Hastert versus Pelosi


On Sept. 12, 2001, then-House Intelligence Committee ranking member Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) commended House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for reaching out to Democrats so quickly after the terrorist attacks.

Three years later, Pelosi and Hastert are arguing publicly on how to revamp the nation’s intelligence operations so that a Sept. 11 never happens again.

Much has changed for the lawmakers who attended that 2001 press conference on Capitol Hill. Then-Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.) was sworn in last week as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) stepped down from his post to launch another unsuccessful presidential bid.

After Pelosi became the top Democrat in the House, some political observers said the Hastert-Pelosi relationship would be an improvement over the testy battles waged between Hastert and Gephardt.

In a 2003 interview with The Hill, Hastert indicated that his relationship with Pelosi was fine: “We don’t agree on a lot of things, but we’ve had the ability to sit down and talk or have a conversation. If she’s got a problem she’ll call me up, or if I’ve got a problem I’ll call her up.”

But the Hastert-Pelosi relationship has soured. By keeping most of her Democratic colleagues in line, Pelosi forced Hastert to keep a floor vote on Medicare prescription drugs open for nearly three hours as he lobbied GOP members to back the legislation.

Hastert eventually won that battle, but Republicans are still feeling the political fallout of that unprecedented vote.

This summer, Pelosi challenged Hastert to call the House back into session to pass the Sept. 11 commission report’s recommendations immediately. Hastert instead ordered relevant House committee chairmen to hold hearings in August.

Pelosi last week lambasted Hastert for suggesting that al Qaeda wants Sen. John Kerry to be elected president, calling the Speaker’s comments “despicable.”

The Speaker did not consult top House Democrats as he wrote his recently released intelligence reform bill. This is the latest and perhaps most important battle between the two powerful legislators before the election.

Pelosi can probably convince most House Democrats to vote against the Hastert bill, and Hastert can likewise keep most of his GOP members in line. But there are at least 10 House Republicans, including Rep. Christopher Shays (Conn.), who are supporting legislation that mirrors the Senate version of intelligence reform. If Hastert can convince these 10 to back him, his legislation will pass. If not, Hastert could face the embarrassment of not passing an intelligence reform measure before Nov. 2.

Of course, the Sept. 11 panel itself could thwart Hastert’s legislation — members of the committee were still reviewing Hastert’s bill at press time yesterday.

But short of such a pre-emption, the battle will be between Hastert and Pelosi. All signs point to an intense and nasty clash.

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY

The Buffalo News

Words have power, and that power is being wielded loosely these days in ways that have to stop.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s description of the war in Iraq as “illegal” is the worst example, encouraging insurgents in Iraq and anti-American sentiment worldwide at the very time the United Nations is supposed to be taking a leading role in putting together the Iraq elections that Annan now seems to be characterizing as illegitimate.

While rationalizing jihad and handing a huge legal gift to the defense lawyers for Saddam Hussein, Annan also paints his organization into an untenable corner.

Eighteen months late, Annan said the war was illegal because it contravenes the U.N. charter — which nonetheless gives member nations the right of defense that, wrongly or rightly, the Bush administration saw as reason for invasion — and because there was no “second” resolution specifically authorizing the war. But there had been 17 earlier resolutions ineffectively threatening action.
— Sept. 24

The Nation

Yes, Dan Rather and his 60 Minutes II colleagues ought to feel embarrassed, but so should his 60 Minutes I colleagues who seemed more eager to exonerate 60 Minutes from having anything to do with those tainted documents than to support their colleague, who has anchored CBS News with passion and professionalism for twenty-three years. …

Instead of going with documents of dubious provenance they should have gone with Marian Carr Knox, who, as Lt. Col. Jerry Killian’s secretary … adds that the information in them accurately reflects the views of her boss.

If, as seems to be the case, the underlying point of the 60 Minutes II episode was accurate, then it’s a sad comment on the rest of the press that they have relentlessly and repeatedly focused on what Dan got wrong and relatively ignored what Dan got right.
— Victor Navasky, Sept. 23