jeralyn to delete his comments.

    Lying slander is not acceptable.


    PPJ may be a curmudgeon... (3.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 11:10:33 AM EST
    ...but he is our curmudgeon.


    You can argue facts all day long, but you cannot argue someone's heartfelt opinion (The moon is 225,000 miles from earth; No, at this time of year it's 300,000 miles from earth; this can be argued all day long. When someone says, "The moon is beautiful tonight", that is inarguably their own unique opinion and only a fool would argue otherwise.) It is PPJ's OPINION that dems suck, rethugs are great; he's not gonna change his mind, but he occasionally makes some good points (as long as he's called on the rethug talking points he picks up elsewhere.)

    PPj often makes outrageous statements he cannot back up, but please, if he's wrong it is just as likely to be from being grievously misinformed as it is being a willful lie. He always demands proof from everyone else, but rarely provides it himself. And then it's usually through a link to some wingnut website. But he can really offer insight sometimes and spark healthy debate, which I would think would disqualify him from troll status.

    I don't know much about Hastings, but that word "acquittal" means volumes to me, including that he was found not guilty of whatever offense he was accused and then reelected time and again by the people who know him best: his constituents. And his constituents deserve representation; it is Hastings' job to provide it. It would be wrong to discriminate against an ACQUITTED man.

    I don't know much more about Harmon, except that she appears to have been asleep at the switch the last six years and rolling over for the rethugs. I cannot and will not believe that she IS the be-all, know-all, end-all and the ONLY person that should run this committee.

    We have many talented people in the House and it will hardly be the end of the world if Harmon doesn't get the job.


    Conviction and Acquittal (none / 0) (#21)
    by NYBlue on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 01:27:50 PM EST
    You focus on a court acquittal but fail to ponder the implications of having been CONVICTED by the Senate.  The acquittal may satisfy you but a Senate conviction speaks volumes to me.  He was found unfit by the House and Senate to be a judge overseeing common cases but somehow people think he is fit to handle our nation's most sensitive secrets.  What nonsense!  Speaker Pelosi should pick someone who does not have the cloud of bribery hanging over him as the head of intelligence.  That would be the most intelligent thing to do and it will keep the Democratic party from looking ethically compromised.

    Impeached and Convicted (none / 0) (#19)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon Nov 13, 2006 at 01:51:25 PM EST

    IIRC, Hastings was impeached by a Democrat controlled House and convicted by a Democrat controlled Senate.  That the Speaker would willing give the guy a position of high responsibility is an unforced error.  Why make yourself look bad when there are 200+ other members without that bagage?

    Exactly Right (none / 0) (#20)
    by NYBlue on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 01:21:21 PM EST
    As an attorney who has been involved in criminal prosecution and defense, I can tell you that being acquitted in criminal court doesn't mean one did not commit the crime, it simply means the prosecutor in that case did not convince the jury of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Being impeached and removed from being a judge is another matter altogether -- many people in office do improper things but it takes some very serious malfeasance to get booted off the federal bench.  Why would the Democratic controlled House and Senate have removed Hastings (I believe he was only the 8th judge to be impeached and convicted in the history of the country!) if he was a saint?  

    Okay, being a saint is not a qualification for Congress.  However, a criminal court acquittal does not override fact he was found to be unfit to be a judge by virtue of a Senate CONVICTION (for taking bribes!).  That conviction should, at a minimum, raise eyebrows and keep him off the intelligence committee altogether.  Do we really want someone who the House and Senate were convinced took bribes (to reduce sentences of criminals) to be privy to our country's most sensitive secrets?  This is not a party issue.  This is a common sense issue.  Speaker-elect Pelosi and the rest of the party should show some common sense and boot Hastings out of the intelligence committee altogether.  If they don't do it, the American public should demand it.  

    Having Rep. Hastings on the committee or heading it has nothing to do with representing his Florida District -- he can do that while sitting on the postal committee, an interior committee or a HUD oversight committee -- it has to do with keeping a man who has shown he can be bought for a price from selling out our country.  I still have trouble believing the party even lets this man wear the Democratic Party label or that the Congress seated him.  He is a blight on the party and our government.  

    Put someone like Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) in charge (not saying it has to be Norm, as he has other important responsibilities on appropriations and homeland security, but he would be an incredibly good choice, with 30 years in Congress, a level head and he did have years on the intelligence committee in the past!).  Rep. Dicks was awarded the CIA Director's Medal, among other honors, upon completion of his service on the Intelligence Committee in late 1998 (where he had been ranking Democrat).  He is on the intelligence subcommittee under the homeland security committee.  He and many others in the party have good intelligence-related experience and would be better choices than Rep. Hastings.