Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
May 18, 2009
POLITICS: The Case For Not Letting Up On Speaker Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in Thursday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her.Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in yesterday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her: "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"

Just as bad for the Left, her flagrant hypocrisy on this issue has badly undermined their core argument for prosecuting members of the Bush Administration. Recall that the theory behind such prosecutions is that waterboarding is so obviously "torture" that no reasonable person could conclude otherwise - yet here is the leader of their lawmakers in the House declaring that she very reasonably assumed that if Bush Administration lawyers had cleared the practice, it must be legal. (Charles Krauthammer makes this point as to the moral argument). That's an impossible circle to square, and it means the cries of "war criminal" now have to be seriously muted and nuanced if the most left-wing Speaker in memory is not to be sacrificed to a left-wing crusade.

It's too soon to tell what sort of lasting damage will be done to Pelosi as Speaker. I'm not generally one to declare a politician dead the minute a bad story breaks. More likely, as happened to Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, it will take multiple blows to bring down Pelosi, and the impetus will have to come from the rank and file of her own caucus, which seems disinclined to toss her under the bus just yet (even if the heir apparent, her longtime rival Steny Hoyer, has been fairly unsubtly measuring the drapes in the meantime).

That said, there's a school of thought among Republicans that because Pelosi is a polarizing figure with obvious weaknesses, we should fear pushing too hard because the Democrats will be weaker for having her around their necks next fall than if she's gone (one hears similar sentiments about Chris Dodd, David Paterson, and Deval Patrick, among others). Let her twist in the wind, these voices say. But even aside from the legitimate interest in exposing dishonesty and hypocrisy on the part of a sitting Congressional leader, the hard calculus of political hardball says otherwise. Of course, in any debate there are arguments that work and those that don't, and in this particular debate there are punches that may need to be pulled for legitimate national security reasons. But Republicans serious about winning political battles going forward should not ease the pressure on Speaker Pelosi out of some misguided hope that leaving her wounded is better than finishing her off.

There are two reasons for this. The first is the brutal calculus of political hardball: when you have the enemy down, you finish her off, lest she recover and be stronger, and your ammunition stale, by the time you fire again. You don't let her get up and catch her breath and try to get her own counter-narrative out. You can't predict the flow of events, and you can't predict with certainty how much damage any particular charge or revelation might do, so better to use what you have when you have it, and get the most you can. This is how the Democrats took on Gingrich and DeLay and, for that matter, Bush - and the accumulation of damage eventually took its toll. There are rare exceptions to this rule: for example, Rahm Emanuel knew for months in 2006 that he had 100% damning stuff on Mark Foley, but since it was so damaging and Foley was a comparatively small fish by himself, it made sense for Rahm to keep quiet and have the story go off closer to the election. But that's the exception, not the rule.

Second, even if - as seems more likely - this story doesn't really have enough juice to take out Pelosi all by itself, it's undeniably become a serious distraction. And that itself is a thing of great value right now. Quick: in the past three decades, how many times has a political party passed a major domestic policy priority through legislation more than six months after taking control of the White House or one or more Houses of Congress? I don't know the answer either, but I'm pretty sure it's "not many." This is a point I have noted in regard to the Bush Administration, and it's just as true of the Democrats: they will not have an unlimited window of opportunity in which to nationalize health care and pass a ruinous cap-and-trade program, major tax hikes, EFCA, and other significant priorities. The clock is already ticking four months into the Obama Administration, with the summer recess gradually creeping closer and a potential major battle brewing over the Supreme Court. Every day that the Speaker is tied up defending herself over an issue the Democrats thought would help them is a day that her attention, and the headlines, are pulled away from the rest of the legislative agenda. Even Republicans who would like to keep Pelosi around another year for electoral advantage have to realize the even greater priority on stopping that agenda now, for the good of the country.

The Pelosi story has mostly taken on a life of its own by now, and/or is being driven by sources in the CIA or elsewhere in the intelligence community; much of this is in any event beyond Republican control. But if Republicans get the opportunity to keep the heat on the Speaker, they should.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:00 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

Have you ever seen a poltical party and its followers who's excuse for everything is they didn't know what was going on or the dog ate my homework or, uh, uhm I forgot.

They forgot 13 years of history to get their Bush lied narrative.

They did not know they were voting to go to war.

They didn't remember they were be briefed about waterboarding since -oh yeah-2002.

So lets see Obama is embracing more and more Bush policies and legal arguments regarding the war and terrorism, we now know the Dems were informed of and tacitly approved of the waterboarding, et al, the surge worked, -I guess we can expect lefties to start just admitting how wrong they have been about things.

