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November 27, 2006

Intelligence Is As Intelligence Does

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

I agree with Matt -- it's important that the chair of the Intelligence Committee be someone who was right about the biggest intelligence issue of our time.  And that's why Nancy Pelosi will be right to replace Jane Harman, preferably with Rush Holt or Silvestre Reyes. 

I have nothing against Reyes, but I'm drawn to Holt by the sort of identity politics that I'm the most susceptible to.  He's the former assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, giving rise to "My Congressman is a Rocket Scientist" bumper stickers in his New Jersey district.  I have an immediate trust in skilled academics from rigorous fields of study.  There's also the point that he's a really smart guy.

It would also be cool for Pelosi to make the point that doing your job well -- that is, being right about which countries have WMD and which don't -- can trump seniority in making you a committee chair. 

November 27, 2006 | Permalink

Comments

it's important that the chair of the Intelligence Committee be someone who was right about the biggest intelligence issue of our time.

Was Holt more right about the intelligence, or only in opposing the war? What Yglesias quotes doesn't suggest any special insight into the intelligence.

I have an immediate trust in skilled academics from rigorous fields of study.

Like William F. Bennett, PhD Philosophy, University of Texas, 1970?

Posted by: Sanpete | Nov 27, 2006 2:57:47 AM

Sounds like Holt would be a good choice to avoid the caucus problems between Harman and Hastings (and - at least - the appearance of impropriety with Hastings, and the neo-con-ish leanings of Harman).

We need rock-like credibility in the new chair of House Intelligence, as well as someone who will have a take-no-prisoners attitude toward any who will stonewall the committee's investigations. It is time to end Cheney's march toward a federal executive who does anything they like, regardless of the law.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Nov 27, 2006 3:02:15 AM

the "no evidence that Saddam posed an immediate threat to us with WMD" was pretty good, I thought.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Nov 27, 2006 3:18:41 AM

Like William F. Bennett, PhD Philosophy, University of Texas, 1970?

As far as I'm concerned, philosophy is not exactly a rigorous field of study.

Posted by: raj | Nov 27, 2006 7:05:28 AM

I second raj. Conservatives often major in old-school humanities based on "the cannon" because it doesn't challenge them and complete and total BS is acceptable.

Posted by: MDtoMN | Nov 27, 2006 7:54:02 AM

So this is Jane Harman's resume...

HARMAN, Jane F., a Representative from California; born in New York, N.Y., June 28, 1945; graduated from University High School, Los Angeles, Calif., 1962; B.A., Smith College, Northampton, Mass., 1966, J.D., Harvard University School of Law, Cambridge, Mass., 1969; staff for United States Senator John V. Tunney of California, 1972-1973; adjunct professor, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C., 1974-1975; chief counsel and staff director, United States Senate Judiciary subcommittee on constitutional rights, 1975-1977; deputy secretary to the cabinet, The White House, 1977-1978; special counsel, Department of Defense, 1979; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Third and to the two succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1993-January 3, 1999); was not a candidate for reelection to One Hundred Sixth Congress in 1998, but was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination as governor of California; elected as a Democrat to the One Hundred Seventh and to the two succeeding Congresses (January 3, 2001-present).

Ok, she's an attorney and been a career politician. So how does this amke her the "best choice" to head the Intel Committee? Where is her actual Intel experience? Where is her case law where she prosecuted civil rights violations? What is her "real-world", not I served on a committee, experience with the Intel community and the violations of said laws to protect Americans?

Posted by: bones | Nov 27, 2006 8:48:30 AM

MDtoMN;

I'm not an academic nor am I conservative, but your comment strikes as silly and based on very little information.

William Bennett and some conservatives you know majored in "old school humanities" so its a trend. "Old school humanities" have no shortage of liberal students and the sciences and professional programs have no shortage of conservatives.

I understand the instinct to discredit Bennett and his ilk by any means necessary, but this one seemed a bit off base.

Hank

Posted by: Hank | Nov 27, 2006 8:48:32 AM

Matt's piece was in response to Josh Marshall, who has been arguing loudly against replacing Harman with Hastings.

I think Matt makes a great case, as do you, for replacing Harman with Holt or Reyes. I fail to see the case for replacing Harman with Hastings. That would be incredibly dumb politically. Matt's right that the political calculations are based on an indefensible ethical calculation, but that indefensible ethical calculation is the one that reigns in the media and in the popular imagination, especially when you've got a "nice" white woman and a "corrupt" black man.

