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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cernig says:

    James,

    I agree entirely that those who have shown a previous prediliction for corruption have no business in public office.

    But as for the Republicans building any kind of argument on that basis? It’s impossible to build upward when your foundation is a swamp!

    Regards, C

  2. McGehee says:

    Unfortunately for the Democrats, that argument cuts against them too.

    Which I gather is James’ point.

  3. jpe says:

    To claim that Bush would be more reticent, one has to believe that Bush’s hyper-secrecy is based on a pragmatic concern over leaks, rather than an ideological committment to a super-strong executive.

  4. Anderson says:

    I suspect that, if the Dems do retake the House, Pelosi’s opinion on Hastings will change within moments of her election as Speaker.

    The CBC will be able to cry all it wants, but they’d end up forfeiting their power by making Hastings their line in the sand.

  5. Kent G. Budge says:

    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.

    So how did this sleazebag get elected in the first place? I mean, the Democrats must have known this guy was a sleazebag before they voted for him, right? And why didn’t the House refuse to seat him?

  6. Bandit says:

    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.

    Untenable to whom? The only good thing about having the Dems take control of congress is that it will take them about a half an hour to expose themselves as the power hungry criminals, traitors and lunatics that they are.

  7. Tano says:

    Nice try Bandit,

    I actually think it will take them about 12 years to show that, if they are as bad as the GOP. But I dont think they are really that bad.

  8. jeff says:

    So how did this sleazebag get elected in the first place? I mean, the Democrats must have known this guy was a sleazebag before they voted for him, right?

    You’re being ironical, right? Surely you remember Marion Barry? How about Cynthia McKinney? Or the swimmer himself, Ted Kenedy – killer of young women, collaborator with enemy states?

  9. Californio says:

    Read “The Jacksonian Tradition” – it spells it all out. Inside politics BS is great! I hope it energizes the people

  10. Hastings Supporters says:

    We are strong supporters of Alcee Hastings who has fought tirelessly to support the cause for America’s working citizens. Is anyone knowledgeable enough to have read ALL the transcripts of the hearings on Hastings’ conduct?

  11. Cracker says:

    If the criminal Hastings takes the Chair, Bush and his Administration should formally refuse to provide info to Congress until he is removed.

    They would be justified in doing so, and for the country’s safety, I hope Bush has the stones to “draw a line in the sand”.