It's increasingly clear that the Hoyer-Murtha leadership race is hurting the Democrats by diverting attention from the party's election victories and creating strife within the caucus. But I think most observers still haven't grasped just how damaging it will be to the party if John Murtha is chosen as majority leader and Alcee Hastings is chosen by Nancy Pelosi as Intelligence Committee chair.
Neither was convicted of a crime, but both were deeply involved in alleged bribery scandals. Here's Norm Ornstein on Murtha's involvement in the Abscam scandal: "[Murtha] did refuse to take the money -- but here is what he said: 'I want to deal with you guys a while before I make any transactions at all, period. ... After we've done some business, well, then I might change my mind.'" And Hastings was removed from the federal bench for what the Washington Post described as "engaging in a 'corrupt conspiracy' to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him." The Post noted that it was "the first time a federal official has been impeached and removed from office for a crime he had been acquitted of by a jury."
Putting both of them in positions of responsibility will be a signal that Democrats aren't serious about governing responsibly. And they will pay a price politically -- the attack ads write themselves.
Update 11/16 12:20 PM: Hoyer won, so I guess it's one alleged bribery target down, one to go.