I’m on pins and needles waiting for the vote to come down on Nancy Pelosi’s pick for House majority leader, Jack “Ethics Is Total C–p!” Murtha, aren’t you, dear readers?
Meanwhile, it’s time for another installment of my Nancy Pelosi Schadenfreude Watch. Here’s Robert Novak on the nice pickle that the woman who will be two heartbeats away from the presidency has already gotten herself into:
“This is a no-win situation for Pelosi. If Murtha wins today, she will be accused of personal vindictiveness in derailing Hoyer, who is more popular in the caucus and better qualified for leadership. If Murtha loses, as is much more probable, she will be seen as bumbling her first attempt to lead the new Democratic majority. Pelosi could have avoided this dilemma by standing aside as Newt Gingrich, then the presumptive speaker, did when he voted for his ally Robert Walker as majority whip but did not ask members to oppose Tom DeLay….
“[Pre-Pelosi House majority leader favorite Steny] Hoyer is the most accomplished Democratic legislator in the House, widely respected on both sides of the aisle. He, not Pelosi, would be preparing to be speaker had he not lost to her in a 2001 contest for minority whip, thanks to nearly complete support from her huge California delegation. That put Pelosi ahead of Hoyer on the leadership escalator. While Hoyer would win a secret poll of the Democratic caucus as more qualified, Democrats cannot turn aside the first female speaker.
“It was assumed that Hoyer would be given the No. 2 position of leading a Democratic majority — until Jack Murtha announced his candidacy. Never before during his 32 low-profile years in the House could anyone have imagined Murtha seeking any leadership role. He has been a backroom distributor of federal pork who disdained public exposure, and he was in the headlines only as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1980 Abscam scandal. Murtha became an unlikely hero of the left last year when he called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”
And here’s Captain Ed Morrissey:
“Pelosi apparently wants to prove herself as worse than mediocre before taking the gavel from Hastert. I called Murtha an unforced error on Tuesday, and the more Murtha speaks publicly, the more obvious this becomes. Murtha is almost incoherent when on camera; he makes a terrible public face for the party. Murtha’s power comes from his legendary ability to maneuver pork as rewards for allies and punishment for opponents, the exact kind of politics that Democrats claimed to oppose in the midterms last week.
“And then there’s Alcee Hastings, the man Pelosi wants to replace Harman as Intel chair. I started writing about Hastings in June, when his name first got floated as the potential chair for this committee, and I’ve mentioned him a few times since. Murtha might represent old-fashioned pork politics, but Hastings actually was corrupt enough to get impeached and removed from the federal bench — by a Democratic Congress. If Murtha was an unforced error, Hastings is an embarrassing example of Pelosi’s judgment. She needs the support of the Congressional Black Caucus to get elected Speaker, and they want Hastings to succeed Harman, if Harman doesn’t get the chair. Pelosi can’t afford to alienate them any further after she had the audacity to ask William Jefferson to resign from his committee assignments after the FBI found $90,000 in his freezer. (Jefferson won re-election, too.)
“Steny Hoyer and [pre-Pelosi favorite for House Intelligence Committee chairman] Jane Harman have proven themselves capable party spokespeople, and have a record for independent thinking. Pelosi opposes them both strictly for personal reasons. She doesn’t like Harman, feeling that her fellow Californian hasn’t been partisan enough in her role on the Intel committee, and Hoyer ran against her for Minority Leader in 2001. For those personal reasons, Pelosi wants to turn to a corrupt ex-judge and a bumbling porker for party leadership positions, making a mockery of her promises of reform.
“Democrats are in a bad position. They can’t afford to throw Pelosi under the bus after promoting her as the first woman Speaker in American history. They can’t afford to have Hastings and Murtha in leadership positions and then face the voters in 2008 who wanted reform and change. They can’t afford to undermine her authority and openly campaign for the reversal of Hastings’ appointment and the failure of her Murtha endorsement.”
Ooh, this is getting to be fun! See you at the next Armani sale, Nance!
“Hoyer, 67, had been heavily favored to win the race until Sunday, when Pelosi — in a move that shocked even her staff — openly threw her support to Murtha, despite a vow to stay neutral. She said in a letter that she was swayed by Murtha’s early call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, and that he would be best positioned to lead a new Democratic majority.
“On the eve of the vote, which is conducted by secret ballot, Hoyer maintained the public support of most incoming committee chairmen, influential liberals such as Reps. Barney Frank (Mass.) and Maxine Waters (Calif.), most conservative Blue Dogs, and 21 of the 40 or so freshmen. But Murtha had a sizable contingent from the Appropriations Committee and the Pennsylvania delegation, as well as Pelosi’s closest supporters. After her endorsement, Pelosi continued to push Murtha unabashedly….
“One conservative Democrat said that a Murtha-Pelosi ally approached him on the House floor and said pointedly: ‘I hope you like your committee assignment, because it’s the only one you’re going to get.’
“In a phone call initiated by Murtha that same day, the lawmaker told the longtime politician that he had already signed a letter of support for Hoyer. The congressman said he was stunned when Murtha told him, ‘Letters don’t mean anything.'”
Looks like entertaining days ahead for Nancy and friends.