Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pelosi nixes Alcee, Bush leaks on Maliki, Webb disses W, Frist pulls plug

A quartet:

No doubt the Republicans were disappointed to learn last night that ‘07 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t be tapping the scandal-marred congressman Alcee Hastings to head the Intelligence Committee. No doubt the GOP message machine was revving its engines for the joyful task of tagging Pelosi as a sleazebag and national security wimp.

And if Pelosi had indeed bypassed hawkish congresswoman Jane Harman and instead chosen a guy who had once been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate for sleazy doings as a federal judge (including seven counts of making false statements), the GOP would have had a lot of potent ammo to work with.

Clearly, Pelosi became convinced the political downside of naming Hastings trumped the upside of naming the designated favorite of the Congressional Black Caucus. After losing her first big battle – she wanted John Murtha as her chief deputy, but the House Democratic rank and file said no – she could ill afford another political embarrassment, particularly since she hasn’t even picked up the gavel yet.

But even though Pelosi foes were denied the gift of Hastings yesterday, some are still trying to salvage some useful spin. On one popular conservative website early this morning, for instance, a blogger basically says that, OK, Pelosi did right by denying the post to Hastings…but she didn’t act fast enough: “it should have been an easy call from the outset to say that Hastings would not be allowed to chair the Intelligence Committee.

And yet, we were actually kept in suspense regarding the issue. Astonishing…In a better world, the Hastings candidacy would have been dead in the water from the moment that it was announced as a possibility.”

Pelosi can live with that kind of fallout. On the umbrage meter, that’s 2 on a scale of 10.

Probably more noteworthy is Hastings’ reaction to this whole affair. Here’s a guy who, as a federal judge in 1988, was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on a vote of 413-3, because he took a $150,000 bribe; who was convicted by the Senate on eight articles, and thus tossed off the federal bench; whose removal was supported by the likes of Ted Kennedy., John Kerry, and Harry Reid; and who, as a result, would not pass the simplest background check that is required of low-level CIA job applicants…and yet his reaction in recent days has been to paint himself as a victim of an unfair political conspiracy.

Last week, he circulated a letter blaming his woes on “Newt Gingrich, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Michael Barone, Drudge, anonymous bloggers, and other assorted misinformed fools,” as well as “faceless and nameless people at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, the L.A. Times, the Dallas Morning News.” He somehow omitted all the Democrats who ran the impeachment process, most notably fellow black congressman John Conyers. His parting shot yesterday: “Sorry haters, God has not finished with me yet.”

Bottom line: Curt Weldon, meet Alcee Hastings. When pols find themselves in a fix, their gut instinct is to blame others. Human nature transcends political affiliation.


Remember how the Bush administration always takes great umbrage whenever somebody leaks a classified document to the New York Times, to the point where both the leakers and leakees are threatened with prosecution and tagged as enemies of the state?

Well, this morning I glanced at the front page, found yet another story based on the leak of a classified document – and then I saw this: “An administration official made a copy of the document available to a New York Times reporter seeking information of the administration’s (Iraq) policy review. The Times read and transcribed the memo.”

So there it is: If somebody outside the inner circle leaks a document, it’s treasonous. When somebody inside the inner circle leaks a document, it’s statecraft.

In this particular case, the White House clearly seems intent on blaming the Iraqi prime minister for the mess in Iraq, in advance of President Bush’s meeting today with the prime minister; as the document puts it, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki “is either ignorant of what’s going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or…his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.”

Ignorant of what’s going on, misrepresenting his intentions…One is tempted to invoke the old saw about the pot calling the kettle black, but let’s move on:

The main problem with this administration-sanctioned leak is that it exposes a core contradiction in the current White House stance toward Iraq. On the one hand, Bush yesterday referred to Iraq as “a sovereign country,” yet the leaked memo makes it clear that the White House at this point views Iraq as barely a country at all, and that propping it up might require thousands more U.S. troops in Baghdad, as well as greater U.S. involvement in the Iraqi political process, starting with “monetary support to moderate groups.”

And while the Bush team is leaking a memo warning that it’s Maliki who better shape up, the Republican establishment back home continues to broadcast warnings that it’s Bush who better shape up. The latest salvo comes from Senator John Warner, chair of the Armed Services Committee (underscoring his earlier warnings). Yesterday, he said: “We’re going to try and devise some new strategies, hopefully with the president’s concurrence…Our soldiers, sailors and airmen should not be in there, risking their lives, losing their lives to stop a civil war.”

Hopefully with the president’s concurrence....Translation: Either Bush goes along with us, or he should just get out of the way. And take note of Warner’s closing words; his endorsement of the term civil war is another shot across the bow.


Dialogue of the day, a harbinger of the ill feeling that will permeate Washington as the next election season draws closer:

At a recent White House reception, incoming Virginia Democratic senator Jim Webb, the feisty soul and potential loose cannon whose son is a Marine serving in Iraq, had a close encounter with the president.

BUSH: “How’s your boy?”
WEBB: “I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President.”
BUSH: “That’s not what I asked you. How’s your boy?”
WEBB: “That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President.”


Bill Frist, the lame duck Senate Republican leader, won’t be running for president in 2008. His statement today: “In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.”

It’s easy to understand why Frist made this decision. Considering the results of the 2006 elections, one can conclude that a Beltway insider from the discredited GOP Senate leadership would be toast in Iowa and New Hampshire. The conservative faithful would have slapped him silly, for failing to sufficiently advance their agenda; and, even if he had successfully run that gauntlet, independent swing voters would have spurned him for, among other things, his role in the Terri Schiavo affair, in which he politicized his medical bona fides by insisting, on the basis of a video, that the comatose woman was not in a vegetative state.

All told, he appears to be facing reality. There are many Democrats who undoubtedly wish he would now reach across the aisle and convince John Kerry to do the same.