Saturday, April 07, 2007

Madame Speaker or Secretary of State?

Much has been said of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to the Middle East. Particularly of note, a number of mainsteam newspapers, such as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have slammed Pelosi's trip as detrimental and even illegal. Here is a brief on some of that coverage:

WSJ: Illegal Diplomacy, Did Nancy Pelosi commit a felony when she went to Syria?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president, to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United States," to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government's behavior on any "disputes or controversies with the United States." Some background on this statute helps to understand why Ms. Pelosi may be in serious trouble.

President John Adams requested the statute after a Pennsylvania pacifist named George Logan traveled to France in 1798 to assure the French government that the American people favored peace in the undeclared "Quasi War" being fought on the high seas between the two countries.

The Washington Post: Pratfall in Damascus, Nancy Pelosi's foolish shuttle diplomacy

HOUSE SPEAKER Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) offered an excellent demonstration yesterday of why members of Congress should not attempt to supplant the secretary of state when traveling abroad. After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria.

Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message.

Ms. Pelosi was criticized by President Bush for visiting Damascus at a time when the administration -- rightly or wrongly -- has frozen high-level contacts with Syria. Mr. Bush said that thanks to the speaker's freelancing Mr. Assad was getting mixed messages from the United States. Ms. Pelosi responded by pointing out that Republican congressmen had visited Syria without drawing presidential censure. That's true enough -- but those other congressmen didn't try to introduce a new U.S. diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. "We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.

Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush's military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi's attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.

USA Today: Pelosi Steps Out Of Bounds

Democrats in Congress have been busy flexing their foreign policy muscles almost from the moment they took power in January, for the most part responsibly. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi crossed a line this week by visiting Syria, where she met with President Bashar Assad. She violated a long-held understanding that the United States should speak with one official voice abroad - even if the country is deeply divided on foreign policy back home.

Like it or not (and we do not), President Bush's policy has been to refuse to negotiate with Syria until it changes its behavior. That behavior is malignant. Syria has long meddled destructively in neighboring Lebanon and is widely seen as the bloody hand behind the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Syria has aligned itself with Iran and supports the violently anti- Israel groups Hezbollah and Hamas. It foments violence in Iraq by allowing suicide bombers and jihadists to cross the Syria-Iraq border.

Pelosi surely knew that as speaker - third in the succession line to the presidency - her high-profile presence in Damascus would be read as a contradiction of Bush's no-talkpolicy. No matter that she claimed to have stuck closely to administration positions in her conversations with Assad, smiling photos of Pelosi and the Syrian president convey the unspoken message that while the U.S. president is unwilling to talk with Syria, another wing of the government is. Assad made good use of the moment.

The Daily Star: When a dilettante takes on Hizbullah

We can thank the US speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, for having informed Syrian President Bashar Assad, from Beirut, that "the road to solving Lebanon's problems passes through Damascus." Now, of course, all we need to do is remind Pelosi that the spirit and letter of successive United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as Saudi and Egyptian efforts in recent weeks, have been destined to ensure precisely the opposite: that Syria end its meddling in Lebanese affairs.

Jerusalem Post: PMO denies peace message to Assad

The Prime Minister's Office issued a rare "clarification" Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks.

David Limbaugh: Gen. Pelosi's gift to our enemies

Her action is indefensible. She was not legally representing the United States, since the president refused to authorize her mission. And if she wasn't purporting to represent the United States, her trip was pointless. But she was.

However, many liberal blogs fired back...

Think Progress points out the GOP delegation comments on Syria trip

“In a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Damascus,” the three Republican congressmen visiting Syria “said they had talked about ‘ending support for Hezbollah and Hamas, recognizing Israel’s right to exist in peace and security, and ceasing interference in Lebanon.’ ‘We came because we believe there is an opportunity for dialogue,’ the statement said. ‘We are following in the lead of Ronald Reagan, who reached out to the Soviets during the Cold War,’ it added.”

Yet, Robert Novak notes in Not with Nancy:

When President Bush assailed Pelosi for her Syrian mission, she noted that Republican Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania and Robert Aderholt of Alabama made the same journey. Some news reports gave the false impression that they all were on the same congressional delegation. While Wolf stressed that he and his two GOP colleagues support Bush's Iraq policy, their mission to Damascus violated the president's policy, as did Pelosi's.

Yet many on the left have found fault with the media's coverage of Nancy Pelosi's trip. Crooks and Liars: What the hell is wrong with CNN?

