Pelosi: Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

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Talk about stepping on your own story. There she was, the first female speaker of the House, voted in by acclamation, and what does Nancy Pelosi do? She ensures that the headlines are instead about her defeat–in backing a candidate for majority leader, Rep. John Murtha, who lost. And not only did he lose to Rep. Steny Hoyer–he was thumped, as the president might say. And that loss became her personal loss. Most Democrats–particularly the new ones–just scratched their heads and asked why.

So, now that that's over, let's ask what's going to happen to Rep. Jane Harman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She is not a Pelosi favorite–the presumptive speaker believes she wasn't strong enough in her denunciations of the war in Iraq. Does the animus stem from something else? Maybe. In any case, it looks as if Harmon will not become the committee chair; in fact, she may even be off the committee altogether. Again, if either of these things occurs, one might have to ask why.

Pelosi deserves much credit for the new House majority. The problem now is that she has to keep it. If she starts kicking moderates off the Intelligence Committee and allows the Judiciary Committee to start talking impeachment (even if it is only in committee), she may split her own troops down the middle. Worse yet, she will split the country, too. Especially those moderate and independent voters who said they were counting on the Democrats for a fresh start.