Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi, on the heels of being rejected in her choice of majority leader, is being urged by prominent Democrats to avoid further embarrassment and not name Rep. Alcee Hastings as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Pelosi has made clear that she does not want to pick Rep. Jane Harman, the committee's ranking Democrat but an adversary of Pelosi in California politics. As speaker, Pelosi has complete power to name a chairman. But her advisers tell her that Republicans will have a field day if she selects Hastings, who was impeached by Congress as a federal judge on bribery charges. The committee's third-ranking Democrat, the low-profile Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, would be a compromise.

A footnote: Senior CIA officials consider Harman a prima donna and say they dread the thought of dealing with her as chairman. They would much prefer Hastings, finding him consistently cooperative.


Rep. Rahm Emanuel, newly elected chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, has sent colleagues a one-page memo stressing "real lobbying and ethics reform" as the key to his party's future electoral success.

Emanuel, architect of taking over the House as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, in the memo cited eight extra seats won by Democrats in Republican districts because of scandals. That included the defeat of Reps. John Sweeney (N.Y.), Richard Pombo (Calif.), Curt Weldon (Pa.), Don Sherwood (Pa.) and Charles Taylor (N.C.), plus Republicans in seats formerly held by Reps. Tom DeLay (Texas), Mark Foley (Fla.) and Bob Ney (Ohio). A ninth scandal-blemished Republican targeted by Emanuel, Rep. John Doolittle of California, escaped with a four-point victory.

Emanuel intends to push reforms restricting earmarks, gifts and travel. "Failure to deliver on this promise," said his memo, "would be devastating to our standing with the public and certainly jeopardize some of our marginal seats."


Sen. John McCain's political advisers say it is now certain that he will enter presidential caucuses in Iowa, the state he bypassed in 2000 on his way to nearly taking the Republican nomination from George W. Bush.

The sign that McCain is aiming for Iowa came when his political action committee hired Terry Nelson, political director for Bush's 2004 campaign. An Iowan, Nelson knows the state well. That points to an early showdown in Iowa between McCain and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has built a grass-roots organization there.

This McCain-Romney face-off may not be definitive. Ronald Reagan in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1988 each won the nomination after losing Iowa.


Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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