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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Disaster averted

(AFP/Getty Images/Mark Wilson)
Wait until you see what I keep in my
bedroom closet

Pelosi Rift Changed Jefferson's Course
May 24, 2006
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

Rep. William Jefferson, whose career is now threatened by an aggressive Justice Department inquiry, came to Washington, D.C., in 1991 oozing ambition, a 43-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer who had just knocked off one of the most prominent names in New Orleans to win Louisiana's 2nd district House seat.

Positioning himself as a leader for the post-Civil Rights era, the mild-mannered Congressman joined forces with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council and declared himself a resolute free trader, ..................

But it was likely a different losing campaign, waged long before word of the ethics probe spread last summer, that actually marked Jefferson's transformation from a rising political star to a Member with little influence in the House but enormous behind-the-scenes clout in his home state.

It was after the 2002 elections when Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the incoming House Minority Leader, was confronted with one of her first decisions: whom to appoint as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Jefferson waged an aggressive — and public — campaign, with support from the influential Congressional Black Caucus. The timing seemed right, since Pelosi had just restored Rep. Jane Harman's (Calif.) seniority, a move that deprived Rep. Sanford Bishop (Ga.), a CBC member, of his perch on the Intelligence Committee.

CBC members told Pelosi she could make things right by tapping Jefferson for the DCCC, but she ended up choosing another Californian, Rep. Robert Matsui, who had been reluctant to take the demanding post but with whom she shared a close friendship.

"He was clearly very pissed off," a former senior Democratic aide said, adding that it's not unusual for Members who have been denied plum assignments to lash out in such a manner.

But Jefferson's fury wasn't temporary, and the DCCC affair turned he and Pelosi into enemies. It also meant that he was unlikely to be a contender for a leadership post ever again. Jefferson had won a reputation as a skilled and influential legislator — he had, for instance, been a key player in the Clinton administration's push for the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 — but after '02, insiders say, his focus seemed to shift away from Washington and back to his home state.

In Louisiana, Jefferson was at the peak of his game, the highest-ranking black elected official in the state and the gatekeeper of an empire of campaign donors and political muscle in the New Orleans area.


"After the DCCC Chairmanship issue," a Democratic source observed, "Jefferson focused more on his Louisiana politics. He became the guy you had to go through in order to get political things done in New Orleans."

That said, he did retain his Ways and Means assignment in Congress, not to mention more than a few allies in the CBC. Now, even as his backroom power in Louisiana fades, Jefferson may be counting on that CBC support to keep Democratic leaders from stripping him of his Ways and Means seat — at least until and unless he is indicted.

"I can't say for sure how CBC members would react" if Pelosi pre-emptively removed Jefferson from the committee, said a source close to the CBC. "But my gut tells me they wouldn't be quiet on that issue."

First, all these "post-Civil Rights" leaders never really lead anyone. As Harold Ford is about to find out in his losing Senate race.

Second, they found $90,000 in cash in his freezer. You can argue all you want about the Feebs raiding his Hill office, but they found $90,000 in cash in his freezer.

Did he forget that Harold Ford waged a similarly aggressive campaign to be minority leader and lost in spectacular fashion.

Imagine if he was DCCC chair and not just another hand-in-the-till Louisiana pol? What kind of disaster would that be?

I thought the guy was a loathsome scumbag after he comandeered a deuce and a half during Katrina and removed suitcases, keeping the truck there so long that another truck had to pull it out because it sunk in the lawn.

The thing is that the CBC can't afford another Adam Clayton Powell or to have this guy become a target for the desperate GOP spin machine.

The problem is that Jefferson thought he was going to walk in the room and because he had that Harvard Law degree, get to run things. He sucked up to the DLC, and thought he was gonna get a plum position. And instead of playing nice and keep in the running for the leadership, he got pissed and self-sabotaged himself.

Now the CBC can either be loyal or smart. Loyal means that talk radio will make what happened to the honest but excitable Cynthia McKinney look like a walk in the park. They will make him the subject of corruption talk and the Kool Kids Klub, no fan of black people, will join in, with the racist Imus up front.

Or they can get him in a room, tell him that $90K in a freezer and ignoring the FBI means in the Abramoff era that the best service he can perform is to resign his seat and work on his defense. If he's found innocent, he can run and win again.

Don't make Pelosi act. Don't make this into a fight, encourage him to walk away and leave corruption to the Republicans. Don't become the Willie Horton of 2006. Loyalty is fine, but he needs to go and defend himself.

Update:Jefferson has refused to give up his seat.

I was thinking about how he got in this mess,and it's because of a sense of entitlement.

Here's this guy who comes from Northern Louisiana and finds himself at Harvard Law. He must have had his ass kissed from the day he returned home. Bright Shining Hope should be his middle name. No one told him no. He was a man on the make

He gets to Congress and things don't work his way, so he sulks. He hates Nancy Pelosi for standing in his way and now he wants to play the victim. Karl Rove is facing indictment for lying and not cooperating with the FBI. Jefferson refused to cooperate with the FBI, yet he won't resign.

This drama will be short and sweet. This guy is low-hanging fruit for the right. They jumped onMcKinney for less. He needs to go. It may not be fair, but so what, neither is politics

posted by Steve @ 11:30:00 AM

11:30:00 AM

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