Pelosi should ’fess up

Politicians fear the day when circumstances or reality force them to admit that anything they have ever said was less than accurate. They seem to believe that the public expects them to be right about every thing every day, and that any admission that they’re capable of being wrong is a weakness that will cost them votes.

The fear of politicians who rarely know what they’re talking about or who know full well that they’ve been lying is understandable. Thus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) expressions are beginning to look like she dreads facing the public because she fears they might be onto her. Down deep she has to realize that she’s beginning to look not just foolish, but like others before her who have refused to admit they’ve been caught in a misstatement (Washingtonese for a lie).   To delay the inevitable, she’s claiming that everyone around her is lying.

Pelosi has been around long enough to know that this Nixonian stonewalling rarely works, but like others who have decided to defy reality, she doesn’t know how to get out of the mess she’s made. There is no denying that it’s quite a mess and that “putting it behind her” isn’t going to be all that easy — but put it behind her she must.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) described her trap when he suggested that Pelosi has to admit that she’s lied to the public and her colleagues or that she was too darned dumb to understand what was being said about “enhanced interrogation” in the CIA briefings she attended. She has to do something, because by focusing public attention on a controversy she and her colleagues cannot win, she continues to hurt herself and her party, and makes it impossible for her president to turn public attention to programs and issues he considers more important than a continuing shouting match over her veracity.

So how does she put all this behind her? She has to ’fess up. It’s really that simple. If she lied, it would be better for her and her party if she confesses now and apologizes, because she’s going to have to do so sooner or later anyway.

Earlier, Pelosi could simply claim she wasn’t listening during the briefing or thought waterboarding was a recreational activity rather than a method of interrogation, but it’s too late for that. She claims she was either lied to or “misled” by CIA briefers and now has to claim that anyone who recalls things differently is lying.

Pelosi no doubt believed that it was safe to call the CIA briefers liars; liberals tend to believe that lying is the principal occupation of the CIA.   But not every American is a liberal, and CIA bureaucrats keep records.

The fact is that when Pelosi was briefed, we were living in a different world. People were scared and — rightly or wrongly — decided we had to do everything in our power to find out what the terrorists had in store for us. This fear led the Bush administration to allow intelligence agencies to utilize the techniques now in disrepute and led elected and appointed officials to find little fault with those techniques.

As things seemed to be returning to normal, many Americans began to wonder if even our fairly tame methods were justifiable. Many of these folks are Pelosi supporters and what obviously happened is that she wanted to claim that she agreed with them from day one. Thus, had she known what had been going on, she’d have condemned it.

Had Pelosi simply said that she shared the fear of most Americans after Sept. 11 and as a result supported measures then that in retrospect might be wrong, she’d have been off the hook. But she wanted to claim “innocence” from the beginning and lied.

It reminds one of the time when, referring to the public-relations image of Doris Day, an acquaintance told a reporter, “I knew her before she was a virgin.”

Pelosi’s problem is that those who attended the briefings knew her before.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.