Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nancy Pelosi Off To A Bad Start After Murtha Endorsement Fails

The House Speaker-designate, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, is off to a bad start with the refusal of the majority of House Democrats to go along with her endorsement of Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania as House Majority Leader.

Instead, the newly-elected House Democrats (including a few in still-disputed races) voted today 149-86 to go with Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who has had a fractious relationship with Pelosi in the past.

Pelosi's choice to make a public issue out of this was a mistake. It shows that Pelosi may not be as skilled a politician as all the rave notices of recent days have indicated.

It is almost incredible, in light of what she has said since the Mid Term election about ethics, that Pelosi would back Murtha, who showed up visibly in network coverage in recent days turning down only conditionally a bribe years ago, and also again, in recent days, voiced his opposition to proposed new House ethics rules.

Pelosi said she backed Murtha because she admired his position for troop withdrawals from the Iraqi war. Iraq was not overtly an issue in the contest for House Majority Leader, but at the same time it seems obvious that there is no majority at present, even among Democrats, for a precipitate withdrawal from Iraq.

That being the case, Pelosi faces another danger in her apparent plan to replace Rep. Jane Harman of California with Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida as head of the House Intelligence Committee. Here, too, there are ethics problems since Hastings was actually impeached by Congress from a federal judgeship he had held in Florida. On Iraq, Harman is tougher for pursuing the war than Hastings.

Just as with Hoyer, Pelosi has had an unfriendly relationship with Harman.

But as Speaker she is going to have to demonstrate an ability to get along with people, if she is to be effective.

As a political writer for the Times, I had only scant contact with Pelosi, but what little I had did not give me the impression Pelosi was all that skillful a politician. From what I could observe, she sometimes does not pay much attention to detail. This can be devastating for a House Speaker.

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