Take Your Time, Speaker Pelosi
by Matt Stoller, Fri Nov 24, 2006 at 02:21:30 PM EST
I'm getting quite irritated at the immediate reaction among white male liberal DC kewl kidz (and Maureen Dowd) to discern catty motives on the part of Nancy Pelosi. Digby's noted it before, but it's not stopping. Look at the first two paragraphs in an email that Josh Marshall reprints on Pelosi and the Intelligence Committee from a reader called 'RY'.
Don't assume that there's a strategic logic, however inept, behind the delay in the selection of the Committee Chair. If she knew what to do, she would do it. The problem is: a) She hates Harman; 2)Hastings is blatantly inappropriate (and thus will not be selected, no matter how much the CBC squawks); 3) alternative selections to Harman seem strained.
Therefore, she will likely select Harman anyway--appeasing at least two factions, the Blue Dogs, and the MSM, who will praise her for being centrist and pragmatic, rather than vindictive and "ideological." But she just can't stand the thought of it--thus the delay.
Left out of the whole nasty and myopic rant is any possibility that Nancy Pelosi might want someone who can chair the Intelligence Committee who can do a good job running the Intelligence Committee. Is it so unbelievable that Pelosi might think that Jane Harman is unfit to serve as a check on this President's misuse of intelligence? Harman did after all vaguely support prosecution of the New York Times for revealing the existence of the eavesdropping program. And that Pelosi is 'waiting' so long couldn't have anything to do with the fact that she has to organize the entire House of Representatives, could it? Pelosi has given every indication that she wants the House to function; she's calling the House into session and keeping it in session throughout January so members can get to work.
This smearfest smacks of a combination of stupid good government types and rumor mongering right-wing jerks, all swimming in a sea of shallow idiocy where governing is irrelevant and everything is about 'optics', which is what the kewl kidz call gossip so it doesn't sound so petty and superficial. I'm with Glenn.
I'd like to see proof that Pelosi's opposition to Harman is purely or even principally personal. I keep hearing this from them, but what is it based on? Personally, I think Harman -- who was one of the most aggressive defenders of the President's warrantless eavesdropping program ("both legal and necessary," she repeatedly chimed) and is currently under investigation for her work on behalf of AIPAC -- would make a horrendous Chair (although Alcee Hastings is one of the few House members who might be less desirable). She has been far too sympathetic to the administration's excesses and far too eager to serve as a Democratic shield publicly defending the President.
How do these all-knowing analysts know that Pelosi's opposition to Harman isn't based on these obvious and compelling substantive grounds, as opposed to the bitchy personal "cat fights" they allegedly have had? They don't know, but they keep repeating it anyway, because it seems to fit comfortably with a picture they are very eager to paint.
Glenn is right. This Beltway dreck is snide nastiness dressed as commentary. TPM's email concludes with this paragraph.
Btw, if Pelosi does decide to screw Harman, Holt would be a smart political choice, too, not just on the merits, because this high profile position sets him up nicely to replace octengenarian Frank Lautenberg for the Party's Senate nomination in 2008 (many New Jersey politicos think that Corzine should have picked Holt this time around, rather than the scandal tainted Menendez).
How embarrassing. While chastising Pelosi for being catty because she has so far prevented Harman from chairing the committee, the reader engages in precisely the emotionally vapid and bitchy characterizations he so laments in Pelosi. If Harman doesn't get the chairmanship it's because she was 'screwed', not because she is unfit to serve, because Intelligence Committee memberships rotate and Harman's time is up, or because Harman lost a political battle.
For good measure, this email throws mud at Bob Menendez for being 'scandal tainted', even though there is actually, well, no scandal, and Menendez was just soundly elected by voters who know exactly what they are getting. Honestly, this is just a suburban white liberal version of bigotry. I don't mean the rejection of Hastings, because substantively he's a cipher on Intelligence matters and that's reason enough to find someone more suitable to hold this critical post. I mean the way he's being insulted by the punditocracy. It's not an unusual situation to have a black man wrongfully accused of a crime in this country, and to so callously throw Hastings aside as tainted, even though he was acquitted of the charges and chosen repeatedly by voters to hold public office, looks insensitive at first, but when you combine this with the needless dig at Menendez, it looks a lot to me like a whole lot of brown people are considered tainted with no evidence whatsoever. The people of New Jersey elected Menendez and the people of Florida elected Hastings, so attacking them represents precisely that insulting antidemocratic impulse so common in Washington DC courtier culture. According to this culture, reigning over all must be Speaker Pelosi, who is bitchy and can't possibly want to govern because governing is for silly people, right?
Nonsense aside, the single most important thing Pelosi can do is find a a good Intelligence Chair and make sure he or she has the political capital to fix the mess this country is in. Doing so could require time to find a compromise candidate, or to work with the CBC or Blue Dogs to assuage egos or horse-trade other committee assignments. That's what leaders do. It doesn't always happen fast, and it doesn't always happen at the behest of temper tantrum prone Beltway gossip kidz. The new Congress doesn't start for a month, and the Committees will be operating for two years under very heavy political and media pressure. Pelosi should take her time making sure she picks the right person to do the job, and she should ignore these nasty and myopic people.
Oh, and by the way RY, a lot of people in New Jersey think Corzine should have picked their friend to be Senator and not Bob Menendez. But he didn't pick their friend. He picked Bob Menendez. And Menendez stomped Tom Kean Jr into the ground. Gossip-as-evidence against women and minorities seems to be a stock in trade these days, doesn't it?
Update: It actually looks a bit worse for the Pelosi-bashers.
Both Harman and Hoyer belong to the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, which gained at least nine members in the last election and was seen as successfully flexing its muscles during the majority leader tussle. But only 18 members, about half of the coalitions current total, signed a November 15 letter to Pelosi urging her to make Harman the chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
Shes trying to stay on, and I know shes called a lot of people to generate news articles and a lot of pressure on Ms. Pelosi, said Waxman, who represents a district adjacent to Harmans on the heavily Jewish west side of Los Angeles. He added, The Democratic rules have been that the head of that panel is rotated off after a certain period of time [and] the idea behind it was that we didnt want members serving on the intelligence committee permanently; we wanted to give other members a chance to serve on it.
So not only is Harman not actually supported by the Blue Dog caucus (which requires more than half of members to support something before it becomes a caucus position), Henry Waxman is openly accusing her of orchestrating a campaign of public pressure on Pelosi. That's ridiculous.