As a lifelong Democrat who has written a book in opposition to Hillary Clinton, and published articles in support of Obama’s nomination, I agree with the Op-Ed news article advocating that Obama should separate himself from Nancy Pelosi and press for her removal from office.
However, rather than advocate Mrs. Pelosi’s impeachment, I recommend that her removal be part of Sen. Obama’s commitment to changing the demonizing tactics of some of our party’s current leaders.
It seems to me that as the new head of our party he now owes it to himself — and to us — to rid us of such corrupt leaders as Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha, the king of pork.
In my view, Pelosi’s role model has been Republican Newt Gingrich, the most fiercely partisan House speaker in my lifetime. In effect she is the antithesis of such prior 20th century Democrats as Sam Rayburn, John McCormack, or “Tip” O’Neill.
Pelosi persistently fosters what Thomas Jefferson denounced as "tyranny by the majority," and she violates House rules that give her the duty to maintain order, civility, and decorum, and to foster comity (a word rarely used these days, meaning "mutual respect").
Her trip to Damascus last year was more than a blunder. In denying President Bush’s request as well as purporting falsely to speak for Israel it was a usurpation of presidential power.
As a result of her defiance of the president, Democrat Leon Panetta, the former chief of staff to President Clinton, cautioned in an April 2, 2007 New York Times article that if the Democrats "go into total confrontation mode on other than [domestic issues]. . . that's a recipe for losing seats in the next election."
The history of our most unethical Democratic speaker, Jim Wright, is now being repeated by Nancy Pelosi. After Wright became speaker, five South American presidents had agreed on a peace plan which the Reagan administration vigorously opposed. Anti-Sandinistas and contra hardliners became incensed when they learned that Speaker Wright had secretly sat in on a meeting between Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo the Catholic leader being asked to mediate the peace.
Then House Minority Leader Newt Gingrich began filing numerous accusations in the Ethics Committee of malfeasance by Wright. In the end, the House Democratic caucus determined that Wright had lost his effectiveness as speaker and compelled him to resign.
They voted to replace him with Democrat Tom Foley — who restored the traditional civility and comity that had prevailed under previous Democratic speakers.
To date, the Democratic caucus has either been suffering from a loss of institutional memory or is hopefully keeping its power dry before taking up the matter of Pelosi’s counterproductive loss of effectiveness as speaker. Also few, if any, media writers ever refresh the public’s recollection of the controversy in the Democratic caucus in 2002 when she first ran for minority leader.
Then she was opposed by Rep. Harold Ford Jr., D-Tenn., a black Southern Democrat who later ran for the Senate — and without her support was recently defeated for re-election by a Republican. Five years ago Ford appeared on the Don Imus show and described Pelosi as destructive, an obstructionist, and “not the kind of leadership we [Democrats] need.”
In 2006, after becoming speaker, Pelosi supported her closest ally, Abscam-scandal-tainted Rep. John Murtha, to be majority leader.
However, she was overruled by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and the Democratic caucus, which by a large majority voted to appoint Steny Hoyer, Pelosi’s long-time rival.
Pelosi, whose San Francisco constituency is far left, currently claims credit for leading the Democratic Party’s election victories last year. However, the credit really belongs to Emanuel — a former key member of Chicago Mayor Daley’s staff, whom Bill Clinton hired to be his chief of staff.
The truth is that Emanuel had the political acumen to recruit enough conservative Democrats to defeat Republicans and control the House.
In my view, the best way for Democrats to try to win control of both Congress and the White House in 2008 is for Emanuel and the Democratic caucus now to follow the Wright precedent of 1989 and force Pelosi to resign. Then Emanuel should use his political acumen to replace her with a Democrat with a reputation for civility and comity.
This will shift our party’s partisan policies toward a more centrist position and reduce the demagogic political warfare that is now diminishing the moral authority of both political parties.
The result will restore the pre-Pelosi Democratic tradition, in which Democratic partisan policies are determined in the Democratic caucus and not in the speaker’s office, and our House speakers are role models of civility.
Should Obama seek my counsel, I would also recommend that he also help to reform our party by advocating the replacement of fiercely partisan Harry Reid, with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, a true liberal like Franklin Roosevelt, who described himself as only “slightly left of center.”
It was Nelson who formed a bipartisan coalition that included Sen. McCain and defeated the far left’s effort to launch the first filibusters of judicial nominees in our history.
On second thought, perhaps Obama should choose Nelson as a vice presidential running mate.
Jerry Zeifman is a lawyer-turned-author who formerly served for 17 years as counsel of the House Judiciary Committee — and as its chief of staff during the Nixon impeachment. For his books and articles see his Web site, www.jzeifman.com.
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