Pelosi comes to her senses

Alcee Hastings will not chair House Intelligence. Whew!

1. Whew!

2. Note to Alcee Hastings: you don’t have to be a “hater” to oppose appointing as chair of the intelligence committee someone who either

(1) took a bribe as a federal judge; or

(2) pretended to take a bribe as a federal judge to help a lawyer-friend defraud a client.

3. Note to the “netroots”: The reason Jane Harman’s hawkish past makes her a good choice now is that she can help convince other people with hawkish tendencies (known as “swing voters”) that Democrats aren’t indifferent to their concerns. In particular, when she shreds Bush & Co. for incompetence, many of the people we need to vote for our candidates next time will be more likely to be persuaded that the current White House is run by a bunch of incompetent boobs than would be the case if the same job were done by someone known to have a “Visualize World Peace” bumper-sticker on his car.

To state the case more generally: those of us who prefer winning to losing also prefer converts to enemies. Harman, representing a swing district (which she took from a Republican incumbent) voted against torture and arbitrary detention. That ought to be enough to show that she’s on the side of the angels.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

16 thoughts on “Pelosi comes to her senses”

  1. I never thought Hastings seemed like a good pick, but I also thought Yglesias was convincing here, arguing that
    "people should take the fact that Harman was sitting on that committee and didn't reach Holt's conclusion [that Saddam did not pose an immediate WMD threat] more seriously. What was she doing? What intelligence was she looking at? I was looking in part at the fact that all these Democratic leaders — people like Harman — were for the war, and assumed they wouldn't be doing so without good reason. But, obviously, they were. So why were they? Why was she?"

  2. Harman was a vocal defender of Bush's illegal warrantless domestic wiretapping program. Is that really the kind of person we want chairing the Intelligence Committee? I think not.

  3. Of course, Nixon went to China. But Humphrey nad Mcgovern could have done that and ended the Vietnam debacle sooner, too.

  4. Note to Hastings: God may not be done with you, true, but don't presume you know what He has in store. Your statement reeks with sanctimony & sour grapes.
    Jane Harman is not going to be the Chair of the Intel Committee, nor should she be. She went along with the WMD game of three card monte in the run up to the war & she has not stood up to Bush on the warrantless wiretapping issue. How about someone who knows the intelligence landscape and voted against the war: Rush Holt. The fact that he is a fully paid up member of the reality based community also should make him an effective Chair.

  5. About Jane Harman. I must disagree. You're making this be all about politics; but there's also personal accountability for massive incompetence.
    Maybe Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld actually believed their own rap about Saddam's weapons programs and ties to al-Quaeda. But they outright lied when they claimed to have solid proof.
    And those lies got a lot more credence across America because respected people with very-different political/ideological affiliations endorsed them. People with broad access to the intelligence and specific responsibility for assessing it, notably Colin Powell and Tony Blair and George Tenet… and, down the list, Jane Harman.
    Why would the senior Democrat on the Intelligence Committee do such a thing, instead of blowing the whistle to her fellow Congressmen and the public? Either because she didn't do her homework or because she found the lies to be politically/ ideologically convenient.
    Well, that says she can't, or won't, do the most-important job of an Intelligence Committee chair, now doesn't it?
    This isn't just about Harman. Powell, Blair, Tenet, etc. have earned our permanent contempt too [as have, needless to say, the original liars].

  6. Mark, I disagree on harman and it looks like the other posters do, too. Frankly, the hawkishness of a dem never gets the democratic party very far with the hypothetical swing voters–who in any event have swung, on the war/defence issue, much much farther to the center left than even the dems now in power. We don't need to keep pretending that the only "serious" people in power are those who are willing to sacrifice our civil liberties, national honor, intellectual rigor, and blood and treasure in an endless war with Iraq. We need to start showing the country that democrats stand for something–like democratic virtues, like no warantless wiretapping. Harman gave bush cover when he needed it, and she needs to be put off into a corner and the position given someone who is willing to be smart, strong, and publicly, partisanly, democratic.
    aimai

  7. 1) According to House Rules, Harman is term-limited. Even were she not term limited, under the rules, she does not, by virtue of seniority, have any special claim to the chair. Harman and her supporters are asking Pelosi to change the rules for Harman's benefit.
    2) Harman is not simply "hawkish." She provided political cover for Republicans by slavishly supporting the Bush administration's misuse of intelligence in the run up to war. A hawk on a committee which does not bear the charge of intelligence oversight is one thing. A willing political tool for the mendacious bags of excrement who promoted George's excellent Arabian adventure, on the intelligence committee is quite another thing indeed – quite a bad thing.
    3) Harman describes herself as "the best Republican in the Democratic Party." (see 3/23/98 LA Times story quoted in MyDD post. Why any Democrat should support someone who self-identifies as a Republican for a leadership position in the Democratic Congress remains a mystery to me.
    4) Greenwald has tthe better analysis today.

  8. Sorry Mark, I agree with everyone else (who all seem to disagree with you) — for the same reasons they give — the only reason Harman started to act like a Dem was because she faced a surprisingly strong primary challenge (IMHO).

  9. Mark,
    You're typically a very sharp analyst but I think you're off the mark here. In what way would having Harman, as chair, criticizing the Bushies (even assuming arguendo that she'd do so) have any effect on swing voters? Who the heck has ever heard of Jane Harman outside of her district? Unless she's a long-time Marine Corps vet who also looks like a grizzled Marine Corps vet, I can't see how criticism coming from her would be viewed as anything other than "typical Dem whining and partisanship."

  10. In the corporate world, 3M long had a policy of rewarding people who succeeded but not punishing people who failed, as compared to (say) Emerson Electric which strongly rewards those who succeed and severely punishes those who fail. Different theories, both of which have worked at different times and places.
    Now, can you name for me a single organization which has prospered by rewarding those who FAIL and punishing those who SUCCEED? Because that is what rewarding the "liberal war hawks" amounts to.
    Cranky

  11. Well, I suppose saying Pelosi has come to her senses — as if she were a deranged supporter of Hastings and had a conversion experience, when the reality is that no decision had been made yet — is a step up from talking about how she's threatened by other strong women. I'd still prefer that Mark stop the Pelosi bashing, at least until she actually takes office. This negative honeymoon is getting tiresome.

  12. Chad: "Of course, Nixon went to China."
    Brad DeLong had an excellent saying, 'only Nixon could go to China, because only Nixon could go to China without being called a communist by Nixon'.

  13. I agree with all the commenters above who claim that Harman isn't right for the job.
    Last I saw Glenn Greenwald was in the process of re-checking his claim that Harman is "term-limited." Something about the Republicans changing that rule in 2003.

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