The Pelosi-Harman Fault Line

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Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman have been on a collision course for some time. They are both very tough-minded, opinionated, media savvy Democrats on the rise, and they have been knocking into each other for some time while still feigning mutual admiration.
None of us — or them — come with a perfect package of policy views and perspectives. I admire Nancy Pelosi a great deal, but her views on China concern me, and her tendency to promote loyalists and friends at the expense of “experts” is very GW Bushian and disconcerting.
That said, I’m impressed by Pelosi — even with her decision to support Jack Murtha which I believe was pre-cooked with Hoyer’s understanding. Those who think it was an incredible misstep turned out to be more accurate than I because I failed to see how the media would turn this decision into a measure of Pelosi’s power to manipulate her caucus. I also failed to see that Pelosi could be duped by the media in trying to make the Murtha campaign a real, rather than a politically contrived, one.


On the Harman side, I feel that Jane Harman could pull a “Nixon Goes to China” move by becoming one of our nation’s first major Democratic leaders to market a new narrative about the need to establish a “new equilibrium of interests” in the Middle East, one that involves regional deal-making with all parties and that could if we were extremely lucky generate a new virtuous cycle of cascading events that get us out of the zero sum games in the region.
That means Jane Harman must articulate the possibility that a new regional order in the Middle East that advances peace with Syria, leads to the creation of a Palestinian state, and embraces many elements of the Saudi-backed Israel-Middle East peace plan “could” be harbingers of a more secure Israel as well.
Jane Harman could play a major role in reframing our engagement in the Middle East by throwing into the garbage the belief that any progress on Palestine or other grievances in that region require net sum losses for Israel.
Harman’s support of the President’s warrantless wiretap program was wrong-headed, and I have heard her recant those views. Perhaps too little too late — but she’s extremely smart and ‘gets’ intelligence. I don’t agree with some of Harman’s views, but I think her overall judgment on national security issues and what needs to happen in Iraq are pretty good.
My one real problem with her is a blindspot when it comes to the important necessity to develop a new narrative regarding Israel, its neighbors, and the terms of American engagement in the Middle East. She can fix this. She should do it now.
Harman on the “smarts” scale so outweighs Alcee Hastings on the Intel Committee that Pelosi runs the risk of being seen letting personal rivalries undermine competence and expertise in the Democrats’ already shaky national security portfolio.
Harman understands satellites, sensors, WMD issues, and the ways of modern warfare as well as possesses considerable facility with international affairs. She has amazing technical competence. She comes off as abrupt and self-indulgent on occasion, but I have frequently been impressed by her grasp of detail and her articulation of tough choices.
Jane Harman is in line to Chair the House Intelligence Committee and was given back her seniority by former House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt after a failed run in the California governor race. Whether this was a correct move or not by Gephardt, it was done — and Pelosi would be making a mistake, in my view, to undo the Gephardt commitment.
There is another issue lurking out there — and that is whether Harman and others marshalled a campaign via AIPAC to lobby Pelosi to stay in her job. I have no knowledge whether this occurred or whether it violated the law if it did.
I did first hear of Pelosi’s plans in mid-September 2005 and wrote about them here.
The Department of Justice reportedly has opened an investigation into this — and while its not known whether the investigation is “active” or “inactive,” it seems certain from calls I have made that if the “alleged” investigation is indeed in place, active or not, “it has not been closed,” at least according to one observer following this matter closely.
It is also remarkable that when queried about the lobbying/AIPAC claims, Congresswoman Harman immediately hired former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson. That’s a big gun, the kind that you hire to intimidate all-comers.
So, while I personally believe — given what I know today — that Jane Harman would make a much better House Intelligence Committee Chair than the impeached former judge and current Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, there are issues that Harman should expeditiously resolve.
But the measure of whoever takes the helm of the Intelligence Committee — and there may be options other than Harman and Hastings — must be “competence” in the intelligence arena. Otherwise, the Bush administration will run circles around the House members entrusted with serious oversight responsibilities.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

33 comments on “The Pelosi-Harman Fault Line

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  2. Ts Seduction says:

    I don’t think it was really her fault.

