Skip to comments.Speaker Pelosi's Impending Intelligence Failure
Posted on 11/09/2006 9:04:49 AM PST by outofstyle
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is in line to make history as the first female Speaker and second in line of succession for the presidency when the new Congress convenes in January. As with any election, a wide variety of issues factored into the dynamics of this year's midterms. For us, however, the just-concluded campaign, like every federal election, was fundamentally about national security. The federal government's principal task is providing for the defense of the nation, without which justice, welfare, and all the other blessings of liberty enjoyed inside the various states are, at best, aspirations.
With majority status in the "people's house" comes a share in responsibility for the security of the Republic. This is why we are so concerned about a shadow which darkens presumptive Speaker Pelosi's triumphant morning, a shadow which will only grow longer if she allows it to begin appearing prominently in the media coverage of the global war on terrorism, metastasizing into her first "intelligence failure" even before she takes the gavel from outgoing Speaker Hastert. That is the shadow of Alcee Lamar Hastings, the reelected Democratic Representative from Florida's 23rd District.
Mr. Hastings was, in the outgoing 109th Congress, the second-ranked Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. But the Washington Post's Charles Babington first reported more than a year ago, in a story that has never been denied (indeed, it has been confirmed in the congressman's hometown newspaper, the Miami Herald) that Ms. Pelosi plans to replace the committee's current ranking Democrat, California Representative Jane Harman, with Mr. Hastings who would be installed as committee chairman when the 110th Congress begins. The move would be a payback to the Congressional Black Caucus, to whose support Pelosi owes her election as Minority Leader and whose members she angered by picking Ms. Harman to be ranking member over Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop in 2003. The incoming Speaker must also mollify the Black Caucus for having pushed Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (he of the frozen cash) off the Ways and Means Committee.
We have difficulty accepting that Mr. Hastings has been allowed by Ms. Pelosi to venture anywhere near national security matters, much less onto a field as vital as the Intelligence Committee, which exercises oversight of organizations ranging from Central Intelligence Agency to the U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Department, including the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency. That Mr. Hastings is employed by the United States of America, and is not a guest a federal penitentiary, is itself cause for wonder.
Mr. Hastings's own website says this about his pre-Congressional background: "Known to many as 'Judge,' Congressman Hastings has distinguished himself as an attorney, civil rights activist, judge, and now Member of Congress. Appointed by President Carter in 1979, he became the first African-American Federal Judge in the state of Florida, and served in that position for ten years."
What this autobiography omits are the reasons Hastings' judicial tenure, normally a life appointment, was cut short after only a decade. Barely two years into office, "Judge" Hastings accepted a $150,000 bribe in exchange for giving a lenient sentence to two swindlers, then lied in subsequent sworn testimony about the incident. The case involved two brothers, Frank and Thomas Romano, who had been convicted in 1980 on 21 counts of racketeering. Together with attorney William Borders Jr., Hastings, who presided over the Romanos' case, hatched a plot to solicit a bribe from the brothers. In exchange for a $150,000 cash payment to him, Hastings would return some $845,000 of their $1.2 million in seized assets after they served their three-year jail terms.
Taped conversations between Hastings and Borders confirmed that the judge was a party to the plot. Hastings was also criminally prosecuted for bribery, but his accomplice Borders went to prison rather than testify against him. Hastings was acquitted thanks to Borders' silence. [Borders was then pardoned by President Clinton, confirming the wisdom of his refusal to testify. In a remarkable display of chutzpah, Borders then applied for reinstatement to the District of Columbia Bar, claiming that Clinton's federal pardon eliminated his local disbarment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did not agree, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. To former D.C. delegate Walter Fauntroy, Borders' case had a spiritual quality to it. "Being pardoned by the president is like being pardoned by Jesus," Fauntroy sermonized. Thankfully, the Supremes evidently disagreed with this "theology."]
"Be assured that I'm going to be a judge for life," Mr. Hastings told reporters in 1983 after his acquittal. But the arguments that swayed a Miami jury did not sway the Congress. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives impeached Hastings for bribery and perjury by a lopsided vote of 413 to 3. Then the Democrat-controlled Senate convicted him on eight articles of impeachment by well over the required two-thirds majority in 1989. Thus Mr. Hastings became only the sixth judge in the history of our Republic (and only the third in the 20th Century) to be removed by Congress. He was, and is, an utter disgrace to the nation and to the legal profession. Among those voting to impeach him were Ms. Pelosi herself, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip who is likely to become the new House majority leader, and Mr. Hastings' fellow African-American Congressman, Michigan's John Conyers, who took pains to deny that race had anything to do with the removal of the bribe-taking jurist.
Article I, section 3, clause 7, of the Constitution reads as follows:
"Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States...."
Alas, in its vote convicting and removing Hastings, the Senate neglected to include language barring him from seeking future office. Hastings was promptly elected to Congress in 1992 as the representative of a new, specially-designed majority-black district.
Since shamelessly taking his seat in the very House that overwhelmingly impeached him, Congressman Hastings has not appeared chastened by his scandal-plagued past. Reports circulate that the "Judge" is the subject of speculation about a conflict of interest. At issue this time is the fact that Hastings added to his Congressional payroll one Patricia Williams, described as a "close personal friend" and former attorney. Williams represented the then-judge at his bribery trial and impeachment hearings, but was herself disbarred in June 1992 for misuse of clients' funds. Mr. Hastings is said to owe Mr. Williams substantial lawyer's fees for her services in the eightiesover $500,000 according to some estimatesand some see his decision to make her a staff assistant as a form of debt-settling at the public's expense. Ms. Williams' annual salary as "staff assistant" is reported to be an impressive $129,000. Here are two other publicly reported annual salaries from Mr. Hastings' office which are quite telling: Vanessa Griddine, staff assistant (scheduler), $71,000; Fred Turner, chief of staff: $67,200.
