Corrupt Alcee Hastings in Charge of Intelligence Secrets?
Jonathan Weisman reported in yesterday’s WaPo that Nancy Pelosi has promised to rely almost strictly on seniority in appointing committee chairs if the Democrats take the House majority in next month’s elections. The result would be to elevate several controversial Members to key seats, including several members of the Congressional Black Caucus who are demanding this move.
Not surprisingly, this is becoming something of a campaign issue.
In Topeka, Kan., last week, Vice President Cheney singled out three of the most liberal Democrats in the House as foils — Reps. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the would-be Judiciary Committee chairman; Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), who is in line to take over the Government Reform Committee; and Barney Frank (Mass.), the senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee.
While controversial, only Frank’s is a household name outside his district. And the Financial Services Committee isn’t exactly the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children. It’ll be hard to scare many people with the prospect of Frank being in charge of anything after Mark Foley.
Charlie Rangel as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee would be scary, too, if Bill Thomas and the Republicans had actually been responsible in spending the taxpayers’ money.
There might be some traction in this, though:
Several moderate-to-conservative Democrats in the House, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of fraying party unity, specifically mentioned two members: Conyers, who has already laid out what he says are grounds to impeach President Bush, and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.), a senior Democrat on the intelligence committee, who was impeached and removed from his federal judgeship in 1989 for conspiring to take a $150,000 bribe and give light sentences to two convicted swindlers.
Hastings has already become something of a campaign issue. At a recent event featuring Democratic challenger Heath Shuler, an aide to his opponent, Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R-N.C.), called out that a Democratic majority would let Hastings into the inner sanctums of the intelligence world.
While there is no doubt a strong plurality who would take great satisfaction in impeaching President Bush, the majority would not. Still, Pelosi could likely rein Conyers in on that.
The Hastings issue is another thing altogether and I’m surprised the Republicans haven’t tried to make more hay out of it. For reasons laid out at length in the article, Pelosi is under enormous pressure from the CBC to elevate Hasting. Yet the idea of putting this sleazebag in a position where he would be privy to the most sensitive national security secrets is untenable. If nothing else, it would virtually ensure that the Bush administration, already ridiculously paranoid about sharing information that Congress rightfully ought have to conduct its oversight duties, would be even more reticent.