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Pelosi, Harman Have Long History

File photos -- Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), left, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, April 2009. (Harman - Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Pelosi - David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

By Ben Pershing

In 1998, Jane Harman left the House and spent tens of millions of dollars on a failed bid for governor of California. After that loss, Rep. Nancy Pelosi was one of the first people to encourage Harman to come back to Congress. And why wouldn't she? The two women had worked together for years, serving in the House and toiling in the trenches of California Democratic politics. Pelosi even helped recruit Harman to run for Congress in the first place in 1992.

But relations between the pair have soured since Harman returned to the Capitol in 2001, and the feud between her and Pelosi provides a fascinating backdrop to the current controversy that has engulfed Harman -- her alleged willingness to intervene in the prosecution of two AIPAC officials in exchange for help in lobbying Pelosi to make Harman Intelligence Committee chair in 2006.

First, why did Harman need help to become chairwoman? She was the top Democrat already on the Intelligence panel, so why wasn't Pelosi prepared to give her the gavel when the party took the majority?

Speaking to reporters yesterday, Pelosi addressed this subject at length:

"Jane was there for two terms. When she leap-frogged over the others, I said, that's just for two terms. So when we took the majority, the idea that Jane would have three terms, was inconsistent with the commitment that I had made and the custom that we had and continue to have. So the only reason Jane is not chairman is because she served two terms. It had nothing to do with her position on Iraq, had nothing to do with donors, had nothing to do with eavesdropping, what are we calling it, wiretapping. It had nothing to do with anything. It only had to do with the fact that this extraordinarily talented member of Congress had served her two terms."

So is that all it was -- term limits? It's worth noting that when Pelosi made the decision, she was not constrained by any term-limit rule. As Speaker, she was well within her authority to give Harman another term as the Intelligence panel's top Democrat, just as Republicans had done for then-Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) in 2003. And while the term-limit issue was raised at the time Harman got bumped, it appeared to take a back seat to other, behind-the-scenes factors. There seemed to be multiple reasons Harman didn't get the job, some related to the differences between Harman and Pelosi, and the others related to broader, internal House Democratic politics.

Yesterday's Washington Post quoted a Pelosi aide as saying that the Speaker decided not to give Harman the chairmanship "for ideological reasons." Harman is a centrist, particularly on defense and intelligence matters. She supported going to war in Iraq (Pelosi was opposed), and she even helped the Bush administration in 2004, we now know, by calling the New York Times and urging the paper not to publish details of the government's warrantless wiretapping program.

But beyond those ideological differences, there is also evidence that Harman was getting on Pelosi's nerves. The Speaker acknowledged yesterday that "many, many, many of Jane's friends" talked to her about making Harman Intelligence chair. And yesterday's Post also quoted a Harman friend saying, "Jane was pulling every lever -- the Hill, downtown -- everything. It got to the point that you wanted to head the other way when you saw her coming. She wouldn't let it go." Contemporaneous reports support that account.

At the time, Pelosi was reported to be irritated by the aggressiveness of Harman's campaigning for the job. In early 2005, more than a year before the post would be handed out, Pelosi's allies were already grumbling privately that Harman was hurting her own cause. "If Harman really wanted to keep this job, she went about it in the wrong way," a source close to Pelosi told Roll Call at the time. In 2006, the Los Angeles Times quoted a House aide saying, "The biggest mistake Jane made was lining up people to lobby. People went over the line lobbying for her. Now Nancy is very angry."

It's true that all those reports in 2005 and 2006 citing Pelosi's anger were based on anonymous sources. It's also true that neither Pelosi nor her office ever sought to refute those reports at the time they were published. Pelosi said Tuesday, "Everybody knows that I don't respond to threats," and that was definitely true of Harman's lobbying effort.

In fact, tensions between Pelosi and Harman may go back several years earlier. The L.A. Times has previously suggested that Harman may have annoyed Pelosi during the 2001 redistricting process -- which Pelosi helped control -- when she complained that Los Angeles International Airport wasn't being included in her newly-drawn district.

But when it came time to hand out the Intelligence gavel in 2006, there was more at play than just Pelosi's opinion of Harman. When Harman returned to the House after her gubernatorial bid, she was allowed to retain her seniority on the Intelligence Committee. In the process, she knocked Rep, Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), a popular member of the Congressional Black Caucus, off of the panel. And she bumped another CBC member, Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), down a slot on the committee roster.

