By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is on dangerous ground.
Her explanations about what she knew about "waterboarding" and when she knew it have been through so many printings they are already in the paperback edition. Having expected to use the torture issue as a hammer to whack the Bush administration well into the next election cycle—all the better to deflect attention from her party's legislative agenda—she now finds herself at the center of the debate herself, having now claimed the Central Intelligence Agency lied to her.
It's a risky move—sort of like swatting at a hornet's nest with a broom handle. You're just as likely to get stung as you are to knock it down. But Pelosi's charge that the CIA lied to her raises the stakes, as the Washington Post reported Friday, in the ongoing debate over who knew what about the interrogation methods used at Guantanamo Bay.
It also smacks of desperation and gives every appearance that Pelosi has unexpectedly been caught in a trap she designed to ensnare her political opponents, not herself. As the Post reported, "The intensifying argument over what the CIA told Pelosi and when comes on top of the debate over whether any Bush administration officials should face legal action for their roles in authorizing or implementing the interrogation policies and whether a national commission is needed to get to the truth."
Things have gotten so serious that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich weighed in with criticisms of his own. Rarely shy about using strong language to bring attention to serious subjects, Gingrich told ABC News that Pelosi continually evolving explanations amounted to "nitpicking in a fundamentally dishonest way."
Pointing out that, as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee during the period in question, Pelosi was empowered to ask any question she wanted of the CIA representatives who briefed the panel. "She had an absolute obligation to know what was going on and she had an absolute obligation to speak up." If the right questions weren't asked, Gingrich said, "Its Nancy Pelosi's fault."
"She either didn't do her job or she did do her job and she's afraid to tell the truth," Gingrich said, adding that in his judgment she had lied to the House and to the country on a matter of national security and that a formal inquiry should follow.
And, given that the criticism comes from Gingrich, it is more than likely that a formal complaint will soon be lodged against Pelosi, who then risks becoming an albatross around the neck of many of her fellow Democrats. Because, as Pelosi herself has allowed to happen, the issue is no longer what she knew or when she knew so much as it is whether or not she can be trusted to tell the truth. And that's a position no politician ever wants to be in.
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