Ms. Griddine must be one heck of a scheduler, as she earns nearly four thousand dollars a year more than Mr. Turner, the Congressman's chief of staff. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reports that Ms. Griddine, not Mr. Turner, recently accompanied Hastings on a trip to Portugal and Spainearlier she had traveled with him to Brussels, at a cost to taxpayers of over $14,000. Doubtless her presence is constantly required to help arrange last-minute scheduling.
Meanwhile, the Miami Herald reported this past June that Hastings is one of a dozen chronic absentees in the current Congresswhich raises questions about Ms. Griddine's scheduling acumen. The American Policy Center (APC), a conservative group, has called attention to the fact that, in recent years, Hastings has been under investigation for other ethics violations by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct. The APC reports that Hastings has also been investigated by the Florida Elections Commission and the Federal Election Commission for various charges of impropriety. Political Money Line, a watchdog group that tracks money in national politics, points out that Hastings ranks second among all American lawmakers in the number of taxpayer-funded trips he has taken since 1994, at a price tag of over $152,000 (not counting expenses incurred by his accompanying "assistants"). Many of those trips were taken on behalf of the OSCE to "monitor elections." The irony of one of Congress's most corrupt members being tasked to monitor electoral fraud should presumably shock even Hastings' original nominator, election supervisor par excellence Jimmy Carter.
Back to the present. The disgraced judge-cum-legislator's record on national securitythe most basic criterion for leading the intelligence committee at any time, much less in the midst of a war on terrorhas not been reassuring. In the 109th Congress alone, Mr. Hastings voted consistently against key counterterrorism tools, including the Electronic Surveillance Modernization Act, the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Resolution, and the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act. He has been an opponent of the trial by military commissions of unlawful terrorist combatants as well as border control, NSA communications intercepts, and terrorist financing tracking measures.
Mr. Hastings' dubious record contrasts greatly with that of the centrist Ms. Harman. While highly critical at times of the Bush administration's conduct of intelligence and counterterrorism operations, Ms. Harman has displayed a keen understanding of intelligence issues, and has introduced quite sensible legislation on national security concerns, including government-wide security clearances and enhanced seaport security.
With the serious international security challenges faced by Americans, the last thing we need is more bitter partisanship. Nancy Pelosi is set to make history as our first female Speaker. But what history will record of her speakership, should she choose to vault Mr. Hastings over Ms. Harman, is that her legacy had precious little to do with providing for the common defense of the Republic, and too much to do with shameless pandering.
The pigs are jostling for position at the trough.
Who says she ever had any to lose?
Pelose 2nd in line for the presidency. I stopped reading there and wont continue until the author learns his civics.
Is not a Republican; half of America and the MSM don't care that he's a louse!
Isn't this correct?
President, Vice-President, Speaker of House, Secretary of State.
I took it as 2nd in line meaning Bush then her.
Maybe she will get a free frontal lobotomy with her NEXT face lift.....
Interesting the MSM doesn't cover this aspect of the Democratic House take-over. Can you imagine in 1994 if after taking the House the GOP appointed an impeached judge to head the Intelligence Committee?? The media and the Democrats would have screamed, as well they should have! But the Dems. do that and silence all around. Of course the media is still too busy mopping up their drool and other bodily fluids spilled over their delight with the Democratic victory they're solely responsible for.
But what this writer fails to mention is that Hastings is a guy we now can be bribed and who has a pre-disposition to corruption. We are going to put the nation's intelligence in the hands of a creep like this, a guy who could easily be subjected to blackmail?? This guy shouldn't be on the intelligence committee at all, much less its chairman.
The press is quick to echo this now, against Pelosi was in play in the 2006 election but instead we were having to discuss the meaning of macaca.
President, VP, Speaker, President pro Tempore of the Senate then State, followed by the other cabinet members.
Just think, at some point until earlier this year, Norm Mineta was in line for the Presidency. * shudder *
A crook, yet he's still in office, this is one of the things that bothers me about democrats. They don't get rid of their crooks, republicans not only get rid of their crooks, they tend to punish the entire party if there's one crooked guy in the bunch. I can understand dumping the crooks, but I can't understand why republicans go vote against other republicans because of something someone else in the party did.
More of this New Direction BS,putting an impeached judge in charge.
All of you guys are sitting there and assuming that southern Democrats will just support her without question. I don't see that being the case. She may find that the picture has changed, and southerner Democrats would prefer a more easy-going invidivual to work issues than Nancy. She hasn't won alot of support in the past twelve months.
I would like to ask a question here:
Don't the members of Congress VOTE who THEY want as their leader???? What makes her so sure she is the one that will lead the rats??? Cause she is Mrs. Hotshot Rat???? or is Hillary Mrs. Hotshot Rat and nancy is Mrs. Little Hotshot rat?????
And if the Big Hotshot Rat thought she could get to President faster, then why didn't she run in the House????
Maybe cause Big Hotshot Rat isn't the smartest woman in the world????
Republicans who are not testicularly challenged have a wonderful opportunity here. If Alcee Hastings is named Head of the House Intelligence Committee, the GOP should refuse to attend in protest over his corruption and impeachment by a DEMOCRATIC congress. Let the media demogogues cry "racism" because it will get the message out about who Alcee Hastings is.