    Reply

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  5. CheckingIn says:

    FREEDOM: Thanks for your links and especially for Jonathan Cooke Sept ’06! audio interview link… v. interesting, especially towards the end when he basically laid out what Israel wants to happen in Lebanon for them to have a way to attack Iran… THEN, Poof! what happens last week — the wanted chaos begins! Another anti-Syrian Lebanese politician gets shot!
    Syria is a convenient Fall Guy for Gemayel’s death — by Jonathan Cook
    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=COO20061123&articleId=3957

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  6. ... says:

    Brooklyn, it really is about being pro-war and getting ready to make war in iran.. pelosi just doesn’t cut the mustard on that level so she needs to be replaced.. how very sad that the democraatic party isn’t a voice for the majority opposed to endless war with usa at the helm…

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  7. Brooklyn says:

    Steve,
    File this under “you heard here first”..
    Pelosi WILL NOT be Speaker come January of 2008…that’s right 2008.
    She will continue to demonstrate her inability to lead, build coliations and over-reaching beyond what most moderate Americans expect/want.
    The powers in the Democratic Party will not allow her to screw up the ’08 election. Rahm Emmanuel and Steny Hoyer will put the knife in her back. The only question is what will be her “reason” for stepping down?
    Don’t belive me…take a look at the picture of the Democratic House leadership announcing Steny’s vicotry last week on the front page of the NY Times. Now imagine a knife in Rahm’s hands. That’s all you need to know.

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  8. Carroll says:

    Listen..all this stuff with Murtha and Harman and Hastings, plus what you saw in the GOP this election, should tell you one thing:
    Both parties are “breaking down within” themselves into two, possibilty three seperate camps. In the dems it is now a power struggle between the “ideologues”, mostly pro Israeli war hawks and “the others who don’t know what they are yet”. And since the “others” don’t know “what” they are yet I imagine they will lose this power struggle because they don’t have the fanaticism of the ideologues.
    By 2008 the only question in the next election is will there be a third party or splinter group or a revolution?

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  9. Rich says:

    JohnStuart,
    Harman seems to be capable & formidable–good story.
    Yet I have to ask, how is it you “cannot comprehend how Nancy Pelosi could choose Hastings over Harmon”?
    Your story illustrates adn pinpoints the problem. Harman could recognize the travesty that was the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (there was very likely no attack on U.S. ships). Yet somehow, she SEEMED to have little or nothing to say about the lack of evidence re WMDs and the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War for an unprovoked invasion of Iraq.
    I PREFER to believe she feels it absolutely necessary to monitor the excess, violative shenanigans conducted by Bush and Porter Goss.
    YET there’s NO way I’m comfortable with both Lieberman and Harman chairing key committees at this point in time. W/o jumping to conclusions (it’s very important not to resort to wild assertions)–it should be noted that both are to some degree associated with RumsfeldorBush/ neocon policy/ AIPAC. I make no claims about the extent or meaning of any relationship.
    But though very capable, I don’t believe Harman was terribly vocal about the obligation of both Legis & Exec to adhere to Constitutional mandates–at a time when the country MOST needed that leadership. That’s very disturbing–and it’s not consistent with the Tonkin opinions you relate. Now, she may be in a position to help address the incalculable damage wrought by Goss-Bush. Or she may not even be willing.
    But it will be Pelosi who is in a position to make the determination about Harman’s use, will, and intentions. And Pelosi’s the one that’ll have to operate with Harman in a position to act as EITHER Gatekeeper or Roadblock. If Pelosi can’t count on Harman’s cooperation, she can’t risk giving away the spot for nothing. Hastings is a colorful guy, but there were problems with his attackers as well. He’s certainly resilient and brilliant.

