Thursday, November 09, 2006

And You Thought You Were Voting For Change

Over at TCS Daily, J. Pham and Michael Krauss have a piece warning about a troubling decision that soon-to-be Speaker of the House Representative Nancy Pelosi may be about to make. Pelosi is likely to give the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, one of the most important Congressional committees related to national security issues, to Alcee Lamar Hastings (D-FL 23). Doing so is, of course, Pelosi's right and responsibility as Speaker. So what's the problem?

Hastings was impeached from the federal judgeship he held from 1979-1989.

Barely two years into office, "Judge" Hastings accepted a $150,000 bribe in exchange for giving a lenient sentence to two swindlers, then lied in subsequent sworn testimony about the incident. The case involved two brothers, Frank and Thomas Romano, who had been convicted in 1980 on 21 counts of racketeering. Together with attorney William Borders Jr., Hastings, who presided over the Romanos' case, hatched a plot to solicit a bribe from the brothers. In exchange for a $150,000 cash payment to him, Hastings would return some $845,000 of their $1.2 million in seized assets after they served their three-year jail terms.

Taped conversations between Hastings and Borders confirmed that the judge was a party to the plot. Hastings was also criminally prosecuted for bribery, but his accomplice Borders went to prison rather than testify against him. Hastings was acquitted thanks to Borders' silence. [Borders was then pardoned by President Clinton, confirming the wisdom of his refusal to testify. In a remarkable display of chutzpah, Borders then applied for reinstatement to the District of Columbia Bar, claiming that Clinton's federal pardon eliminated his local disbarment. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit did not agree, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal. To former D.C. delegate Walter Fauntroy, Borders' case had a spiritual quality to it. "Being pardoned by the president is like being pardoned by Jesus," Fauntroy sermonized. Thankfully, the Supremes evidently disagreed with this "theology."]

"Be assured that I'm going to be a judge for life," Mr. Hastings told reporters in 1983 after his acquittal. But the arguments that swayed a Miami jury did not sway the Congress. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives impeached Hastings for bribery and perjury by a lopsided vote of 413 to 3. Then the Democrat-controlled Senate convicted him on eight articles of impeachment by well over the required two-thirds majority in 1989. Thus Mr. Hastings became only the sixth judge in the history of our Republic (and only the third in the 20th Century) to be removed by Congress. He was, and is, an utter disgrace to the nation and to the legal profession. Among those voting to impeach him were Ms. Pelosi herself, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip who is likely to become the new House majority leader, and Mr. Hastings' fellow African-American Congressman, Michigan's John Conyers, who took pains to deny that race had anything to do with the removal of the bribe-taking jurist.

It is shocking to think that this man has been allowed to serve as one of nation's legislators. But it is not only horrifying but dangerous to give him a position of such important as the chair of the House intelligence committee. The position is, according to the article, a reward from Pelosi:

a payback to the Congressional Black Caucus, to whose support Pelosi owes her election as Minority Leader and whose members she angered by picking Ms. Harman to be ranking member over Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop in 2003. The incoming Speaker must also mollify the Black Caucus for having pushed Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson (he of the frozen cash) off the Ways and Means Committee.

Hopefully, Pelosi will think about what such a move would mean. But let this be a lesson to all. If you thought that the Democrats would be "better" than the Republicans, think again. Politics is politics, and politicians are politicians. Regardless of party, they will vote for pork. Regardless of party, they will get involved in scandal and break ethical rules. So please, get off of your moral high horses.

1 comment:

Causal said...

We should still hold them accountable. In fact, that's WHY we should.

Sometimes reprimanding a child (President) doesn't make the family (Washington) a happy place. But you still have to do it so the child and his siblings (future presidents) learns about accountability. Holding government officials accountable for their actions strengthens our democracy. Letting lawlessness stand weakens it. Impeachment is horribly UNDERUSED. Which is part of why there's so much corruption at the top. They must learn to fear it.