Jonah Goldberg: Pelosi the political logjam
Forget about where you come down on torture or enhanced interrogations. The simple fact is that, as a political matter, the drive for a truth commission — never mind a war crimes tribunal — is dead as long as Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House.And while I oppose the sort of witch hunt Pelosi and her energumens clearly crave, this isnt necessarily good news.Pelosi is blocking the road to ritual human sacrifice because theres ample evidence that she was complicit in what she righteously condemns as torture. Principled opponents of the CIAs program insist that what Pelosi knew and when she knew it is irrelevant to the substantive issues at stake.And they are absolutely right.If you honestly think waterboarding is criminal torture — I dont — then Pelosis approval of it is unfortunate and indicts her too. But it doesnt change the fact that crimes were committed. The problem for the Democrats is that politically, they cannot excuse their own leader while setting up a Nuremberg trial for Republican officials and honest lawyers who were merely doing their job. War crimes cannot only be war crimes when committed by Republicans.A relevant example of the lefts predicament can be found in the defenestration of former Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston during President Clintons impeachment. Then speaker-elect, Livingston was exposed for having an affair at precisely the moment the GOP-run House was poised to impeach Clinton for his perjury about adultery with an intern. They couldnt advance on Clinton with Livingston at the helm. The Clintonites understood this, which is why they implored Livingston not to resign.But Livingston couldnt stand in the way of the tide, and did resign. Whether his transgressions were comparable to Clintons was a moot point. Politically, Livingston had to get out of the way.Now Pelosi is in the way. Its unclear if this was inevitable. If she had handled things differently, she might not have become a roadblock. But in her vanity, she couldnt admit wrongdoing or allow that the people shes demonized might not be villains.Like a driver stuck in the mud, Pelosi has thrown herself into reverse, and every other gear imaginable, trying to get herself out of the ditch. Now everything she does just makes things worse and sprays a fine mist of mud and muck on everyone around her.When asked if the CIA lied to her, Pelosi not only said yes but upped the ante, accusing the CIA of misleading the Congress of the United States, a blockbuster accusation by itself, which she multiplied by adding: They mislead us all the time.The fog of Pelosis obfuscation, self-contradiction and blame-shifting is too thick to parse in this space, but some of the highlights include her claim that, even though she was told of the program, she couldnt do anything because lawmakers werent allowed to object or speak out because of secrecy laws. This is nonsense on its face. And the CIA apparently has leaked to Foxs Jim Angle that Pelosi knows this isnt true. She halted a 2004 CIA program she didnt like simply by complaining about it.Pelosi is contradicted not only by her own statements and actions but by testimony from former Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.), who was in the room when Pelosi was briefed, and by President Obamas handpicked CIA director, Leon Panetta.Pelosis hypocrisy may be serving as a political logjam, but the issues at stake are far more serious. For all the talk about how the Bush White House politicized national security, its now clear that Pelosi is a purely political creature, and much of the Democrats opposition to the war on terror was nakedly partisan (a point underscored by Obamas unfolding embrace of Bush-era policies, such as his recent reversal on military tribunals).Indeed, one of Pelosis excuses is that she couldnt be distracted by speaking out against what she believes to be criminal torture because it was more important to win back a Democratic majority — and become speaker. And, let the record show, Pelosi & Co. had no objection to selective CIA leaks when they undermined President Bush or the war effort. Its only when the CIAs testimony corrupts their simplistic moral narrative that the CIA becomes a nest of liars.If the Bush administration made mistakes or committed crimes fighting the war on terror, those errors were far more bipartisan and systemic than the witch hunters want to acknowledge. A real truth commission might illuminate that fact. But thats the last thing Pelosi ever wanted. Meanwhile, Republicans clamoring for her scalp might ponder what theyll get if they succeed in forcing the Democrats to throw Pelosi over the side.Jonah Goldberg, syndicated by Tribune Media Service, can be reached at JonahsColumn@aol.com or through the Vail Daily.
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