Pelosi Has to Walk a Fine Line

As she scrounges for enough votes to pass the supplemental funding for the Iraq war, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) found this week that to wrangle a consensus from moderates and liberals on Iraq, she must wrestle with Iran.

To get the centrists aboard, language requiring the president to seek congressional authorization to strike Iran was removed. Taking it out upset liberals like Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) who fear "there are still a lot of folks in the administration who think we can win this war by widening it to Iran." So privately Pelosi promised him and other defense appropriators in a meeting Tuesday that the Iran language would come back another time, in another form.

Other liberals, Jewish voters, wanted it out and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) had pushed for leaders to drop it. Once it was out, Pelosi spoke before the AIPAC committee Tuesday and when she criticized the Iraq war she was booed. This caused grumbling from her allies, who felt the reception was ungrateful and unfair.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) — who doesn't have to negotiate legislative compromises and loves to talk about the problems with the Iraq war with certain Democratic primary and caucus voters — knew better than Pelosi how to stick to the AIPAC script. She did not stay focused on Iraq but instead assured the crowd that "Iran will not be permitted to have nuclear weapons," and sounding rather Cheney-esque said that "no option is off the table" should the United States arrive at a confrontation with Iran.

Pelosi is working hard, but before facing AIPAC again she might try learning the art of Clintonian rhetoric.

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