THE SPINE NOVEMBER 14, 2006
If you haven't read our virtually unprecedented online lede across the home page, please do. If Jane Harman is pushed out of her earned chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, it will be only because Nancy Pelosi has mixed her own ideological armor with her personal pique. Somehow, she and the other party leaders, even Rahm Emanuel--who, as you might know, I much admire--can tolerate John Dingell, John Conyers, and Charlie Rangel as committee chairmen, even though they are obsessives on the wrong side of almost every issue that will come before them. Forget about the fact that the person Pelosi is supporting, Alcee Hastings, has no demonstrable qualifications for this significant work and is palpably corrupt besides, having been impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate when he was a federal judge. This is so shameful that one wonders how he dares walk the halls of Congress. In a certain way, he is also a stupid man, which, I suppose, qualifies him for the intelligence post, at least in Pelosi's eyes.
Which reminds me of whom Pelosi reminds me: Bella Abzug. No, Pelosi is rather svelte, which Bella was not. Pelosi also doesn't wear a big-brimmed hat. But she talks unbearably empty prose. Which is another difference: Bella spoke in ideologically laden phrases, for many years of the Stalinist-sympathizer sort. (Yes, Virginia, there were such folk, and they often nested in the Democratic Party, certainly in New York, California, and Minnesota, for instance.) So why do I think of Bella when I think of Pelosi? Bella couldn't discern between a political difference and a personal war. So if it was the former, it quickly also became the latter. When I did some work for Pat Moynihan in the Democratic primary that gave him his first nomination to the U.S. Senate, she was one of his opponents. I saw her at some party function late in the campaign and, in the midst of hundreds of people at the Commodore Hotel, she gave me the middle finger and accompanied it with the appropriate four-letter curse. I was embarrassed for her.
Now, Pelosi wouldn't for a moment do that. But, like Bella, she cannot separate personal from political differences. And where Pelosi's vanity goes, there, apparently, the House Democrats will follow.