Here’s a flashback to an earlier episode in the life of Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.), House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi’s pick for House majority leader. We flip back to the year 1980, and the Abscam scandal, when Saudi sheiks offered big bucks to congressmen for clearing their immigration status and otherwise doing things their way–and Murtha got caught on tape:

“‘I’m not interested — at this point,’ [Murtha] says of the dangled bribe. ‘You know, we do business for a while, maybe I’ll be interested, maybe I won’t, you know.’ Indeed, he acknowledges, even though he needs to be careful — ‘I expect to be in the [expletive] leadership of the House,’ he notes — ‘the money’s awfully tempting. It’s hard for me to say, just the hell with it.'”

Now, Murtha was never indicted for anything–because it’s not a crime to say that you’d like to commit a crime at some unspecified date in the future if all goes well with your accomplices. But he still expects to be in the [expletive] leadership of the House. And so does Nancy Pelosi. And remember Pelosi’s pledge just a week ago: “The Democrats intend to lead the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history,”

Surprisingly, the above report appears in a column by the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, not exactly known for her liberal sentiments. Marcus writes:

“Sorry, but I’m not buying Murtha’s argument that he’s the victim of a ‘Swift-boating attack’ over ‘unfounded allegations’ that occurred 26 years ago. On its own, Murtha’s Abscam conduct is disqualifying.

“Even if it weren’t, though, everything in Murtha’s post-Abscam life is of a piece with the back-scratching, dealmaking style on display in the video. In a story last month, the New York Times described how Murtha has operated ‘a political trading post’ in a back corner — the Murtha corner, it’s called — of the House floor, where Democrats and Republicans alike come to get Murtha’s blessing for earmarks or his help on close votes. As Pennsylvania Democrat Paul Kanjorski told the Times, ‘nobody ever leaves completely disappointed.'”

This is the second time in less than a week that Marcus has called Pelosi on her dubious choices for key positions in the House. Read this column in which Marcus raises some serious ethical questions about Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), who became the only federal judge in U.S. history to be impeached and removed from the bench by Congress for agreeing to take a bribe. Pelosi wants him to head the House Intelligence Committee.

Marcus notes:

“If she gets her way and helps Murtha win a come-from-behind victory against Maryland’s Steny Hoyer in tomorrow’s leadership election, she’s buying herself — and the Democratic caucus — endless news stories about Murtha’s ethics. If, as he says, Hoyer has the votes, Pelosi has made herself look weak within the caucus — not a smart move for any new leader, and certainly not for the first woman in the job.”

Hmm, I’m liking more and more the spectacle of Nancy Pelosi as the first woman to be two heartbeats away from the presidency. As I said two days ago, it’s going to do some strange things for the candidacy of her who would be the first woman president, period.