I learned — in great detail — about Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s intentions to unseat Representative Jane Harman as Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence on Saturday, the 17th of September but sat on the story, both because I wanted to dig a bit deeper and also because I was being crushed by some other deadlines.
All that said, the story is out, and the Washington Post‘s Charles Babington has the best run down at the moment. Here is a longish excerpt of yesterday’s story:
The widely praised Sept. 11 commission recommended that members of the House and Senate intelligence committees stay for several terms to build expertise. But the top Democrat on the House committee may be booted in early 2007, and the reason has more to do with internal party politics than intelligence matters.
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.
Nonetheless, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told colleagues she plans to replace Harman with Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) when the 110th Congress convenes in January 2007, assuming all three members are reelected next year. Hastings, the committee’s next-most-senior Democrat, is African American, and the Congressional Black Caucus strongly backs his claim on the post.
The CBC is an influential player in Pelosi’s 202-member Democratic caucus, and its members are sensitive on this issue. They remember that black lawmaker Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) lost his January 2003 bid to be the intelligence committee’s ranking Democrat when Pelosi gave the post to Harman. Bishop and his allies said he had greater seniority, noting that Harman had quit the House in 1998 to run unsuccessfully for governor. But Democratic leaders, in persuading Harman to reclaim her seat in 2000, had restored her committee seniority.
Bishop was placated with a coveted spot on the Appropriations Committee, but black Democrats do not want to be passed over again. Hastings said in an interview that Pelosi has signaled he will be the intelligence committee’s top Democrat after the 2006 elections. “If we follow the pecking order, I’ll be the ranking member or the chairman,” he said.
Harman would say only that the decision is up to Pelosi, who preceded her as the committee’s top Democrat and retains a strong interest in intelligence matters. Meanwhile, some of Harman’s supporters in the intelligence community have quietly urged Pelosi to keep the Californian in the job. House insiders say they are unlikely to prevail.
Nancy Pelosi is harming her party and the country with this petty gaming. First, the Dems ought to be pumping up the national security expertise they have on hand and keeping it on the front line through the next Presidential election — and thereafter. Jane Harman has had the guts to withdraw some calls she made on Iraq and a number of national security votes because she said she was duped by the administration. She is smart and tough — and a superb advocate for Americans who want to know more about the high-fear tactics that the White House, CIA, NSA, and Department of Defense have been engaged in these last several years.
Harman knows intelligence, strategy, technology, and is not giving the White House an inch to run with any longer on key national security questions.
Pelosi’s candidate to succeed Harman is Alcee Hastings — a former judge who was impeached and removed from office in 1989 for perjury and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
This makes no sense.
I had breakfast this morning with a prominent “former” member of the House of Representatives, a Democrat, who has long been a friend of Harman’s and thinks that this Pelosi ploy is wrong-headed and harmful to the party.
That said, he reported that Harman was not well liked by her colleagues.
Well, John Bolton was not well-liked by his. The problem with Bolton is that he was undermining Colin Powell and Richard Armitage and harming the national interest.
It’s clear to me that one of the few House of Representative Dems who has any competence in national security matters may be tough on her House colleagues who know less than she on defense and intelligence policy — but she’s helping to preserve and secure the country’s interests.
I don’t think that this can stand — and while I want the Dems to do much better in the next elections against a White House that has taken this nation to the brink of real disaster, I won’t embrace idiotic and petty decisions by the House Democratic Leader that harm this country.
Keep Harman in place — and give the apparently rehabilitating Alcee Hastings some other face-saving slot that doesn’t harm this country’s national security portfolio.
— Steve Clemons