Rich Lowry

After careful deliberation, the 9/11 commission concluded that continuity in the leadership of the congressional intelligence committees doesn't matter. It thought bipartisanship should be avoided on the committees if at all possible and recommended that personal pique and racial politics trump substantive considerations.

Actually, of course, the commission said none of those things, and on continuity, said the opposite. The sum total of the Democratic consensus on national security, judging by the bare-bones platform the party ran on this fall, is implementing the remaining unimplemented recommendations of the 9/11 commission. But House Majority Leader-elect Nancy Pelosi could flout the spirit and letter of the commission by bypassing senior California Rep. Jane Harman and choosing instead Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings to head the House intelligence committee.

Harman is a moderate on national security, noted for her expertise. She has a reputation for bipartisan comity and has worked to pull Democrats to the center on defense and intelligence issues. Hastings, on the other hand, is a former federal judge who, thanks to his involvement in a bribery scheme, is one of only seven judges in history to be impeached by the House and removed by the Senate. He is a left-wing Democrat with an undistinguished congressional record who will certainly be a hyperpartisan leader of a traditionally bipartisan committee.

For most people, this wouldn't seem a tough choice. For Pelosi, it's not either -- she seems dead set against Harman.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Pelosi and Harman once were friends, but now "the two rarely talk." The relationship might have been soured by their clashing personalities, or parochial California political considerations, or sheer envy. According to the Times' tally, Harman has been on major Sunday talk shows 18 times during the past two years to Pelosi's six appearances.

An original supporter of the Iraq War, Harman initially resisted Democratic calls for an immediate withdrawal, although she has tilted that way more recently. She has criticized the White House for not getting congressional authorization for the terrorist surveillance program, but supports the program itself. All of this might turn off Pelosi, but comports with the reasonable, bipartisan image the Democrats have attempted to project in taking over the House.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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