Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why is Nancy Nervous?

John Kerry, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, has just returned from a fact-finding mission in Pakistan, his timely and worrisome observations challenging President Obama's bellicose but confused Af/Pak policies, while trying to come off as helpful. At home, the country is in a furor over the President's declaration that there could be criminal prosecutions of some Bush era officials based upon the new and improved "torture" policies, contravening his own chief-of-staff and Director of National Intelligence.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House, former ranking Democrat of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and as Speaker, the 3rd highest Constitutional Officer of the U.S. government, is backpedaling furiously onto the ropes over the same subject, attempting to defend herself from allegations that she had been advised in sub-committee of the secret details of the torture techniques and the policy approach to using them, and had legitimized their use by the CIA (however tacitly). That she chooses to respond to pointed questions by anxiously and nervously defending herself (to her base, no less), is the most telling aspect of her reaction.

That the President might not be displeased by this turn of events should be considered a good bit more than possible. The size and of complexion of the stimulus legislation, for which the President has been roundly criticized even by members of his own party, was composed and packaged by the most left-leaning of the Congressional Democrats, and led by Nancy Pelosi. The Speaker has shown herself to be feisty when it comes to standing up to the Obama White House. Though she leads the left wing of her party, she is not particularly well-liked by her colleagues in the House. Further, were she to fall the chances are slim that her successor as Speaker would be as far to the left as she. Whoever succeeds her leadership among House progressives is not likely to occupy the Speaker's chair. Conceivably she could lose her credibility with the left and yet retain the Speakership. However, if the left's protection of her falls away for this cause, coupled with her role in the Harman wiretapping incident and they begin gnawing at her, she will also be punished by them. As for President Obama, at this point in his career the Community-Organizer-in-Chief no longer requires the brokering services Nancy Pelosi provided him with the bellwether San Francisco Democrats, or with progressives in general.

With Pelosi moved to the sidelines and out of his way, a more Obama-compliant cadre of house leadership will emerge--and she won't be calling in the plays from the left. How this resolves remains to be seen. If questioned about torture-gate on what he knew and when he knew it, Senator Kerry will no doubt turn the conversation to Afghanistan and his very recent trip, accompanied by some helpful statesman-like hemming and hawing. Maybe Nancy's nervous because she senses she's about to be cut into political ribbons by the harpies on the left unleashed by virtue of the President's abrupt flip-flop to their cause. It will be telling to see if she is defended by him now, if given the opportunity, or if instead he chooses remains silent. If it is silence, or less than serious and reasoned defense, listen then for the sound of knives being sharpened in the cellar; Nancy may be on her way out and the president free of one more thorn in his side. Irony or intention?

Update 26 April 2009:
Porter Goss, who was, in the fall of 2002, chairman of the House intelligence committee of which Ms. Pelosi was the ranking minority member, (and later Director of Central Intelligence), has established that the Congresswoman was in on the waterboarding from the very beginning. His piece in the Washington Post makes it very clear that she was, in fact, deeply involved and committed to the technique in the pursuit of information from the al Qaida operatives in CIA hands at the time. Barack Obama, back in Illinois was not, so his hands are clean.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Out of Touch
Published: May 1, 2009
The incredibly clueless stewards of the incredibly shrinking Republican Party would do well to recall that it was supposedly Abe Lincoln, a Republican, who said you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

Bob Herbert
Not only has the G.O.P. spent years trying to fool everybody in sight with its phony-baloney, dime-store philosophies, it’s now trapped in the patently pathetic phase of fooling itself.
The economy has imploded, the auto industry is in danger of being vaporized and more than half of all working Americans are worried that they may lose their jobs in the next year. So what’s the Republican response? To build a wall of obstruction in front of efforts to get the economy moving again, and then to stand in front of that wall chanting gibberish about smaller government, lower taxes, spending cuts and Ronald Reagan.
It’s not a party; it’s a cult. I’m no fan of Arlen Specter, but if I were a Republican, I wouldn’t be shoving him out the door and waving good riddance. This is the party of Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt (“I’m trying to rise from the ashes”) Gingrich, and the dark force who can’t seem to exit the public stage or modify his medieval ways, Dick Cheney.
It is losing all credibility with the public because it is not offering anything — anything at all — that could be viewed as helpful or constructive in a time of national crisis. And it has been unwilling to take responsibility for its role in bringing that crisis about.
Americans are aghast at what happened to the country while the G.O.P. was in charge. Iraq and Katrina come to mind, not to mention the transmutation of the Clinton surpluses into the Bush budget deficits and the collapse of the entire economy.
Trickle down. Weapons of mass destruction. Torture. Deregulation. You name it. The Republican-conservative know-it-alls of the past several years (all-too-frequently with feckless Democrats following closely behind) brought destruction and heartbreak to just about everything they touched.
And yet the G.O.P. behaves as though nothing has changed. Even in the face of a national economic nightmare, the party is offering nothing in the way of policies or new ideas that might give a bit of hope or comfort to families wrestling with joblessness, housing foreclosures and bankruptcies.
It’s a party that doesn’t seem to care about anything other than devotion to a set of so-called principles that never amounted to more than cult-like rhetoric. Waging unwarranted warfare while radically cutting taxes for the wealthy and turning the national economy into the equivalent of a Ponzi scheme may be evidence of many things, but none of them have to do with the so-called conservative principles the G.O.P. is always braying about.
When it came to looking out for the interests of ordinary working Americans, the party of just-say-no could hardly have cared less. Referring to the catastrophic ordeal of Detroit’s automakers, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the banking committee, told us last November, “The financial situation facing the Big Three is not a national problem but their problem.”
And Phil Gramm, John McCain’s top financial adviser during the presidential campaign, was enshrined in the foot-in-mouth hall of fame last summer when he said the country was experiencing “a mental recession.”
After awhile, it became all but impossible to overlook the madness of these true believers and the incalculable damage they had done to the country. Voters who hadn’t sipped from the Kool-Aid themselves couldn’t help but recognize that the G.O.P. was bizarrely detached from the real world.
It still is. In the place of constructive alternatives to Obama administration policies, it has offered increasingly hysterical rhetoric. Mr. Gingrich warned on television that the Democrats’ moves to stem the banking crisis “gives them the potential to basically create the equivalent of a dictatorship.”
Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, described President Obama as “the world’s best salesman of socialism.” And Mike Huckabee, a former Republican governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate, said of the administration’s economic policies: “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.”
This is not a party that can be trusted with the leadership of the country. John McCain was ready to have Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the Oval Office and reportedly wanted Phil Gramm to be his Treasury secretary. Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, has the strategic sense and attention span that you’d expect to find in a frat house on Saturday night.
“I love the Oscars,” he told GQ. “I’m looking for who’s got what dress on, you know?”
All the talk about the permanent marginalization of the Republican Party is silly. It will be back. Someday. But first it will have to stop fooling itself and re-engage with the real world.
Correction: An earlier version of this column misstated the elected office held by Jim DeMint. He is a senator from South Carolina, not the state’s governor.