Nancy Pelosi has managed to severely scar her leadership even before taking up the gavel as the new speaker of the House. First, she played politics with the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee to settle an old score and a new debt. And then she put herself in a lose-lose position by trying to force a badly tarnished ally, Representative John Murtha, on the incoming Democratic Congress as majority leader. The party caucus put a decisive end to that gambit yesterday, giving the No. 2 job to Steny Hoyer, a longtime Pelosi rival.

Of the two, I think the Alcee Hastings problem is worse than the Murtha problem. Forget the New York Times editorials and the talk of Democratic circular firing squads, the Hastings matter even has people at The Huffington Post worried: “But the damage Murtha’s ethics history can do to the Pelosi Speakership is nothing compared to what Alcee Hastings can do. . . . If Rove had been smart enough to make Alcee Hastings a household term during the campaign, the Democrats would not have won as many seats. If Pelosi makes Hastings a chairman, Rove won’t miss the shot this time. The Democrats would instantly take over as the party of corruption.”

Of course, the Congressional Black Caucus is doubling down on Hastings’ behalf, amplifying the circular-firing-squad aspect, at least. . . .

Putting a corrupt guy in charge of intelligence in wartime, in order to play racial politics, doesn’t sound like a winning move to me.