Nancy Pelosi, political genius

Before last month’s elections, I’d never really given Nancy Pelosi much thought. But since then, I’ve found myself learning a great deal about her. And I’m coming to a conclusion — that this woman is a political genius the likes of which comes about maybe once a generation.

People often talk about George W. Bush and Karl Rove as an amazing team — Bush the bumbling, incompetent, incoherent idiot and Karl Rove as the evil, diabolical mastermind behind it all. Pelosi somehow manages to combine both traits in one — she is seen as a far-left, gaffe-prone loony embodying “San Francisco values” while, at the same time, engaging in some of the most brilliant political maneuverings I’ve seen in a long time.

Let’s just look at what she’s done since the elections — and leading up to them.

One of the main points of her push was to end the “culture of corruption” in Congress. The Democrats successfully hung the majority of the weight of scandals around the Republicans’ necks, and the voters turned on the Republicans last November. That became one of their big selling points.

But, of course, corruption is not the sole property of either party. It is notoriously bipartisan, and the Democrats should clean up their own house (and Senate) too.

This is where Pelosi’s genius shines through. She’s getting rid of (or, at least, heftily diminishing the power of) some of the most corrupt and venial Democrats in the House. At the same time, she’s also cutting down some of those who might contest her leadership. And she’s doing it all very publicly, in a way that in no way can be seen as a betrayal:

She’s using her political enemies to eliminate her rivals.

Think about it for a moment.

John Murtha makes no bones about his desire for leadership. At the same time, he has some extremely hefty baggage. He just barely evaded indictment in the ABSCAM scandal. His pronouncements on the war (such as redeploying from Iraq to a quarter of the globe away in Okinawa, where the Japanese already don’t care for our presence). And so on.

Pelosi backs him for Majority Leader, raising his profile. Then she just has to stand back while the partisans and pundits do her dirty work for her, shredding his ambitions.

The Congressional Black Caucus has a lot of clout in Democratic circles. They were notoriously upset with the investigation into Congressman William Jefferson Clinton and his apparent corruption (I’m sure most people keep $90,000 in their freezer, and ANYONE who could have would have commandeered a National Guard unit to rescue their money from Katrina’s depradations), so they wanted a little “payback” from Pelosi for another of their members. They pushed — hard — for Alcee Hastings to be given the chairmanship of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

But Pelosi knew that the CBC needed to be kept in check, so she stole a page out of Bush’s playbook and gave them precisely what they wanted. She let it be known that she was backing Hastings for the job, and that unleashed the partisans and pundits yet again.

Because among all his other qualifications and distinctions, Hastings was a federal judge until he became only the 6th such judge in history to be impeached and removed from office by Congress (and many of today’s movers and shakers voted to convict him of corruption back in 1989). He promptly ran for Congress (the Senate thought he was going to be convicted of criminal charges, so didn’t bother to impose the “ban from future public office” penalty along with the “removal from office” penalty, the only two possible penalties for conviction after impeachment) and barely dodged the criminal conviction.

A lot of people — a LOT — thought he idea of someone who had been found guilty of serious enough corruption to be removed from a lifetime appointment to the federal bench being in charge of some of the most sensitive intelligence and resources our government has appalling. They made their voices heard — loudly — and Hastings was passed over. And the perceived clout of the Congressional Black Caucus took a hefty hit.

There goes another possible threat to Pelosi’s power.

And now another corruption-clouded Democrat is reaching for power.

Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is currently under FBI investigation for some rather astonishing coincidences. It seems that a lot of individuals and companies who benefited tremendously from budget earmarks Mollohan arranged for are, oddly enough, the same individuals and companies who have been a tremendous boon to Mollohan, both personally and through his campaigns. “Tremendously” meaning in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

And Mollohan is in line to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Science, State, Justice, Commerce and Related Agencies — which sets the budget for the Department of Justice and its subsidiary, the FBI.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Mollohan will, after a suitable furor has developed, be passed over for the chairmanship. Pelosi will hold off long enough for the public pressure to build, long enough to be seen as “loyal” to Mollohan, before the hullabaloo grows too great — and then Mollohan will fall.

And thus another potential rival of Pelosi’s will be disgraced.

As Pelosi slowly cleans up the Democrats in Congress, she’s starting to look more and more like Tom Sawyer and the fence as she manipulates others into doing her work for her — and her hands remain clean.

I find myself hoping that, when she’s done, she moves on to the Senate and does the same thing there.

Go, Nancy!

Bye-bye, Bolton
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