Monday, April 9, 2007

That Pelosi trip to Syria

The national media's general coverage of Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to Syria has been atrocious. Gleen Greenwald last week called it, The American media's fringe ideological view of Pelosi's trip Salon 04/06/07.

On the PBS Newshour Friday night, we had the usual liberal-conservative debate with Mark Shields and Rich Lowry sitting in for David Brooks. The liberal Shields repeated the Republican Party line on Pelosi's trip. Thenthe conservative Lowry repeated the Republican Party line on Pelosi's trip. Balance, the American media way. And this is the *quality* press, PBS, the bogeyman of the rightwing, not the straight-line partisans at FOX News, aka, Republican State TV. Here was Shields' sad version (
Pelosi Travels to Syria; Candidates Release Fund-raising Numbers 04/06/07):

First, the criticism. I think it was a little over-reaction, but I want to defend the White House. If you had been through what they've been through the last six months, with losing the Congress, and the first White House official since the 19th century to be indicted convicted for crime, for a felony, to calls from Republicans for the resignation of the attorney general, to Walter Reed, the scandal of indifference, to wounded warriors, you know, you'd take every chance you could, and this was the first opening they'd had.

Nancy Pelosi had been remarkably sure-footed in her first weeks and months, I think, as speaker. I think this trip was ill-advised. It was legitimate. Republicans did not criticize her [?!?], and Frank Wolf and other Republicans went there.

But I think the fact that she went there and apparently slipped on the nuances of Middle Eastern policy and carrying a message, at least an alleged message, from the prime minister of Israel, who's on political life support. And as soon as she said that, he had to repudiate, for domestic political purposes, the message that he was willing to negotiate with Syria.

I don't think it worked. I think the principal, overriding concern of Democrats has to be a unified, united policy on Iraq. And while the other is legitimate and interesting, it isnot important. And so I think it was a mistake.
We should give Judy Woodruff some credit. She did bring up the fact in that segment that Republican Congressmen had also travelled to Syria.

She also made sure that point got heard on the Meet the Press panel on Sunday morning (MTP Transcript for April 8, 2007):

Well, there’s not going to be agreement on that [the Republican line that Pelosi's trip was a mistake]. I’m tempted to say that there’s more politics here because she did have a Republican - she would be more vulnerable if she had not had a Republican member of Congress with her in her own delegation. Three or four Republicans had already been to see the Syrian leader a few days before. Members of Congress go to visit unfriendly governments all the time. It happens practically every other week, Tim. And, and you’re going to have this disagreement. You’ve got Tom Lantos, who is the chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, saying what she did was, was perfectly fine, she represented the Israeli policy accurately, she didn’t step over the line. The White House says differently.
As Woodruff said, Tom Lantos - who was my Congressman for several years, I must have voted for him six times in general elections - defended the trip, in which he took part, as reported in Lantos lashes out at critics of Pelosi trip by Edward Epstein San Francisco Chronicle 04/07/07:

Bush administration criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria this week is "hypocritical beyond belief," San Mateo Rep. Tom Lantos said Friday as he and the speaker prepared to return home from their nine-day trip with a congressional delegation to the Mideast.

Lantos, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the criticism from President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials and allies is particularly out of line because Republican House members also met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus just before and after the delegation led by the Democratic speaker.

"The notion that members visiting Syria and having discussions (is) a unique Democratic strategy to undermine the Republican administration is absurd on it face,'' Lantos said in a telephone interview with The Chronicle from Lisbon, Portugal. ...

Pelosi, speaking Friday with the Associated Press, said her visit to Syria reinforced Bush's message to Assad, rather than sending mixed signals, as the president has said.

"Our message was President Bush's message," Pelosi told the Associated Press from Portugal. "The funny thing is, I think we may have even had a more powerful impact with our message because of the attention that was called to our trip. It became clear to President Assad that even though we have our differences in the United States, there is no division between the president and the Congress and the Democrats on the message we wanted him to receive."
On the statement by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert following Pelosi's meeting with the Syrian President Bashar Assad, see Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo 04/08/07.

The New York Times finally noticed that Republicans have been making the trip. Via
the Horse's Mouth, As One Syria Trip Draws Fire, Others Draw Silence by Helena Cooper and Carl Hulse New York Times 04/06/07.

I wonder if this makes Nancy Pelosi want to say, "Bring it on!" (probably not since Bush ruied the phrase):
State Department Refusing To Say Whether Pelosi Trip Violated Logan Act TPM Cafe 04/09/07.

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