John noted CNN's ridiculous coverage of Speaker Pelosi's trip to Syria — while completely ignoring the GOP delegation that also visited

But don't take my word for it, many commenters on noted:

This screenshot was taken out of context from a segment on "Anderson Cooper 360", which is anything but a conservative show. Leave it to a politically-biased media watchdog like "crooksandliars" to purposefully avoid showing the full context of why the image was shown, or what the commentary accompanying it was.

Also, as pointed out by others, the "GOP delegation" is a ridiculous name for what actually happened: the Federal Government sent a contingent of politicians and diplomats to promote the current administration's policies in Syria. Pelosi's visit had no backing of the administration and was entirely self-serving.

All politics aside, if that is possible.She's second in the line to the presidency, therefore anything to be made of her visit to Syria (or anywhere) is amplified and under more scrutiny than any run of the mill congressman.

So apparently one little screenshot stating undeniable fact (Pelosi was beyond doubt talking with terrorists) is a great atrocity to the Lefty Diggers. Never mind that the claim that the Republicans aren't getting noticed is false. The only shred of truth to the claim is that Pelosi gets more notice, but she's the SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, for crying out loud. Of COURSE it's bigger news that she's there than some little-known Republicans are there. And I condemn all of them, party affiliation notwithstanding.

TERRORISTS AGREE: Pelosi, Democrats do it best!,7340,L-3385140,00.htmlJust one of many priceless quotes therein: "I think the Democratic Party can do things the best." -Islamic Jihad
It's always nice to get compliments by Islamic fascist terrorists and sycophants, isn't it?

Along the thread of the Hijab, Thing Progress slams criticism of Pelosi's Hijab wearing, pointing out that Laura Bush also has worn a Hijab on occasion: Right Wing Smears Pelosi As ‘Subservient’ For Wearing Scarf - What About Laura Bush? Mahablog also cites proof of Laura Bush in a Hijab: Pelosi Wears Scarf; Righties Bark at Moon.

However... Reform Syria harshly criticizes Pelosi's Hijab (which was not only worn in a Mosque): Has Pelosi gone bonkers?:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was seen roaming the streets of Damascus flaunting a Hijab. The Hijab worn by women across the Muslim world has come to symbolize either one of three things: 1) a symbol that men control women by forcing piety, or 2) a return to religiosity because of oppressive rulers, or 3) a fashion statement. If you ask any expert on the Middle East, you would get any one of three answers. The ones who usually claim it is a fashion statement are the political rulers who usually oppress people in general. A Hijab is NOT a confirmation of the rights of women in the Middle East but rather a symbol of their suppression.

As a Muslim, I fully understand respect of our religion by visiting US officials and I applaud that respect. Had Speaker Pelosi worn the Hijab inside a Mosque, this would have indicated respect but for Pelosi to wear it on the streets of Damascus all the while she is sitting with the self-imposed Baschar al-Assad who has come to symbolize oppression and one of the reasons why women are forced to wear the Hijab as they turn to religion to express their freedom is a statement of submittal not only to oppression but also to lack of women's rights in the Middle East. Pelosi just reversed the work of the Syrian civil society and those who aspire for women's freedom in the Muslim countries many years back with her visual statement. Her lack of experience of the Middle East is showing.

Assad could not have been happier because Syrian women, seeing a US official confirming what their husbands, the Imams in the Mosques tell them, and the society at large imposes on them through peer pressure will see in her wearing a Hijab as a confirmation of the societal pressures they are constantly under. No one will ever know how many women took the Hijab on after seeing Pelosi wearing it. The damage Speaker Pelosi is causing with her visit to Syria will be felt for many years to come.

Perhaps the press has been too harsh on the Speaker. After all, she undoubtedly embarked on her trip with the best of intentions. The West desires peace in the Middle East; even a small reprieve from the litany of daily reports on killings, maiming and fascist suppression among broken mullacrocies. Unfortunately, I fear the Speaker's actions spoke much more loudly than her lofty goals. A well publicized trip by the Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives with clearly stated aims that are in marked contrast to that country's Presidential administration is not taken lightly by the more nefarious, scheming, dictatorial types in the region. Autocratic despots and Islamic fundamentalists alike will look to the Speaker's trip and smile. They will note the line drawn in the sand by leading Democrats: We will talk to you, legitimize you, implicitly condone your actions, even if we must subvert our own leader's stated foreign policy (which is his prerogative by the Constitution).

Loft goals, Hijabs, and bungled messages from Israel aside, her actions are shameful, and ultimately counter-productive. For, Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, Iran and the Mullahs can now clearly point to proof-positive - they no longer need to hope to hold a candle in the wind that one day they will be put on equal footing with the west, despite their capriciousness. Their hope has now found a face. And that is the election of a Democratic President in 2008.

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