It did not take long before the Speaker’s allegation that the CIA lied in discussing its interrogation techniques, blew up in her face. In a strongly worded reply, Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta replied that
It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.
This is as powerful a brushback as any I have seen directed against Speaker Pelosi, and funny enough, it was issued by a former Democratic member of the House, from Pelosi’s own home state, who served the last Democratic President as both Budget Director and Chief of Staff. In short, Pelosi did not get dissed by Fox News. Rather, she got dissed by a mainstay of the Democratic political establishment.
The Speaker’s claim that she wasn’t attacking the CIA, but rather, the Bush Administration is, of course, ridiculous. She plainly and openly attacked the Agency itself in trying–and failing–to distance herself from a scandal of her own making. As I have discussed before, Pelosi’s attempt to make the CIA a scapegoat is the latest attempt to excuse her own failure in leadership. She shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.
Clearly, the Obama Administration doesn’t like this entire situation, and wants to avoid it with all of its heart. Obviously, if the Obama Administration had anything nice to say about the Speaker, it would have said it by now–and at the expense of the Bush Administration, one might add. That the President and his spokesman are straining not to get involved speaks volumes about the degree to which Pelosi is isolated and alone in her accusations.
There are times when Newt Gingrich talks too much. This is not one of those times:
In an interview with ABC News Radio’s Marcus Wilson, Gingrich, R-Ga., said Pelosi, D-Calif., “has lied to the House” in claiming that she was never briefed by the CIA about the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics.
“I think she has lied to the House, and I think that the House has an absolute obligation to open an inquiry, and I hope there will be a resolution to investigate her. And I think this is a big deal. I don’t think the Speaker of the House can lie to the country on national security matters,” Gingrich said.
He continued: “I think this is the most despicable, dishonest and vicious political effort I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
“She is a trivial politician, viciously using partisanship for the narrowist of purposes, and she dishonors the Congress by her behavior.”
“Speaker Pelosi’s the big loser, because she either comes across as incompetent, or dishonest. Those are the only two defenses,” Gingrich said. “The fact is she either didn’t do her job, or she did do her job and she’s now afraid to tell the truth.”
Given the fact that Pelosi’s claim that she never knew of waterboarding has been contradicted, I don’t have much of a problem with statements accusing the Speaker of prevaricating.
In any event, it is clear that the Speaker is in trouble. This episode may not be enough to do permanent damage to her political career, but it counts for nothing. Other unfavorable incidents–and bad things seem to happen in bunches–may make it clear to the Democrats that Nancy Pelosi is a political liability.