Posted by: dch at May 18, 2009 7:14 PM

Pelosi is a joke. Only democrats can elect and re-elect people like this (Kennedy, Murtha, Kerry, Biden, etc.) over and over again. Any rationale person would have resigned by now-but that is not the Democrat way (see Bill Clinton as an example)! As long a the MSM will carry the Democrats water; people like this will stay in office.

Posted by: Lee at May 18, 2009 7:29 PM

Both parties elect their share of people who are crazy, sleazy and/or totally disconnected from reality, but the Democrats have an unusual concentration of them in leadership at this point.

Posted by: Crank at May 18, 2009 7:33 PM

I should add that what is especially unique about Democrats like Pelosi is their assumption that they can say or do pretty much anything without getting called on it, and their dumbfoundedness on those rare occasions when they actually get grilled. A Republican politician in Pelosi's situation would never have been caught so completely by surprise at being beseiged by the media.

Posted by: Crank at May 18, 2009 7:36 PM

Three reasonably likely scenarios:
She's lying.

She's so intellectually handicapped by left wing tunnel vision that she was incapable of understanding what she was being told.

She heard, but she forgot because she was not really paying attention.

In looking toward the future, I'm hoping for relentless attacks. Perhaps a political victory over Speaker Pelosi will start a winning streak.

Posted by: NRA Life Member at May 18, 2009 8:23 PM

What Pelosi ought to have realized, regarding Obama, Panetta, etc, is what has long been conventional wisdom in baseball - you fire the manager because you can't fire the players. Obama doesn't want the CIA as an enemy. He can get a new Speaker.

Posted by: Jerry at May 18, 2009 9:08 PM

Leaving Pelosi "twisting in the wind" is just the sort of thing "moderate Republicans" would support - because, you know, driving her out would be so judgmental and hard-line and all ....

You win political wars by winning battles - when a minority can drive the Speaker of the House from office, the minority wins & the majority loses (see, e.g., Jim Wright (D-Corrupt)).

Posted by: BD57 at May 18, 2009 10:36 PM

Let's do a special prosecutor to look into Pelosi, Bush and Cheney. Also, Panetta did not say what you said he said, he couched it all in terms of "I don't know what happened since I was not there or in charge at the time" was a BS CYA statement offered by Panetta to support the CIA troops...What is getting ignored here is that Bob Graham is also saying the CIA's records are false and incorrect in many ways. Pelosi, can dismiss her...but Bob Graham saying it didn't happen, it didn't freaking happen.

Posted by: AstrosFan at May 19, 2009 1:16 PM

Panetta has largely backed away from the initial CIA statement and many of the details are being shown to be false.

Even assuming Pelosi lied through her teeth, you still lose. The only way to know for sure is to have a thorough investigation. As someone once said, "Bring it on."

Let's investigate the Pelosi torture program and, if at the end, the facts show that she should be removed as Speaker, do it. BUT, the ivestigation also has to cover Bush, Cheney, Addington, Gonzalez, Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury, et al.

One final point - Enjoy:

Posted by: Magrooder at May 19, 2009 2:28 PM

Hey Magrooder I know like most people who belong to cults you are never going to accept the truth no matter how many facts are against you.

BTW-have you actually read the memos or are you doing the usual liberal thing and just blindly accepting what the MSM is telling you?

Are you saying that the other people that were briefed at the same time as Pelosi and who have verified what was said-are lying? Jay Rockefeller is lying? or is that just a series of facts you would rather not address?

We have heard Haliburton screamed by the wide eyed left for over 5 years -but nothing has come out of it. No investigations by a Democratic Congress, no prosecutions by a Democratic Attoney general or DA-nothing-sort of interesting, huh? Almost like its just some dumb statement to placate lefty idiots.

We have heard No blood for Oil screamed actually during both Gulf Wars-again no investigations, no prosecutions, no Congressional hearings, no evidence that anyone could point at now, especially interesting when you would expect mountains of evidence to exist now. Sort of interesting?

We have heard that the surge was a total failure by all the lefties. How did that turn out?

We were told by the left over and over again-we are no safer now than before 9/11? You don't hear that comment anymore do you? I wonder why?

Your hero, President Empty Suit and the Dems from the "warrantless wiretaps", to Gitmo hearings, to making the exact same legal arguments in Federal Court as Bush did, to continuing renditions (started under Bill Clinton BTW) to continuing the same "unlawful and immoral" policies. Its almost like they were only against those things to placate lefty dummies and now in power, realized that they have the responsibility to defend this country. You were lied to buddy, repeatedly-it is a shame you still don't realize who lied. But don't worry when Bush, Cheney, et al get investigated, investigations that I am sure will actually happen, you will finally be vindicated then or I am sure there will be something else to be outraged about at that time and you will forget, once again, that making hyper emotional claims is not the same thing as proving those claims .

