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Will Pelosi Replace Harmon with Impeached Judge? November 27, 2006

Posted by publicpolitics in U.S. Congress.

Nancy Pelosi should know how the right wing slime machine works- in fact, she should know that as well as she knows her own name. There was an enormous hue and cry over her plan to elevate the unindicted Murtha over less fishy rivals. Now, it appears from several news sources that she plans to replace Jane Harmon( D-California )as the head of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence with one of only seven federal judges in American history to be impeached by the Senate and removed from the bench.This individual, one Alcee L.Hastings of Florida , is to replace Harmon, who garnered the ire of Democratic leaders with her Republican like stands on national defense, and particularly on the controversial wiretaps authorized by the Bush administration. According to Marc Shepperd, Pelosi is angry in part because Harmon was invited to the confidential White House briefings on the domestic spying programs, and refused to breach confidentiality.

Tom Hayden sets out the resentments against Harmon pretty clearly. Harmon agreed to keep the proceedings confidential before she went to the meetings, and could have refused an unconditional promise of secrecy. That she chose not to could be viewed as an ethical lapse, not in the keeping of her promise but in the making of it. A persuasive case for any reasonable national security measure is often its own guarantee of confidentiality. When people agree that a national security issue is one, they usually do not have to be compelled to secrecy. And as recent history has shown, public knowledge of extra-legal security measures is no longer sufficient to kill them.

The real problem here, as Hayden points out, is not that Harmon is a conservative pro-war democrat. Rather, the difficulty lies in the nature of a state that has gone one step beyond the military industrial complex. The state is now corporate-military-industrial, and Hayden cites Robert Kagan to good effect:

“The best infromation strategy is to avoid  attention-getting divided confrontations in the first place and to keep the public’s attention as divided as possible . We can dominate the world only quietly”

Hayden goes on to point out that Harmon is unprepared to take on this state-within-a- state because she shares so many of its assumptions. That rings true. The United States is the world’s imperial hegemon now, and there is good evidence that the growth of the military-corporate establishment is so well embedded in American life that it cannot be checked by the usual democratic means. With a collaborative media and a public content to live with an effective political spectrum defined by two right hands, the moderate right and the far right, the chances of our collective political leadership being able to think far enough outside of this frame are becoming remote indeed.

None of this is, of course, sufficient to explain Pelosi’s intentions. Harmon’s imagination and political will are too limited to make her the right person for the job. She is almost completely a creature of the ruling elite, with all of the foibles of vision and lack of imagination that this entails. But given the right’s substantial media power and Hastings’ flawed ethical credentials, his appointment would be a disaster, even though it is probably true that he would make an excellent, hell-raising Committee chairman. Note the coercion here- the ruling framework of politics, its rhetorical and instutional infrastructure, simply does not allow a once impeached person to be correct on anything, or good on anything else. Hayden is correct- the machine is strong, and conditions choices in ways that are forceful, stealthy, and nearly irresistable. It is no more correct to damn Hastings in advance than to say Rush Limbaugh is always wrong because he takes the odd recreational painkiller. Limbaugh’s opinions are nearly always wrong because of their intrinsic qualities, not because of the notorious drug habits of their author. And Hastings might make a fine contribution to the Committee, despite his past. But should Pelosi stand against the iron rules of this new political order now, on this issue, with this candidate?

No-regrettably- no. She should look elsewhere for this appointment.



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