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  10. bAkho says:

    The media is used to Republican yes men who don’t countermand their marching orders. Democrats believe in open debate and are willing to have an open political process. In the small minded media, this is a weakness. In reality, willingness to open the process to debate is a strength. DC insiders care about the political infighting. The outside the beltway public cares about the policy.
    If Pelosi can pass minimum wage, institute Paygo, get Iraq hearings going, submit a budget on time, fix Medicare D and start on health care reform, the public will be happy. The public will go “Steny Murtha who?” DC insiders just don’t get it.

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  11. JohnStuart says:

    Before commenting I must declare an interest in this issue. I first met Jane Harmon (then Jane Lakes) at Smith College on a Sunday afternoon after a skiing weekend at Mad River Glen. I was won over at once.
    My skiing pal had invited me to join some of her housemates (Smith is a very cozy place) for hot chocolate when we were joined by the President of the Smith Democrats (a distinct minority on campus)–Jane.
    Jane was hugely more politically engaged than most of her classmates and shifted the conversation-over-cocoa from the relative challenge of the moguls at Mad River Glen vs Killington to the duplicity of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.
    Although leading the campus dems, Jane was having none of LBJ’s posturing. I was impressed.
    With that disclaimer, I cannot comprehend how Nancy Pelosi could choose Hastings over Harmon. Jane is well respected both within the official intelligence community and amongst national security professionals for her command of this complex brief.
    Given her long tenure on the committee, not everyone will agree with every position she has taken over the years, but she knows the business inside and out. Jane Harmon is smart, tough, a quick study, and altogether suited to lead the committee. I won’t bother to characterize the reprehensible Mr Hastings. His sorry record speaks for itself.
    On the merits there is no basis to pass over Jane Harmon for this job.
    JohnStuart

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  12. Freedom says:

    Harman as Chair the House Intelligence Committee and Lieberman, from what I gathered, at Homeland Security … then America is in real trouble! Even George Soros would not be able to save it.
    I’m lazy but mostly I’m not a very good writer and risk muddling my arguments. So please consult the following links if you are interested.
    The fundamental problem with Israel (and Harman understands this as she indicated in her comment at TPM Cafe – link provided by another comment upthread) is demographics but not from outside as Harman says but from INSIDE, a fact very much understood by British journalist Jonathan Cook: http://www.dailykos.com/comments/2006/11/21/193144/86/140#c140
    Israel is worried. So is AIPAC. Harman is AIPAC and AIPAC is burnt (Soros knows it) unless it manages to have “strongmen” like Harman and Lieberman among the “deciders/movers” within the State apparatus: http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=11977&CategoryId=5
    An interesting article that details the dynamics of what has been going on. Although not everything is AIPAC, there is overlap between it and what the writer calls “The Machine”: http://www.firedoglake.com/2006/11/04/political-physics-2006-a-tale-of-three-parties/#more-5327
    It’s not either/or: The Israel Lobby
    http://www.counterpunch.org/finkelstein05012006.html

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  13. Dirk says:

    Pelosi’s stand against China has merely been to question and hold up their certification as observing human rights every year before they finally got full WTO status. To say that she could do the same now is disingenuous on your part Steve.
    Harman from her legal troubles and the article in TPM sounds like a horrible choice. Her seniority is obviously fabricated. Hastings is shaky, I will agree, but if she promised the CBC due to the corrupt Jefferson, then Pelosi has an obligation.
    I propose a compromise: my congresswoman Anna Eshoo. She is of Assyrian descent and voted against the punitive anti-Palestinian law both houses of congress recently passed.