I just wonder when you people are going to actually wake up and exist in reality instead of the liberal haze- where despite thousands of conspiracies, attacks, assertions and charges being made nothing is ever, ever proved. None of you ever notice that? The constant barrage of allegations, charges, attacks-but no follow up.

Posted by: dch at May 19, 2009 4:37 PM

dch sputters that the mysterious "LEFT" makes charges, but there is no follow up. Well, as the saying goes, the wheels of justice grind slowly. But, here are a few.

Halliburton --

Pelosi -- I don't know if she is lying or not, but let's investigate and find out. It's you wing nuts who are afraid of the truth.

Blood for Oil -- No rational person continues to contend that any of the reasons offered by Bush for the Iraq War were true. They kept changing them as each was shown to be false (WMD anyone?; ties to Osama? -- THAT we couldn't even torture anyone to say).

President Obama has adopted a mature, thoughtfull appraoch to the mess left to him. Gitmo -- after the systematic torture, military commissions are probably the only alternative. Iraq withdrawal -- there is a timetable, but it was always subject to condition in country.

We survived 8 years of an imbecile making decisions based on his "gut" and a war criminal feeding him inaccurate information so he could go out and lie to us.

I say, again, investigate and let the facts drive us wherever they lead. Why are you guys so afarid of the truth?

Posted by: Magrooder at May 19, 2009 5:05 PM

Dude, the funniest part is that you don't see how its the same narrative being spun by your masters over and over again.

Investigate! Investigate! Investigate! For 3 years of Dem control of the House and Senate-thats all we hear, but nothing ever happens does it? I wonder why? If 1 percent of what you people claim were true that would be poltical gold for the Dems, but yet for some totally unexplainable reason they never investigate.

Dude, I and others have totally destroyed your Iraq war nonsense many times-keep forgetting the 13 years of history from 1990-2003 that destroys your argument-it is to be expected from lefty cult members. Oh yeah, that Haliburton stuff is right around the corner, any day now, any day ROTFLMAO. How about you and I bet $ 100 that nothing supporting your Haliburton narrative will come out in the next 4 years-want that bet? No prosecution, no nothing, just another lefty fairy tale. BTW isn't true that the various oil contracts etc in Iraq have been given out to a whole range of companies from all over the world- companies from Russia, China, India, Vietnam, France, Germany, Japan-the US has not gone in there and "stolen all the oil" (said in wide eyed spittle producing manner) have we?

Don't worry just like cult members who keep ignoring their leaders multiple predictions of the apocalypse that never comes-10 years from now you, and others, will still be babbling about investigations, Haliburton and No Blood for Oil and things that are just around the corner that are just about to happen.....but never do.

I really feel sorry for people like you.

Posted by: dch at May 19, 2009 7:34 PM

I say, again, investigate and let the facts drive us wherever they lead. Why are you guys so afarid of the truth?

Simple enough to say, but how likely is that? The Democrat congress cannot even field an ethics committee--do you really think they'll saddle up and dig into this?

The only reason you're pretending to wish an investigation is because you know it'll never happen. And we all know why, because we all know who'll look like jackasses.

I don't feel a bit sorry for you. I laugh at you people.

Posted by: spongeworthy at May 19, 2009 9:09 PM

Bush lied. There is NO QUESTION about this. He said Saddam Hussein threw the UN weapons inspectors out of Iraq. That's a lie. He was also informed this was a lie, but continued with his fantasy story.
Until you can admit this fact, I'm going to ask you to put the stones down and go back to your glass house.

OTOH, spongeworthy does show how fucked the country is with the sorry representation of the people provided by Democrats and Republicans.

Investigate, charge, and imprison.

Posted by: Berto at May 19, 2009 10:01 PM

BTW, Crank's charge about Pelosi being the most left-wing speaker is akin to the 4' 5" guy being known as the tallest man at a midget convention.

Posted by: Berto at May 19, 2009 10:11 PM

dch, I'll take that bet.

spongeworthy, There will be a thorough investigation, but it will happen only after the Administration has set it up so as to block the wing nut's squeals about "criminalizing policy differences."

Finally, which is funnier? dch feeling sorry for me, or spongeworthy laughing at me?

Posted by: Magrooder at May 20, 2009 4:01 PM
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