Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is making headlines with her visit to Syria. I’ll ignore the headscarf nonsense that has some people all hot and bothered; and I’ll ignore the fact that she’s meeting with the leaders of Syria, a puppet-state of our dear friends in the Islamic Republic of Iran; and I’ll even ignore the fact that President Bush objected to her visit. Instead, I’m going to focus on a matter I believe is more important: just what the hell is she doing over there?
Let me back up a bit. The U.S. government is made up of three branches — Judicial, Executive, and Legislative. Madam Speaker is a leading member of the Legislative body. This simply means it is her responsibility to write the laws that the Executive will enforce. But what authority does the Legislature have in negotiating with a foreign nation? Here’s a quick refresher course in Constitutional limits on the powers of Congress:
Section 8 – Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
That’s a fair number of things for Congress to do. So did you notice the part empowering Congress to negotiate with foreign dictators? Yeah, neither did I. Basically, visiting foreign countries and heads of state is not part of Speaker Pelosi’s job. But far worse than just going beyond the bounds of her job, Speaker Pelosi is actively undermining the President. Whether you like him or not, President Bush is responsible for representing the nation to others–not Speaker Pelosi, even if she believes she can do a better job.
To make the actions of Speaker Pelosi easier to understand, let’s think of an example closer to home. Consider a teenager who has come home way past his curfew for the third time in a week. His dad is reading him the riot act and reminding him that the agreed-upon punishment is being grounded for a full week. His mom can choose to stand with his dad, supporting him, or she can undermine his authority by playing “good cop” to the dad’s “bad cop.” If she chooses the latter course of action, the teenager comes to realize that Mom is a pushover, and all he needs to do is work on her to get out of any problem he happens to be in. This is a recipe for disaster.
And a disaster is exactly what Speaker Pelosi is asking for when she undermines the President. But what else would you expect from the party of defeat?
Thank you, Madam Neville Pelosi. In addition to the comic above, Cox and Forkum nicely sum up Speaker Pelosi’s ineffectual discussions with Syria: “It’s impossible to have a “dialogue” about peace with an intransigent and bloody state sponsor of two groups who openly want to destroy the free state of Israel. This is the mess that Pelosi and her ilk refuse to see.”
UPDATE (4/5/2007 9:29:58 AM): More people are recognizing how Madam Speaker inserted her foot deeply in her mouth with her visit to Syria. What is the problem? The Washington Post explains the Speaker’s failure here:
After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Ms. Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that “Israel was ready to engage in peace talks” with Syria. What’s more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to “resume the peace process” as well. Having announced this seeming diplomatic breakthrough, Ms. Pelosi suggested that her Kissingerian shuttle diplomacy was just getting started. “We expressed our interest in using our good offices in promoting peace between Israel and Syria,” she said.
Only one problem: The Israeli prime minister entrusted Ms. Pelosi with no such message. “What was communicated to the U.S. House Speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel,” said a statement quickly issued by the prime minister’s office. In fact, Mr. Olmert told Ms. Pelosi that “a number of Senate and House members who recently visited Damascus received the impression that despite the declarations of Bashar Assad, there is no change in the position of his country regarding a possible peace process with Israel.” In other words, Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel’s position but was virtually alone in failing to discern that Mr. Assad’s words were mere propaganda.
We have a Secretary of State for a reason — so buttinskies like Speaker Pelosi don’t blunder through mistakes like this gaff with the consummate skill of a head-scarfed cow in a china shop. Captain Ed of Captain’s Quarters summed up Madam Speaker’s gaff in this manner:
Pelosi somehow forgot the part about ending support for terrorism when she met with Assad. She told the Syrian dictator that Israel was ready to meet with Assad on a peace proposal, which only told part of the story. In delivering only part of the message, Pelosi not only arrogated to herself the role of American foreign policy director — which Condoleezza Rice has as Secretary of State — she did the same with Israel’s foreign policy as well.
Not a bad night’s work for an incompetent.
When diplomats meet with enemies, they make sure to get their positions coordinated with their allies and execute strict message discipline. They do not “wing it” — they check with their elected governments when any questions arise about the directions of talks. Only someone with an ego in inverse proportion to her talent would start making stuff up as she goes when dealing with the Syrian-Israeli relationship, one of the most explosive in the world.