There have been but 17 federal officials impeached by the House of Representatives since 1787 when the framers included the process in the U.S Constitution.
Of these were two presidents, one Cabinet member, one senator and one Supreme Court Justice. The remaining defendants were all federal judges, seven of whom were subsequently convicted by the Senate and removed from the bench. Statistically, in a field of thousands of past and present federal judges, this represents quite the rare and dubious distinction, indeed.
And yet, one of the mere seven federal judges in American history to be so dishonored may well be Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi's choice to chair the vital House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Intelligence Committee's oversight umbrella covers such agencies as the CIA and the FBI, as well as the Departments of Defense, Energy, Justice, State, and Homeland Security. Simply stated--there exists no Legislative assembly in the country whose decisions and recommendations have a greater impact upon our safety and survival as a nation.
Alcee you and raise you
Nonetheless, Pelosi has made known her intentions to force ranking Democratic committee member Jane Harman, D-Calif., to step down, clearing the way for Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Florida. Granted, Harman's strong positions on national defense, particularly in the arena of anti-terrorism, rub many Patriot Act despising liberals the wrong way. As recently explained by sixties-radical Tom Hayden in a Huffington Post Blog entry.
"It's no secret that Harman is the center of Democratic friction. She was one of a handful of Congressmembers invited into the secret White House briefings on what has mushroomed into a major scandal: the launch of domestic spying by intelligence agencies without warrants. The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Harman promised the White House to keep secret what she heard at the meetings."
Imagine that -- a member of an Intelligence committee pledging to keep top-secret matters of national security top secret.
Wouldn't it have been nice if Sens. Pat "Leaky" Leahy, D-Vt., and Richard C. Shelby, R-Ala., had remained so tight-lipped when members of the Senate Intelligence Committee? Or, more recently, those who leaked details of the NSA data-mining and Terrorist Finance Tracking Programs?
Okay, for the sake of argument, let's accept the unacceptability of the seasoned veteran Harman. Still, why would Pelosi anoint Hastings, particularly after announcing to the world on November 8th that Democrats "intend to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history"
On the surface, it would appear to be political suicide.
Alcee You in Court
In 1981, then-Judge Hastings and attorney William Borders Jr. were indicted for conspiring to solicit bribes from two convicted racketeers in exchange for probationary sentences and restoration of forfeited assets. Borders was convicted and imprisoned the following year while Hastings was ultimately acquitted in 1983. However, four years later a panel of fellow federal judges ruled that Hastings had lied under oath and manufactured evidence during the trial. The panel recommended his impeachment to Congress. The following year, the House overwhelmingly, 413-3, abided their advice. The evidence was so compelling that the Senate wasted no time -- voting 69-26 to convict and remove him from office
Curiously, having been de-robed did not render the judge ineligible for higher office. In fact, in 1992 Hastings was elected to the House of Representatives, representing the 23rd district of Florida, and has been re-elected with comfortable margins every two years since.
The convicted perjurer is currently the No. 2 ranking Democrat in the HPSCI and Pelosi seriously wants to hand him the gavel. In doing so, she would be handing the nation's most vital secrets over to a man who was removed from the bench by a Democratic Senate on charges of conspiracy and lying.
Exacerbating the lunacy of this pronouncement is the fact that Pelosi, herself, was among those Democratic House members voting to impeach the disgraced judge in 1988. So, for that matter, were the current House minority whip and newly-elected majority leader, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and Hastings' fellow Congressional Black Caucus member John Conyers of Michigan.
What Might Nancy See in Alcee That We Don't See?
Perchance the answer lies in Pelosi's current station of disfavor with the ultra-liberal Congressional Black Caucus. After all, she was a major catalyst in the June ousting of CBC member Rep. William Jefferson from his Ways and Means Committee post. Not surprisingly, the caucus had repeatedly voted against the removal of the Louisiana Democrat, in spite of the fact that the FBI "had him cold," after discovering a $90,000 block of bribe ice in his freezer. Hours before the vote which would ultimately strip Jefferson of his seat, Pelosi waxed morally with reporters:
"This is not about a court of law. This is about a higher ethical standard, and you know when it isn't being met"
But there certainly appears to be a strange dichotomy in Pelosi having thrown an alleged sleaze-bag under the bus while considering throwing a convicted one a tremendously critical committee chair. Furthermore, just how dirty could this slate between Pelosi and the CBC be that the likely ascension of these three CBC members fails to wipe it clean?
- Rep. Charles Rangel of New York -- Ways and Means Committee
- Rep. John Conyers of Michigan -- Judiciary Committee
- Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi -- Homeland Security Committee
Moreover, were Pelosi merely responding to whiny liberal cries for "diversity," a far superior choice -- both politically and effectively -- would clearly be Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas. The third Democrat in line for the position worked for 26 years on our southern border as a member of the United States Border Patrol, including a highly regarded stretch as Chief Patrol Agent. After all, why shouldn't the party which received 69 percent of the Latino vote this month take over their opponents' failed and pathetic task of pandering to the Hispanic caucus, which, incidentally, Reyes commands.
Alcee You in Hell
The unbounded absurdity of escalating the only impeached federal judge ever elected to Congress to the summit of the committee overseeing virtually every aspect of the War on Terror can't possibly escape anyone whose IQ tops room-temperature. The disquiet the very thought elicits surely transcends all philosophical margins.
On last weekend's installment of The McLaughlin Group, Lawrence O'Donnell made this prediction,
"If Nancy Pelosi follows through on her promise to appoint Alcee Hastings, an impeached federal judge, to head the Intelligence Committee, the Democrats will surely lose the House again in '08."
The liberal pundit and former executive producer of The West Wing then wrote his November 14th Blog entry at HuffPo,
"If Rove had been smart enough to make Alcee Hastings a household term during the campaign, the Democrats would not have won as many seats. If Pelosi makes Hastings a chairman, Rove won't miss the shot this time. The Democrats would instantly take over as the party of corruption. Voters would get a terrible more-of-the-same feeling right off the bat and their throw-the-bums-out attitude would not subside. The first woman Speaker could be a two-year story.
Well stated yet entirely understated.
Later that same day, Pelosi gave Rep. John Murtha her blessing over Hoyer in his bid for majority leader. On the following day, you could scarcely change a channel or hit a Web site without seeing or hearing Murtha sweating and lying his way through questions about his involvement in the 26 year old Abscam FBI sting. The next day found a decidedly long faced Murtha standing behind a beaming Hoyer at the party leadership announcements.
Should Thursday's 149-86 message be ignored by the now official first mistress of the House, and Hastings be appointed, they'll be hell to pay for sure. And, while the many investigations promised by the new party-in-power are unlikely to extend beyond the opposition, they'll also be several questions demanding answers.
Without a doubt, the specter of the liberal speaker-to-be crashing and burning before her tenure even gets off the ground is quite tantalizing. Then again, who can possibly celebrate the prospect of the person who'll be two steps away from executive command being unprecedentedly incompetent, corrupt, or otherwise compromised?