Becuase things are best in chart form, here's my list:

1) Holt
1a) Reyes
3) anyone else who isn't in bed with the neocons
4) Harman
5) Hastings

(Did Reyes oppose the war, or does at least appear to have repudiated the neocons? I guess I could look it up. But I don't feel like it.)

Posted by: DivGuy | Nov 27, 2006 8:54:03 AM

Bones,

Harman's resume strikes as relatively impressive so far congressmen go. She is obviously a smart and talented lady. It seems many congressmen, even moreso than Senators, don't really have much "foreign policy experience." It's just not something many Americans acquire, outside of those who have actually served in the military overseas.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure how military background, particularly at the enlisted or junior officer level, really prepares an individual to chair an intelligence committee.

Much better to find smart people with solid analytical skills. Harman was wrong about many aspects of the intelligence surrounding the war. That seems a far more reasonable (and correct) critcism of her appropriateness for the post.

Hank

Posted by: Hank | Nov 27, 2006 8:58:24 AM

FWIW, and its worth very little, Holt is an excellent choice. As someone who attended Princeton during Holt's first run for Congress, I enjoyed watching him campaign and I've admired him somewhat since.

Beyond that, I have a gut feeling, also worth very little, that Harman will ultimately receive the Chairmanship.

Hank

Posted by: Hank | Nov 27, 2006 9:24:03 AM

the "no evidence that Saddam posed an immediate threat to us with WMD" was pretty good, I thought.

That was the conclusion generally drawn from the intelligence, even by those who voted for the war. The Republicans (the ones being precise, at least) didn't claim an immediate threat, but a "gathering" one. I doubt Harman differed with Holt on that point.

It's worth saying that the idea that faulty intelligence led to the war is something of a myth. Even if you granted all the Administration's claims about the intelligence, the invasion still wasn't justified. The fact that they were clearly stretching the intelligence tended to distract from that point. Some Democrats voted for the authorization of force because they were assured it would be a last resort, and they felt the Administration's pressures on Hussein could be maximized by the threat of force. But as Kerry discovered, it's a lot easier to just say you were taken in by bad intelligence.

It's also fairly clear that WMD was never the real reason the Administration wanted to invade. The "domino theory" of spreading American values and influence in the Middle East seems to have been the main motive.

As far as I'm concerned, philosophy is not exactly a rigorous field of study.

I second raj. Conservatives often major in old-school humanities based on "the cannon" because it doesn't challenge them and complete and total BS is acceptable.

The claim about conservatives and humanities is false (I believe), but there is a widespread belief among those who work in technical fields that humanities is for the soft of brain. I won't deny that there's something to that (it's interesting how many I know who ended up in philosophy washed out from the hard sciences, math or engineering), but philosophy is actually very good training for rigorous analytical skills, if not in how best to use such skills.

But I was just funnin' Neil, because he said he has "an immediate trust in skilled academics from rigorous fields of study." I'm not sure how serious he was in saying that, or whether he thinks of his own training as rigorous, but Bennett graduated from the same department Neil has been in. (That and the fact that Bennett dated Janis Joplin while he was there are standing subjects of consternation in that department.) John Silber, controversial Democrat politician and university president in Massachusetts, was once the head of that program, another point of mixed pride for those in it now.

Posted by: Sanpete | Nov 27, 2006 12:36:59 PM

Bones -

You might actually note that Ezra is advocating her replacement, due to her lack of qualification.

Posted by: DuWayne | Nov 27, 2006 1:25:59 PM

I remember in 2000, when then-first-termer Rush Holt basically tied his GOP challenger 49%-49%, with a Green Party candidate taking 2%. Holt pulled out victory after a recount.

Ralph Nader was speaking at a college in New Jersey in early 2001, and a student asked him about that particular race, querying how running Greens in close races advances the progressive agenda. Nader responded that Holt "deserved to lose" because he was willing to consider an expansion of nuclear power plant construction as a means of reducing fossil fuel consumption.

Rush Holt is clearly unacceptable as Intel Chair. He doesn't agree with St. Ralph 100%. That makes him evil. Evil evil evil.

Posted by: Chris | Nov 27, 2006 2:29:31 PM

Rush Holt would make a great choice for Intel chair. As a NJ resident, I was very disappointed that Corzine selected Menendez to fill out his term. We had to listen to some of the sleaziest campaign ads about his past. But more importantly, Holt has tons of experience fitting for the role as an advisor to government in the field.

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Posted by: levitra | Nov 28, 2006 12:41:16 AM

Both Holt and Reyes voted against the war in Oct 2002.

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