The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Among speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first duties will be the appointment of committee chairmanships, and arguably the most important of these is the appointment of a chairman to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Ms. Pelosci railed against “intelligence failures” during the past 6 years, so it would seem that she would want an honest, ethical, and competent Democratic chairman. Unfortunately, it appears that she will appoint Alcee Lamar Hastings, the reelected Democratic Representative from Florida's 23rd District, to the position. Peter Pham and Michael Kraus provide some background:
Barely two years into office, [then Federal] "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.

So why on earth would Speaker Pelosi even consider elevating Hastings to the Chairmanship? Pham and Kraus explain:
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.

The “mandate” given to Ms. Pelosci and the Democrats has one clear implication: Americans expect them to do a better job in the global War on Terror than their predecessors. Every rational observer agrees that Intelligence operations lie at the center of both defensive and offensive operations against Islamofascist terrorists. The country (and the Democrats) cannot afford a disgraced ex-Judge to head-up congressional oversight of these operations.

So … this Ms. Pelosi’s first real test in the national defense arena: Will she put the good of the nation ahead internal party politics or will she begin to foster a “culture of corruption” all over again? Time will tell.