Bill Clinton to the rescue, again
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.
| May 28, 2010; 6:24 PM ET
Categories: Intelligence, Politics | Tags: House Intelligence Committee, Nancy Pelosi, Sylvestre Reyes
Save & Share: Previous: Analysts question Korea torpedo incident
Next: South Korea speeds up anti-submarine defenses
Posted by: dolph924 | May 28, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: docwhocuts | May 28, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Nymous | May 28, 2010 8:32 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NYClefty | May 28, 2010 10:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: NYClefty | May 28, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CharlesGriffith1 | May 31, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.