CBCer Hastings: 'blood all over the floor'

I suspect Daddy D'Alesandro would have had a few choice words to say about similar commentary from one of his lieutenants!

Just when you thought impeached and convicted judge Alcee Hastings might have assumed the mantle of statesman, he unburdens himself to CQ in a piece last Friday.

Hastings, you'll recall, had supposedly been pretty much promised the chairmanship of the HIC, in place of Pelosi hate figure (and ranking member) Jane Harman - until sense prevailed.

(Or until Silvestre Reyes was chosen, which may not turn out to be the same thing.)

The lede:

It was former President Bill Clinton who personally persuaded him to drop his bid for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee last fall, Alcee L. Hastings, D-Fla., says -- not incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi or anyone else.

Breaking a six-month silence on an episode that gave the victorious Democrats fits and Republicans an easy mark, Hastings said there would have been "blood all over the floor" had he pursued the prestigious seat.

Why now?

Why, having sat on this juicy piece of intelligence, should he impart it in the last few days?

(And - be it said - to the highly specialist CQ rather than a rag with higher impact.)

His idea of intra-party harmony is a strange one:

"Had I had chosen that path, I could have demogogued on a whole set of persons," said Hastings, the eight-term African-American who reached for the gavel of the Intelligence Committee after the Democrats took control of the House in the November elections.

As the piece goes on to point out,
Pelosi had let it be known that fellow Californian Jane Harman, the panel's ranking Democrat, would not get the job.

Now, Harman is not a spherical fave; but - has she threatened in any Congressional context that there would be blood all over the floor - the blood of her own fellow Dems, that is?

Hastings sprays his bile generously:

Hastings, 70, blamed "Democrats in high places," who harped on the putative embarrassment his impeachment would cause, right at the moment party leaders wanted to focus on their legislative challenges to President Bush.

Hastings said his enemies were "not necessarily Congress people, but people inside the Beltway," later narrowing it to Democratic "party functionaries."

He has a crack at Harman.

But, on Pelosi, he says

Hastings says bidding for the Intelligence perch wasn't his idea: Pelosi had pledged to the Congressional Black Caucus a year earlier that "Alcee Hastings will be chairman of the Intelligence Committee," he recalls.

Is that true? And, if it is, had no one from the CBC previously said a word in favor of their colleague with a colorful past being given a leg up to that particular post?

And - this, I think, the journo's paraphrase of Hastings, rather than his own analysis:

The Black Caucus dug in for a nasty fight, and the issue turned into a referendum on rookie Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership skills.

Then WJC came on the line, apparently, and suggested he yield his place.

And then Hastings, he says, bearded the Lioness, and withdrew his nom. As it were.

He takes evidently pleasure in pointing out that she made him

the chair of the Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations -- which he found pretty ironic.

"It's kind of funny," he chuckled. "It's probably singularly the one way you can get into the [deepest intelligence] secrets, much more than if you were just on the committee."

That little detail, I have to confess, passed me by.

Given Hastings' portrait of a rather Cowardly Lioness, you won't be surprised to learn (again, Hastings' version) that, when it came to his not getting the HIC chair,

Pelosi wanted Hastings to announce it.

He balked.

"I said to her, `No, Nancy, you're the power, and you have to come out of this strong. So you say that you chose someone else.' "

Pelosi didn't like the idea. There was an impasse.

"Then she brought in an aide," Hastings said, "and we pretty much agreed on the language."

There would be no press conference.

Pelosi issued a statement announcing Hastings' withdrawal.

There's a tailpiece about the legal costs for Hastings' impeachment which had been shown as a liability (of around $2m) on his disclosure statements.

Apparently, that's a crock: the lawyers did the work pro bono, so there was never a liability to disclose. Saith Hastings now.

According to one of his lawyers,

“It was Alcee’s ‘moral decision,’ ” he said, to estimate the cost of his legal defense “and file it as a financial liability.”

Moral decision? Something not quite kosher here, perhaps?

The main questions arising from the Hastings/HIC business were, for me, not the immediate questions of security risk or competence, but those of Pelosi's judgement and the influence of the CBC on her decisions.

It would be unfair to take Hastings' effusions as greatly probative evidence on either of these latter points, given that his lack of credibility is a good part of the case against her!

But - they hardly make Pelosi come out of the Hastings affair any better.

Update [2007-5-1 5:27:22 by skeptic06]:

Go back to the Pelosi wanted Hastings to announce it quote.

I'd entertain conjecture that there is a heavy racial subtext to it:

Bear in mind that Hastings grew up in the Jim Crow South, home of downright gyneolatry (to use WJ Cash's expression).

Not to mention the whole Lost Cause thing, and (goosed by old Tom Dixon and Griffith's Birth of a Nation) the idea that the South could expiate its failure to defend itself from the Yankee by protecting its women all the more fiercely from the (mythical, need I add?!) depredations of the Nigger.

Now, we're nearly a hundred years on from the Birth - and forty years on from Loving, as it happens.

There's an obvious danger of overthinking here, in these very different times.

But both Hastings and Pelosi grew up (in the South and Border respectively) in an era when the iconology of the Negro sexual threat to white women was still part of the mindset.

And Hastings' story certainly was no mere anecdote.

Tags: Alcee Hastings, Bill Clinton, CBC, Congressional Black Caucus, House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, Pelosi and Hastings (all tags)


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