Democrats' Circular Firing Squads

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It is an old truism in politics that Democrats prefer to form a firing squad in a circle. They've done it again, even before taking charge in the next Congress.

One week after their stunning victory and takeover of both houses of Congress, Democrats went to war–with one another.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, soon to be Speaker Pelosi, stirred up an unnecessary breach in the party. She not only backed controversial Rep. John Murtha for majority leader but actively stumped for a friend who has an ethically challenged history.

It was hardly a secret that Pelosi preferred Murtha to Rep. Steny Hoyer, a moderate with many chits to collect from friends he had campaigned for and, even more important, raised buckets of money for. Pelosi and Hoyer have a tension-filled past. But it's one she should have ignored.

The result was no contest for Hoyer. Following the vote and a strained show of solidarity, Murtha frequently stared at the floor. He looked like he needed a bathroom break.

Another tug of war resulted when party consultant James Carville took a whack at DNC Chairman Howard Dean for not spreading more money around to promising Democratic candidates in need. He even said GOP Chair Ken Mehlman had done a better job. Carville was speaking out for his pal Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a White House friend in the Clinton days and the party's House campaign manager.

Even if Carville was right about the money winning more seats, he must have had a sudden attack of hysteria.

Mehlman not only directed the GOP losses of both houses; his committee sponsored some of the more vicious ads in recent history. And he has given up his job, probably before getting the boot. Dean is still there.

Carville has made most of his reputation based on biting words for the opposition. It was out of character and ridiculous for him to attack Dean. Even if his charge had merit, the Democrats won and couldn't savor it for even one week without Carville's sparking a public fuss.

Next, Pelosi faces still another challenge in naming the new chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Rep. Jane Harman, a fellow Californian, is out of favor with Pelosi and won't get the job. Next in line is Rep. Alcee Hastings of Florida, whose problems in the past make Murtha look like an Eagle Scout.

As a federal district judge, Hasting was impeached and convicted by Congress for bribery. His career as a judge was over, but voters in his Miami congressional district sent him to Congress anyway.

The Republican attack machine, already delighted with the Hoyer-Murtha battle, is salivating over the prospect of Chairman Hastings. Pelosi has still another hurdle to cross before long.

Will another circular firing squad be called on?