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Posted at 6:24 PM ET, 05/28/2010

Bill Clinton to the rescue, again

By Jeff Stein

It’s not the first time the Democrats turned to Bill Clinton to solve a thorny party political issue.

The last time turned out better than Clinton's mission this time: to talk Rep. Joe Sestak out of challenging incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Sestak was offered an unpaid seat on the President's Intelligence Advisory Board, according to reports.

Three and a half years ago, after the 2006 elections returned control of Congress to the Democrats, Clinton solved a burgeoning embarrassment for the party over who would chair the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

On the basis of seniority, the gavel was to go to Florida Rep. Alcee L. Hastings. But Republicans quickly jumped on the fact that Hastings, a former federal judge, had been impeached by the House in 1988 on perjury and conspiracy charges and removed from the bench by the Senate.

He would be a security risk, critics said.

Complicating the situation for the Democrats, in particular speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, were threats by the Congressional Black Caucus to oppose any efforts to deny Hastings the Intelligence Committee chairmanship.

The Democrats were squirming.

Enter Bill Clinton.

"I had a conversation with President Clinton,” Hastings told me in an exclusive interview for my SpyTalk column in 2007, then located at Congressional Quarterly. (The link is no longer available.)

“And we talked to close to an hour and forty minutes. And he was saying, among other things, that, you know, I would force a rift in the party if I was to force the issue. And that sometimes you come out better if you can accommodate the parties that have a direct interest -- meaning, specifically, that if you could find a way to say, 'Fine, pass over me, choose someone else,' then I will come across better and be thought better of, by Democratic functionaries.”

Hastings continued: “He was correct. I had had that feeling before speaking with him, but that reinforced it.”

"And after that conversation,” Hastings added, “I called Nancy, and … suggested that she pass over me and select someone else, because the party would benefit more without having to live with all the negativity that was going to be surrounding this situation.”

Pelosi gratefully accepted Hastings’s withdrawal. As a substitute, she picked Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes to chair the intelligence committee.

Reyes soon embarrassed himself in a SpyTalk interview by not knowing the difference between Sunnis and Shiites.

Clinton did not respond to questions about who, if anyone, had asked him to call Hastings.

Hastings, meanwhile, ended up taking over the intelligence subcommittee on oversight -- which he found amusing.

"It's probably singularly the one way you can get into the secrets, much more than if you were just on the committee,” he said with a laugh.

He now chairs two other subcommittees.

By Jeff Stein  | May 28, 2010; 6:24 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Politics  | Tags:  House Intelligence Committee, Nancy Pelosi, Sylvestre Reyes  
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Comments

And it's not the first time that Bill Clinton failed Obama. His "help" during the campaign was as useless as his wife's was helpful.

Posted by: dolph924 | May 28, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

SOLVE? SOLVE the problem.

bubba solved this?

Nothing is solved. WH tried to bribe a US admiral into not running against an "ally" that they could bully...

Buck stops with the boss... This one smells very badly.

Posted by: docwhocuts | May 28, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

you should check the wayback internet archive to see if there's a copy of the stuff you cite there. This is why it's always good to save your work & not rely on external sites to preserve it.

Information doesn't want to be free, it wants to sit quietly in a corner and rot from entropy.

Posted by: Nymous | May 28, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse

I realize it's all politics...but it is funny how often the administration turns to Bill- considering that they did their best to promote the idea that he was a racist during the campaign-

For example- 'fairytale" became not a reference to experience but a reference to being african american- thanks to Donna Brasille- Jesse Jackson references were racial rather than historic. Meanwhile, Clinton had a real record of working on civil rights and economic rights- one that Barack actually lacked.

Anyhow- trying to push Sestack out was ugly for someone who ran on change we can believe and transparency- but it is legal and won't be a big deal in the end- I don't think that people outside of political circles actually will care.

Posted by: NYClefty | May 28, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse

I realize it's all politics...but it is funny how often the administration turns to Bill- considering that they did their best to promote the idea that he was a racist during the campaign-

For example- 'fairytale" became not a reference to experience but a reference to being african american- thanks to Donna Brasille- Jesse Jackson references were racial rather than historic. Meanwhile, Clinton had a real record of working on civil rights and economic rights- one that Barack actually lacked.

Anyhow- trying to push Sestack out was ugly for someone who ran on change we can believe and transparency- but it is legal and won't be a big deal in the end- I don't think that people outside of political circles actually will care.

Posted by: NYClefty | May 28, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

This is disgusting: party politics and "seniority" trumping national security. "Seniority" on a committee does not of itself confer wisdom....it seems to me to confer only "street-smarts".

I guess we get what we deserve by voting these bozos into office.....we had our chance, then blew it in the election booth.

Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | May 31, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

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