The CBC has always been a big player in lobbying to ensure its members get their fair share of choice committee slots. So when Harman had already served two terms as the Intelligence panel's top Democrat (some past reports have suggested Harman promised Pelosi she would only serve two terms in the job), Pelosi knew that if she let Harman stay in the post and become chairwoman, she might have an angry CBC on her hands. In the end, Pelosi passed over both Harman and Hastings -- who has some controversy in his own background -- and gave the job to Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), a member of another key group, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Harman never seems to have aspired to a leadership post, so she never has and never would challenge Pelosi's authority directly. But the two women have competed for another role -- as the leading Democratic voice on intelligence matters. It's worth remembering that before Harman took the party's top job on the Intelligence panel, Pelosi herself held the post. The Speaker sees herself as an expert on the issue, having spent a decade on the committee, and so she likely didn't appreciate Harman's efforts to position herself as a party spokeswoman on the topic. Especially since the two disagreed on substantive topics like Iraq. During her quest to become Intelligence chair, Harman was a frequent presence on television, appearing far more often than did the leader of her own caucus.

Now, after all that history, Pelosi has been cast in the unlikely role of Harman's defender. "I have great confidence in Jane Harman," Pelosi said yesterday. "She's a patriotic American. She would never do anything to hurt her country."

By Ben Pershing  |  April 23, 2009; 9:25 AM ET
Categories:  Dem. Leaders  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Today on the Hill
Next: Pelosi Denies Knowing Interrogation Techniques Were Used


"I have great confidence in Jane Harman," Pelosi said yesterday. "She's a patriotic American. She would never do anything to hurt her country."

Pelosi, on the other hand, would never hurt her Party.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | April 23, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Harman is an Israeli operative first and an American Congressional Representative second. Charges should be brought against her if the reported wiretapping evidence is true. It is doubtful, though, that the truth will ever be known. Aipac has many connections in high places.

Posted by: frazeysburger | April 23, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

AIPAC... $ay no more !

Posted by: whocares666 | April 23, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

In the above article it states that Nancy Pelosi was against invading Iraq.
I was under the impression that the ONLY person in the House who voted against going into Iraq was Barbara Lee.
Am I wrong?

Posted by: rsr3 | April 23, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for this summary of the history of these 2 women in Congress.
At the time that Harman was not given the chair of the Intelligence Committee and raised a public ruckus about it, I wondered what happened and considered it a sign that Harman apparently had some influential enemies.
When I read the particulars about what was said on the intercepted call, the comment (paraphrased) "this call never happened" was a red flag.
Your article and the links you provided answers a lot of my questions.

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | April 23, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

As for anybody who thinks Israel is a great ally and friend, just Google "USS Liberty attack" and learn about the true nature of how Israel attacked a clearly marked US Navy ship and killed many of our seamen, including strafing survivors repeatedly. There was a coverup and false conclusions with plenty of Israeli propaganda, and so just read the survivor accounts before supporting Israel or subversives like Harman.

Posted by: enough3 | April 23, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Someone explain why a the United States

Congress doesn't deserve something better than a DUAL LOYALIST as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee?

She should be tried for treason ASAP for her

efforts to get the AIPAC spies off. Reports on the wire taps said she "closed" the crime.

But the stinking truth of it, is that congress is full of the same sheparded by the vicious AIPAC. How do we survive?

Doesn't anyone ever wonder why the Europeans and Asians don't want to work with us? Our nest full of greedy spies?

Posted by: whistling | April 23, 2009 11:16 AM | Report abuse

It all falls under the provisions of the Patriot Act.

Pelosi was told of the Wire Tap; but could she reveal it to her friend without violating the Patriot Act in that, it is illegal to notify anyone under investigation?

Posted by: ddoiron1 | April 23, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

"Harman is a centrist, particularly on defense and intelligence matters."

So supporting the Iraq war, torture, the elimination of habeas corpus, and warrantless wiretapping of Americans (ah, the delicious irony) is "centerist"? I presume that makes opposition to those issues some sort of wild-eyed leftist or even socialist position? Gee, it seems that the vast majority of the American public isn't in the center. Somebody should tell them.

Gotta love the good old mainstream media. You guys are really unbelievable. No wonder nobody trusts you!

Posted by: PMaranci | April 23, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

If it turns out that Pelosi dropped Harman as a possibility in part or in whole because Harman was trying to use foreign agents of a country she has undue loyalty to, good on Pelosi! She acted as a leader and Patriot in blocking Harman.

The power of AIPAC is worrying. At a minimum, members should be registered as members of a foreign lobby. As is the case with boosters of other nations. At the worst, AIPAC is functioning as an arm of Israeli intelligence - bribing, subverting, and coercing members of Congress and the Executive with portions of the US's own aid money given to Israel.

The close links between AIPAC and present and past Israeli spy efforts goes past worrisome into the criminal.

Perhaps to many, it confirms the worst suspicions of our allies and Muslims about undue Israeli influence and power over America. If untrue, and it is all clumsy misperceptions brought on by AIPAC and Zionist zeal, it still gives rise to anti-semitic feelings.

