Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hillary and Alcee

Hillary Clinton's campaign has announced that Florida Representative Alcee Hastings will be one of her national co-chairs.

Bad idea.

Hastings is the last federal judge to be impeached by Congress. His impeachment stemmed from serious corruption charges. Appointed to the bench as a federal district court judge by Jimmy Carter in 1979, Hastings was soon indicted after being caught up in an FBI bribery sting. He was acquitted in a jury trial, but then impeached for perjury in the trial, which involved a number of significant irregularities.

The issue was never really even close. The House--then controlled by Democrats--voted 413-3 to impeach Hastings. The Senate convicted Hastings on 8 out of 11 counts that were considered.

Significantly, the Hastings impeachment was assigned to the Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, chaired by veteran African-American representative John Conyers. Initially, Conyers was skeptical, viewing the charges as racist. As he reviewed and heard the evidence, however, he became convinced that racism had played no part in the investigation, prosecution or recommendation to commence impeachment proceedings.

Conyers ultimately supported the impeachment resolution, neutralizing the race issue. "We did not wage that civil rights struggle merely to replace one form of judicial corruption for another," said Conyers. "We can no more close our eyes to acts that constitute high crimes and misdemeanors when practiced by judges whose views we approve than we could when practiced by judges whose views we detested. . . . It would be disloyal to the essential principles of the civil rights movement to my oath of office to attempt to set up a double standard."

It's a shame that Florida voters, most ignorant of the real facts, subsequently elected Hastings to Congress. That's their mistake, however.

At least when the Democrats re-took Congress last year, in part on an anti-corruption platform, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wisely removed Hastings from consideration as a Committee chairman.

So what is Hillary up to? Pandering for votes among Florida's African-American community, no doubt. Making Hastings a national campaign co-chairman, however, is a big mistake. Democrats should continue to marginalize--not martyrize--Hastings.

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