Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The case against Jane Harman

By Michael J.W. Stickings

With respect to the much-ballyhooed chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, I haven't exactly kept my support for Jane Harman hidden. I still think she's the right person for the job, but, if it's not to be, Rush Holt would be a fine choice (Josh Marshall thinks so, too.) And if not him, perhaps Silvestre Reyes. Anyone but Alcee Hastings.

My support for Harman puts me at odds with many of my liberal friends and fellow bloggers, including Glenn Greenwald (even if I agree with much of his assessment of the media's treatment of Nancy Pelosi), who has posted this:

So Harman has a history of defending the [Bush] administration's illegal intelligence activities. She was among the most gullible and/or deceitful when it came to disseminating the administration's most extreme (and most inaccurate) intelligence claims to "justify" the invasion of Iraq.

And so on (read it all). Glenn makes a compelling case (as usual). Harman's support for Bush's illegal domestic surveillance program may be a deal-breaker, but I'm not sure why her (mistaken) support for the Iraq War should necessarily disqualify her. Holt has been more consistent, but I tend to agree with Kevin Drum: "There... seems to be more than a whiff of retribution here against any Democrat who supported the war resolution, and that strikes me as pretty counterproductive. After all, nearly half the Democratic caucus supported the resolution, and we really don't want to declare every one of these folks persona non grata on all issues related to national security."

But, Iraq aside (and, yes, it's a big aside, but Democrats would do well not to excommunicate the Harmans among them), I do acknowledge that Harman hasn't been one of Bush's toughest critics. And for anyone who has objected to Bush's clear and present lawbreaking, as I have, that's a problem. (Although, perhaps her proximity to Bush on issues like surveillance would make her an even more compelling critic of such abuses in the chairmanship.) So let's just describe my support for Harman as "soft". She's not an ideal choice, but I think she would do well in the position.

(For more, see The Agonist, Yglesias, and Neil at Ezra.)

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