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  14. Rich says:

    I like the idea of Jane Harman pulling a “Nixon goes to China” move, but my question is, which direction is she coming from? That isn’t clear.
    Is her access to inside info on the Intel committee an asset to be exploited by Dems and by Harman herself? OR is she too close aligned with those actions, to neocon policy, to AIPAC?
    I had thought she hewed too closely to Bush’s/Goss’s game . . but maybe now’s when we can define where she stands.
    Steve, you said Harman owes her SENIORITY to Gephart, yet in your 2005 post, the ranking minority member’s term-limits were extended along with Porter Goss’s. GOP’s need to keep Goss in that pivotal position included keeping Harman as ranking minority leader. Not just for continuity, but b/c Harman knows how to play ball–inside ball.
    Wasn’t Gephardt doing the same thing the GOP was, altering a rule/status to maintain continuity and decide who would be Gatekeeper/Roadblock for years to come?
    And if so, why should Pelosi be bound by that decision, which is hers to make, as it enroaches on her tenure/time/leadership?
    My question: what does Pelosi want to happen on Intelligence, and does that align with Harman’s presence & positions. Pelosi needs a trusted ally there. Has Harman undermined fellow Dems in sidling up closely to Goss?
    Interesting dynamics–Murtha, Hoyer, Harman, and Hastings all, crudely put, under the influence of money and aligned with jockeying interest blocks (Defense, Establishment, AIPAC, CBC).
    Who does Pelosi most need–and in which positions?
    “Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.) has been the House intelligence panel’s ranking Democrat for three years. She would like to hold the post several more years, and a January 2003 House rules change would seem to work in her favor. At the time, the GOP-controlled House exempted the intelligence committee’s leadership from term limits in a bid to keep then-Chairman Porter J. Goss (R-Fla.), now the CIA director. The rule change applied to the ranking minority member as well.

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  15. Carroll says:

    Oh yes!
    I saw Steve and Muravchik on c-span but only caught the tail end of Steve and listened to Muravchik. Then saw Muravchik on a c-span interview…to say that his interview failed in it’s intended goal is putting it midly.
    Actually I laughed myself to death during his interview. His trying to portray the “neo’s” as some harmless group of intellectuals was hysterical.
    The callers to the interview were also unimpressed and “neo’ has so obviously become a death sentence among the public that one caller told him he wanted to drive a stake thru their “dark” hearts.
    I think Muravchik called three callers anti-semites and one an idiot…but it didn’t deter the following callers from trashing him all over again.
    He must be living on another planet…total idiot.

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  16. Carroll says:

    I don’t approve of Hastings or Harman. An impeached judge and an Israeli firster under FBI investigation…is this the best the dems can do?
    And just once I want Steve to explain what he means by Harman’s “competence”…or anyone who can explain it will do.

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  17. Zathras says:

    How does a media-savvy Congresswoman allow herself to be duped by the media into making what was supposed to be a fake leadership race into exactly what it looked like, a real race that just wasn’t close?
    Darn that media anyway.

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  18. albertchampion says:

    harman should file as a foreign agent.
    the soiree she hostessed for rabbi chertoff, the zionist zombie, confirms that her agenda is the agenda of the genocidal israelis.
    it continues to astound me that we continue to allow israel to manipulate the USA.
    let harman prove her wares. the first thing that she should introduce is legislation that would prevent the holders of dual passports from any job at the federal, state, municipal level. or in the congress of the usa.
    doing this, chertoff would have to resign. along with a flock of fellows. rahm?

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  19. Paul says:

    Harman was briefed on the warrantless wiretapping and played along with the administration. She only changed her tune after she was challenged by Marcy Winograd in her home district in the primary. Harman is too close to the administration and is not a good choice to continue–however, neither is Hastings. Pelosi needs to look outside this choice.

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  20. Marky says:

    I agree with the commenter who implied Pelosi may have more in mind than meets the eye.
    How about this: Pelosi will not accept Harman as chair, and does not want to offend the CBC by not nominating Hastings. On the other hand, she knows that Hastings is unacceptable and there will be such a large outcry that she will be “forced” to withdraw him from consideration. At this point, she may introduce the Rep. who is her first choice.
    Well?

