It took Republicans 12 years to lose the trust of the American people and,
consequently, their majority in Congress. Democrats are working on a faster
Nancy Pelosi has yet formally to become Speaker of the House, but she already is
taking steps which could cut short her tenure.
Ms. Pelosi is supporting Rep. Jack Murtha in his bid for majority leader over the
current number two Democrat in the House, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
In a post-election poll taken for Newsweek magazine, 51 percent of respondents
described the Democratic victory as "a good thing." But 69 percent said they were
concerned the Democrats would keep the president "from doing what is necessary to
combat terrorism," and 78 percent said they feared Democrats would seek too hasty a
withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Mr. Murtha is known to most Americans as the chief tenor in the Cut & Run chorus.
Ms. Pelosi said in her endorsement letter that she was backing Mr. Murtha because of
his stand on Iraq. That will not reassure the 47 percent of the voters Tuesday who
described themselves as "moderates," most of whom voted for Democrats.
But where Mr. Murtha really might bite Democrats on the behind is on ethics. He has
skeletons rattling around in his closet which could draw unfavorable scrutiny if he
were elevated to majority leader.
Mr. Murtha was the only one of eight senators and representatives investigated by
the FBI in the Abscam sting of the early 1980s not to be indicted, because he was
the only one who didn't accept a briefcase full of cash during his meeting with
undercover FBI agents posing as Arabs seeking favors.
But it is clear from the videotape the FBI made of the meeting with Mr. Murtha that
he wasn't closing the door to doing business with the fake Arabs.
"I'm not interested...at this point," Mr. Murtha says on the videotape. But he
indicated he was open to future discussions. Prosecutors named Mr. Murtha an
One could argue Abscam is ancient history. But Mr. Murtha's ethical lapses didn't
end with Abscam. Gary Ruskin, director of the liberal Congressional Accountability
Project, told the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call that "when it comes to
institutional policing of corruption in Congress, John Murtha is a one-man wrecking
Mr. Murtha currently is ranking Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee.
Eyebrows were raised when the Los Angeles Times reported in June of 2005 that Mr.
Murtha had steered nearly $21 million to clients of a lobbying firm headed by his
brother and a former top aide.
In early 2004, Mr. Murtha "reportedly leaned on U.S. Navy officials to sign a
contract to transfer the Hunters Point shipyard to the city of San Francisco," the
LA Times said. Lawrence Pelosi, nephew of Nancy, was an executive in the company
that owned the rights to the land.
Exit polling indicated corruption was even more on the minds of voters than was
Iraq. Understandably so, because four GOP lawmakers were forced to resign because
of ethical lapses. But the current Democratic advantage on this issue is likely to
diminish if voters come to believe that Ms. Pelosi's primary interest in corruption
is to change its beneficiaries.
Ms. Pelosi also has signaled her intent to replace Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat
on the Intelligence committee, with Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, a favorite of
the Black Caucus.
Mr. Hastings is a flaming left-winger, not the sort to keep the nation's secrets.
And when he was a federal judge, a Democratic congress impeached him in 1989 for
taking bribes and lying under oath. His elevation over the well respected Ms.
Harman would not be reassuring to those swing voters concerned about either national
security or corruption.
Rep. Hoyer is likely to win the majority leader's race, thus sparing the nation Mr.
Murtha. And though Ms. Pelosi's animus toward Ms. Harman is so great she is certain
to replace her, Ms. Pelosi may be talked into a less unsuitable replacement than
Alcee Hastings. But Ms. Pelosi has aimed a shotgun at both of her feet.
The one time the opposition party failed to gain seats in the sixth year of a
presidential term was in 1998, when a public disgusted by the impeachment of
President Clinton, gave Democrats a gain of five House seats.
Voters want lawmakers to focus on the future, not carry out vendettas. The Newsweek
poll indicated two thirds of Americans worry Democrats will spend too much time
investigating the Bush administration. But incoming Democratic committee chairmen
are already preparing lists of subpoenas. That will delight their moonbat base, but
cut short their hour in the sun.