The Trials, Troubles, And Tribulations Of Nancy Pelosi (And Other Democrats)

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on May 12, 2009

090426_pelosi_ap_297At long last, the worm has turned on the issue of what Nancy Pelosi Knew About Interrogation Policy, And When She Knew It. With the Speaker clearly knocked off her stride, even members of the House Democratic Leadership are calling for her actions to be a part of any investigation (subscription required):

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday that investigations into the Bush administration’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects should look into what congressional leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, knew about the methods that have been criticized as torture.

Republicans have made a daily drumbeat out of their criticism of Pelosi for saying that she was never told in September 2002 that such harsh techniques were being used on suspects in CIA custody. The Speaker, who served 10 years on the House Intelligence Committee, says she was told at a classified briefing that the Bush administration had come up with legal opinions saying such techniques were legal.

But Pelosi, a critic of the techniques, has said that she was never told at the time they were actually being used on suspects. Pelosi said she only later learned of the use of waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning, and concurred with a protest lodged with the CIA by Rep. Jane Harman in 2003.

“Frankly, information about what was said, when it was said, who said it, that ought to be on the record so the American public knows,” Hoyer said.

Asked if the GOP criticism of Pelosi had lessened her support among House Democrats, Hoyer answered with a terse: “No.”

Raise your hand if you believe the “no.”

The Speaker’s excuse is that she could not do anything about waterboarding, “out of respect for ‘appropriate’ legislative channels.” But Jane Harman, who was the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee at the time the briefings were held, was able to draft a letter protesting the use of waterboarding and asking whether President Bush had authorized it. Why didn’t Pelosi–who claims to have endorsed the letter–sign on to it? Indeed, why didn’t she do what Harman did and write her own letter?

We all know the answer. The Speaker wanted to preserve her option to look tough on terrorism, while at the same time, preserving an option to attack the Bush Administration and make political hay out of its interrogation policy. In trying to explain her actions, she utterly failed to keep her story straight. Now, she reaps the whirlwind.

Other Democrats, similarly situated, ought to reap the whirlwind as well. Sheldon Whitehouse, come on down!

Wednesday’s hearing [on interrogation policy] will be chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who also is a member of the Intelligence Committee and attended secret briefings on the interrogation methods by intelligence officials in the George W. Bush administration.

Whitehouse said in an interview that he offered legislation in the Intelligence Committee to ban the harsh methods. His measure became part of legislation that passed under the sponsorship of the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

But Whitehouse said he never protested to the Bush administration because “it never crossed my mind that it would make the least bit of difference.”

Since when do Senators turn into shrinking violets over issues like “did the United States engage in torture?”. Perhaps Senator Whitehouse should stop focusing on chairing a hearing on interrogation policy, and instead, focus on testifying about what he knew, and when he knew it.

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