Until the post-2000 redistricting, Jane Harman was my congresswoman, and I was always pleased to vote for her. My part of the South Bay used to be one of the few real, bona-fide “swing” districts for both congressional and state legislative races, thus the political debate was sharper and the candidates, on both sides, more solid. The ideal candidate for this district was a pro-environment, pro-strong defense, pro-choice, fiscally responsible Democrat and that’s what Jane Harman is.
However, she now serves a district where anybody with a -D. after their name would win — where she faced a primary challenge from the left — and I’m now in a “safe” Republican district, represented by my fellow former Palos Verdes High School graduate Dana Rohrabacher, who was once a self-described “anarcho-capitalist,” and still pretty much votes like one. When I was working with the Port of LA, I heard him propose that the answer to increased post-9/11 port security was for the ports to charge shippers more, with each port free to make its own decision on whether to do this and by how much. He seemed completely unaware that the west coast ports all compete for business; that there was already a long-standing “race to the bottom” on port enviromental mitigations, and the last thing we needed was a similar competition on security.
But I digress.
To reset, Jane Harman is a good congressional representative. She is smart, prepared, and has an independent mind. She has been the ranking Democratic member on the House Intelligence Committee, and in that role has gained national prominence. She has been a good face for the Democratic party when the war against the jihad is being discussed, and would be even better in the role of chair heading into the 2008 presidential campaign.
I didn’t know until today, however, that if the Democrats win a majority in the House of Representatives in next month’s election, Harman will not become the chair. From the NY Times:
Ms. Harman, a moderate from Southern California, has been one of the party’s most outspoken voices on national security matters since the Sept. 11 attacks. But she has also drawn sharp criticism from more liberal Democrats, including Ms. (Nancy) Pelosi, who have privately said that she has not sufficiently used her position to attack the Bush administration for its prewar intelligence failures on Iraq and for its use of secret programs like the domestic eavesdropping carried out without warrants by the National Security Agency.
Losing Harman’s leadership is unfortunate. But get this:
Two candidates whom Ms. Pelosi is said to be considering for Intelligence Committee chairman are Representatives Alcee L. Hastings of Florida and Silvestre Reyes of Texas, both of whom currently serve on the panel.
The selection of Mr. Hastings, who is black, would help Ms. Pelosi shore up support from the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. But he has a checkered past, having been impeached and removed from a federal judgeship in 1989 on a bribery charge. Some Democrats fear that installing him in so sensitive a position would only invite Republican charges of weak Democratic leadership on national security matters.
Umm…ya think? What kind of House Speaker would pull an experienced intelligence expert like Harman for a former judge found to have taken a $150,000 bribe in exchange for a lenient sentence? This is a position with access to highly classified information! I’m not sure but I believe that among intelligence experts, the term for people who take bribes is “security risk.”
The Times story reports that Harman has been lobbying for the job, and the lobbying has gotten her into trouble — both alienating Pelosi and reportedly (in Time) prompting an investigation into whether Harman “had made improper promises” to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) in exchange for its support of her candidacy. According to Harman’s attorney, former Bush solicitor general Theodore Olsen, Harman is not under investigation, “and the idea that she should be investigated for being a supporter of Aipac is frightening.”
The idea that a Speaker Pelosi would toss Harman aside is frightening. The idea that the Democratic Party, with a real chance to win a majority in an election two weeks from now, would publicize Pelosi’s preference for someone so compromised as Hastings to head up the Intelligence Committee is ridiculous. Karl Rove does not deserve such a gift.
*Update: Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball have a story up today that fails to resolve whether or not Harman is being investigated for her Aipac ties, but gives a lot more detail on the overlapping agendas of Harman, Pelosi, current Republican chair Peter Hoekstra and the issue of whether the committee was vigilant enough in watching the bribe-fueled lobbying activities of disgraced Rep. Duke Cunningham.
If Harman isn’t being investigated by the FBI, someone is sure making a big effort to make it appear like she is.