But if true, we have a case where Israel and it's Jewish-American agents are widely considered by those Inside the Beltway has able to help install "it's people, it's loyal followers" in some of the most critical government positions.

You have convicted spy Lawrence Franklin starting his spy efforts in part because he wanted the help of AIPAC and Israeli spymasters in getting a coveted spot at The National Security Council.

And you have Jane Harmon allegedly taped offering help for getting two AIPAC officials off the hook for espionage - talking to an Israeli spy involved in the espionage case in return for getting his help in appointing her Head of the AMERICAN house intelligence committee.

If it was a Saudi lobbyist talking to a Franklin over lunch with a Saudi spy about using Saudi clout to get hi hired by the NSC in return for secret info - we would be alarmed the Saudis had tenacles that deep into us they could heavily influence & select our top security people.
If it was the Soviets of years past offering to help an ambitious Congresswoman to a spot heading an AMERICAN intelligence committee or a general a spot on the Joint Chiefs, our government might be in severe crisis -as we called the Congresswoman or General traitors. And discussed the loss of US security and sovereignity to the Soviets, with people outside the Beltway arming themselves...

But we are supposed to be unconcerned with the spying and huge clout of another foreign government inside our halls of power simply because it calls itself "Our Special Friend?"

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | April 23, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

"Harman is a centrist, particularly on defense and intelligence matters."

So supporting the Iraq war, torture, the elimination of habeas corpus, and warrantless wiretapping of Americans (ah, the delicious irony) is "centerist"? I presume that makes opposition to those issues some sort of wild-eyed leftist or even socialist position? Gee, it seems that the vast majority of the American public isn't in the center. Somebody should tell them.

Gotta love the good old mainstream media. You guys are really unbelievable. No wonder nobody trusts you!
FYI defense and intelligence matters are more complicated than political party talking points. Apparently you think everything is simple but it is not.

So I assume you are actively opposed to Obama continuing the majority of the issues like warrantless wiretapping and rendition correct? Oh he has a (D) behind his name so it must be ok.

Posted by: Cryos | April 23, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"Harman is a centrist Harman is a centrist, particularly on defense and intelligence matters."

Your definition of centrism is repulsive. How is it centrist or moderate to support an unprovoked, illegal invasion of a sovereign country?

Posted by: JenDray | April 23, 2009 7:52 PM | Report abuse

What is interesting, but not surprising, is while Harman was given her seniority when she returned to Congress, Cynthia McKinney, who was re-elected to the House in 2004 after losing in 2002, was denied hers by Pelosi. Is it possible that McKinney's expressed support for the Palestinians and her having questioned the "official" narrative of 9-11 had something to do with it? Pelosi has proved no less loyal to Israel than Harman since she was first elected in 2001 and there is no reason she is even less so today. It is also misleading to describe Pelosi as being against the war. While she did oppose it in the run-up to the invasion, once it had begun she supported it as much as everyone else on the Hill until it became unpopular.

Posted by: JaysonB | April 24, 2009 1:24 AM | Report abuse

Irony: Rep. Harman's husband makes the best audio recording equipment in the world.


Posted by: MikeLicht | April 24, 2009 7:08 AM | Report abuse

To those of us who are not US citizens and live outside the US, this case illustrates what we believe to be the enermous power of the Israeli lobby (AIPAC) especially in the US congress. A simple csae of an elected representative using AIPAC lobbying powers for a post she would have gotten anyway.
If this were in our country, Harman would have had chats with the police!
That is also the weakness of the American system - allowing the interest of another country to overide PUBLIC interest.

Posted by: MuhammadNaIya | April 24, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed that one of the Democratic Congresswomen (Jane Hartman) tried to help AIPAC against the American interests. Pelosi was right to keep her at arm's length. People who show allegiance to foreign countries are never to be trusted. Why do we even allow dual citizenship? Kris Ballal

Posted by: skballalandkathy | April 24, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Harman has been a nasty pro-war hawk for years, and she doesn't fit into the new Democratic style. She ought to join Joe Lieberman as a loose cannon more concerned with military, pro-Israel interests than fairness and justice.

Posted by: ejmurphy414 | April 24, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

The whole affair of Representative Harmon's effort to become chair of the House Intelligence Committee and her connection to Aipac's federal court case is sad, sad, sad. It's sad that someone fairly high in the hierarchy of the past two administrations US government appears to have dual loyalty. It's sad no one in position of authority in either of such administrations has disclosed the potential influence on US policy that divided loyalty may have in US mid east policy. It's sad that the press has taken all these years before raising the question of Harmon's loyalty.

Posted by: anrn210 | April 25, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

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