Attributes Versus Issues

Issues come and go, so it is the attributes of a politician that ultimately win or lose campaigns.

That is what makes Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) troubles with torture so compelling.

Republicans are charging the Speaker with two deadly political vices: dishonesty and hypocrisy.

They charge that she has been dishonest in what she knew and when she knew it when it comes to enhanced interrogation techniques. She first said she knew nothing, then she said she knew something, and then she said she knew everything but didn’t think they would really do it.

They also charge that she is a hypocrite because back in the day, she wanted the CIA to go harder, to get more information, to be tougher. Today, she condemns the tactics as torture and wants to prosecute the perpetrators.

Pelosi’s problem is that both charges are sticking. She looks both dishonest and hypocritical. Even her second in command, Steny Hoyer, is calling for a full investigation to find out what Pelosi knew and when she knew it.

There is a strong undercurrent of backstabbing and political maneuvering in this whole episode, and it has nothing to do with torture.

Jane Harman (D), the California congresswoman who strongly dislikes Mrs. Pelosi because Pelosi decided against awarding her the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee, has undoubtedly been fanning the flames against her Speaker. She let it be know that she sent a letter condemning the tactics a couple of years ago, but guess what? Pelosi didn’t sign onto the letter. Amazing how that came out, isn’t it?

That Hoyer is a well-known ally of Harman only adds to the intrigue.

House Republicans have beaten this drum brilliantly, because they know that Pelosi is vulnerable. It also serves as nice check should Democrats decide that they want to prosecute Bush administration lawyers for legal decisions that they don’t support.

Torture as an issue has limited political significance. The charge that Speaker Pelosi is dishonest and hypocritical, however, seems to be sticking — and could stick in the minds of the voters for a long while.



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