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.