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  21. .... says:

    it is disappointing to see how big a role the media plays in making or breaking a person politically.. it is especially disappointing to get the impression someone who follows politics closely falls for it.
    is this another tug of war between who is more pro-israel then the other (pelosi/harman)? why does so much have to come down to this if indeed that is what distinguishs them?

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  22. sdemetri says:

    I don’t like the position she seems to take toward Iran. The IAEA is monitoring and reporting. Sy Hersh said in an interview today on Demcracy Now that the IAEA has access to Natanz. The folks he’s been talking to don’t seem to believe a nuclear threat is imminent in spite of all the Iraq-style sabre rattling.
    The Israeli position seems to be ‘we wouldn’t mind if you attacked, or, we might attack.’ She seems to be leaning toward that camp. At least in the above post. Have her views moderated, given Iraq 11 months later and a democratic congress. I wouldn’t expect so, though perhaps.

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  23. daCascadian says:

    You are really missing it on Pelosi Steve. She is much smarter than you are allowing for.
    Watch
    “He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils, for time is the greatest innovator.” – Francis Bacon

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  24. sdemetri says:

    A post by Harman at TPM in Jan 2006 very favorable toward Sharon, and Europe’s leanings toward him.
    http://www.tpmcafe.com/story/2006/1/11/112613/044
    Den Valdron had some interesting comments.

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  25. Marky says:

    Reyes apparently teamed up with Curt Weldon in some of his Able Danger conspiracy-mongering.
    I’m sorry, I don’t recall where I read that, but Reyes showed poor judgment which should disqualify him from the position.

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  26. Clem says:

    Neither Hastings or Harman deserve the chairmanship; one because he is corruptible the other because she’s under investigation for being in the pocket of an agent of a foreign government, Israel, the reason Steve wants her to prove that she ain’t with a new Israel neutral perspective.
    So somebody else has got to be selected and I just ain’t gots no idea who ’cause I is jus a regular folk.
    So who else sitting on the Intel Committee is qualified to do the job so dat Bush can’t flummox dem?
    Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas
    Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, Iowa
    Rep. Robert E. (Bud) Cramer, Jr., Alabama
    Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California
    Rep. Rush D. Holt, New Jersey
    Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Maryland
    Rep. John Tierney, Massachusetts
    Wees in a fix unless we can get somebody else who ain’t on the committee already that can hold his/her own against the Evil ones, as I like to call’em there over at Pennsylvania 6500 who’s raison d’etre (how’s dat fer some fancy talkin’!) is to avoid dancin’ with their feets off the ground (otherwise known as “punishment” in more genteel circles).

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  27. Marky says:

    TPM found some devastating quotes by Conyers about Hastings, referring to the bribery investigation. Sounds like Hastings should be out of the running. I too would like to know what Pelosi’s troubling views on China are.
    If she’s not a lock-step globalization/pseudo-free trade fanatic, good for her.
    What are Harman’s views on global warming? This is an importan foreign policy consideration, no?

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  28. fatbear says:

    Steve – I caught some of the Hudson session on C-SPAN last night, and you were impressive as always. However, I was floored by Muravchik – has he been hiding in a cave the last 4 years? Or did I mishear him?
    I remember him saying that while the military solution in Iraq was not all one could want that the political developments have been all to the good, even excellent – that we should stand up and cheer the establishment of the Iraqi government (including, I guess, the death squads in the Interior Ministry and the complete incompetence of just about every other ministry), despite the fact that the country is spiraling into total chaos (if it isn’t there aleady) and the obvious failings of the rushed, jury-rigged and jerry-built constitution.
    I know I paraphrase, but how does someone like that get on a panel without having a reality check on his knowledge? (Note that I say knowledge, not views.)

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  29. dalivision says:

    While I think like you regarding Murtha/Hoyer and the media played a big part, if the collision happens with Harman, then we will be certain about Pelosi.
    She really needs to demonstrate her leadership.

    Reply

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