Saturday, December 16, 2006

Speaker Centipede?

Nancy Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker of the House has been fraught with peril, with potential mutinies, missteps, and feet in mouth. This is an impressive record for someone who won’t even start work for three weeks yet.

Pelosi hit the ground running by trying to anoint John Murtha as Majority Leader. Steny Hoyer was in line for the job, but he and Pelosi had a falling out, and she apparently has some Irish in her family. (Define Irish Alzheimer’s Disease: All you remember are the grudges.) Murtha is a loyal Pelosi ally, and well-qualified as point man in the fight against Shrub’s Iraq policies. He also carries ethics scars from the Abscam scandal, making him an odd choice to lead a party allegedly dedicated to refuting the ethical malfeasance of the deposed Republican regime.

It was also a battle that didn’t need to be fought. Even if Pelosi had been able to shove Murtha down her peers’ throats, the resulting hard feelings could only hamper the Democrats’ hopes to make a quick start following up on their campaign promises. God knows they need it.

This did not bode well for a supposed master politician, but no one’s perfect. Pelosi’s recent actions with the House Intelligence Committee are downright scary.

Jane Harmon was the committee’s ranking minority member, thus in line for the chair. What being head Democrat of anything qualifies one for is debatable, considering their track record as the opposition party, but you don’t get to live with the politics you want, you have to live with the politics you have. (Where have we heard something like that before?)

Not in Nancy-land. Pelosi didn’t think Harmon had been hard enough on Shrub as ranking member, and decided to pass her over. This caused more hard feelings, but could be justified by the above paragraph. Pelosi’s new problem was that Alcee Hastings was next in line.

Hastings has been a newsworthy name far longer than his tenure in Congress, having been impeached and removed from his seat as a federal judge. He then won the Adam Clayton Powell Award by convincing his constituents that being removed as a judge for taking bribes was not a disqualification from further public service in Congress.

Given the furor over Murtha’s abortive nomination and ethics record, Pelosi didn’t dare submit Hastings’ name. This set off the Congressional Black Caucus, incensed because she passed over a brother. Granted, Hastings is as qualified as Duke Cunningham for the job, but Pelosi had pissed off another core constituency.

This brings us to her current choice, Silvestre Reyes, a member of the Intelligence Committee for several years. When asked by a reporter if al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite, Reyes replied, “Predominantly, probably Shiite.” Oops. Wrong. Reyes was then asked about Hezbollah. “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah?...Why do you ask me these questions

at 5 o'clock?'' Apparently punctuality is among Rep. Reyes’ virtues. Miller Time cannot be kept waiting.

Lest this come off like a hatchet job, here’s Reyes’ comment in his own defense: “It’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.” Just what you want to hear from one of the key people overseeing a war that has already killed 3,000 Americans.

Maybe these are the kinds of glitches that naturally occur when a party has been out of power for twelve years and isn’t used to as much media attention. Pelosi has already shot herself in her left and right feet. Does she have enough feet to get her through two years?

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