Thursday, May 11, 2006

# Posted 12:22 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

PELOSI, THE RE-FISKING: The defenders of the Future Speaker of the House say that I wronged her by selectively quoting from her interview with Tim Russert, specifically with regard to her position on Iraq. You can read their criticism in greater detail below.

In this post, I attempt to clear my good name and once again besmirch that of the Future Speaker. So let's begin by completing the quotation from which I am alleged to have selectively quoted. Here's the excerpt from my original post:
MR. RUSSERT: I saw in the USA Today in December of ‘05 this story, and I’ll read it to you and our viewers. “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi switched gears and embraced a call to begin an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq,” which is quite striking, because in May of 2004 you were on this program, and I asked you specifically, “Should there be withdrawal of U.S. troops by a date certain,” and this is exactly what you said. Let’s watch.

(Videotape, May 30, 2004): REP. PELOSI: No. I do not. I believe that because of the mess that has been made in Iraq we have to stay to stabilize Iraq. We have to secure the situation, because now, although it wasn’t the case before the war, now it has become a hotbed of terrorist activity.(End videotape)...

MR. RUSSERT: But you said that, in ‘04, that you were concerned about stabilizing Iraq, securing Iraq, that it has become a hotbed of terrorism activity. Has anything changed?


MR. RUSSERT: Do you think it’s secure? Do you think it’s stable?


MR. RUSSERT: Do you think it’s a hotbed for—of...


MR. RUSSERT: Then why would you withdraw troops?
So, how did the Future Speaker answer that question? Well, before letting you know, we actually have to backtrack for a moment. You may have noticed above that there is an ellipsis after the words "(End videotape)". Here's what I cut out:
MR. RUSSERT: Why have you changed your view [about withrdrawing US troops from Iraq]?

REP. PELOSI: Well, that was a year and a half later by the time I said what I said, and it was on the basis of some very expert advice. As you know, Congressman Jack Murtha has 35 years of experience in protecting our men and women in uniform and being a champion for our national security. I believe that we need a better plan. Our troops—let’s—I was just in the Persian Gulf. Every chance I get I want to praise them for their valor, their patriotism and the sacrifice they’re willing to make. They’ve done their job. But the plan—they deserve a better plan getting out of Iraq than the president, than the president gave them going in.

MR. RUSSERT: But Congress...

REP. PELOSI: But my—but what I called for there was not an immediate withdrawal. That’s how they characterized it. What I did was to support what Mr. Murtha was saying, which was a responsible redeployment of troops over the horizon to protect our interests in case we were threatened by terrorism or our interests were threatened in the region. The characterization of it was more of an immediate withdrawal than the actual proposal was.

MR. RUSSERT: Well, are you for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq with—by the end of the year?

REP. PELOSI: I—what our Democratic position is, and our real security agenda is, that 2006 must be a year of significant transition in Iraq. It’s time for the Iraqi people to take responsibility for their government and for their security. And again, that we must have a plan that is worthy of these troops and their sacrifice and the sacrifice of the American people.
Pelosi's defense of her changing positions rests on two pillars. First of all, eighteen months had passed, so presumably, the situation on the ground had changed. Second, she received expert advice.

Let's tackle the second point first. As Mark Kilmer tartly observed, the only expert Pelosi cited was Jack Murtha. Murtha certainly cares a lot about the troops, but logic and facts aren't his strong point. And if politicians count as experts, maybe Pelosi should've cited Joe Biden and Barack Obama, who still insist we have both an obligation and an interest in stabilizing Iraq.

Now what about those eighteen months? Pelosi never explained why they changed her mind. Was it three elections held in Iraq, each with greater participation and less violence? Was it the beginning of an effective program to build an Iraqi military? Or was it the suicide bombings and slaughter of civilians, which were fully on display before May 2004, when Pelosi said she was against a withdrawal.

Anyhow, Russert understood the logic of Pelosi's answer and stayed on point. He wanted to know what changed between May 2004 and December 2005. His cross-examination hit the nail precisely on the head:
MR. RUSSERT: But you said that, in ‘04, that you were concerned about stabilizing Iraq, securing Iraq, that it has become a hotbed of terrorism activity. Has anything changed?


MR. RUSSERT: Do you think it’s secure? Do you think it’s stable?


MR. RUSSERT: Do you think it’s a hotbed for—of...


MR. RUSSERT: Then why would you withdraw troops?
Now, finally, we get to the point where I cut off the quotation in a manner supposedly unfair to Pelosi. Here's what she said:
REP. PELOSI: Because it’s not a—yes, I would withdraw them because, on the strength of expert advice, and now you see the generals speaking out on this, that—so much time went by, there was a year and a half between those two statements, and what we had—still had not seen was a plan on the part of the president. The president continued to dig a hole in Iraq, he refuses to come out of there and see the daylight and know there, there’s change. There are only two courses of action in Iraq: the president’s to stay the course and let some other president sweep up after him, or what the Democrats are saying, 2006 must be a year of significant transition in Iraq with the Iraqis taking responsibility.
Once again we hear about expert advice, sans Murtha. And we hear about the retired generals who have criticized Rumsfeld rather harshly. Here's what one of them, Gen. John Batiste, had to say about withdrawal from Iraq:
We must complete what we started in Iraq, and there is no doubt in my mind that we have the military capacity to do that, provided the political will is there. Our success in Iraq is due to the incredible performance of our servicemen and women.
I'm glad to see Pelosi was listening so closely. Not all the generals share Batiste's position on this one, but they are mostly a whole lot closer to George W. Bush than they are to Nancy Pelosi.

Moving on, Pelosi says the President has continued to dig a hole. Not an untenable argument, even if it would be nice to hear Pelosi acknowledge the elections, etc. But really, Pelosi is somewhat off point. She has already admitted that Iraq is still an unstable hotbed of terrorism. Even if Bush and Rumsfeld aren't handling the situation well, should America let the terrorists have their way? Shouldn't the Future Speaker advance a plan for victory instead of a plan for retreat?

Hence Pelosi's insistence that 2006 must be a "year of significant transition". What an empty and disingenuous phrase. Its basic purpose is to hide from the public the total disunity of the Democratic party on Iraq. But Russert saw right through that one. Here's his response to Pelosi:
MR. RUSSERT: Well, some Democrats, the number two Democrat in the House, in the House, Steny Hoyer, says this, “I believe that a precipitous withdrawal of American forces in Iraq could lead to disaster, spawning a civil war, fostering a haven for terrorists and damaging our nation’s security and credibility.” That sounds like Nancy Pelosi in May of ‘04.

REP. PELOSI: Well, you’re—you know, it’s about time, it’s about time. Steny said that six, eight months ago. Now all Democrats are united, House and Senate, around the principle of significant transition in 2006.
Well, Steny Hoyer must be more than twice as smart as Nancy Pelosi if he needs only eight months to change his mind as opposed to eighteen. And eight months ago? That was a little bit before Iraq's most inclusive and peaceful election, which has now resulted in the formation of a government, albeit of questionable competence and stability. Heck, why not pull out before that government has a chance to tackle the insurgency?

Oh, and as for the supposed unity of the Democrats, it would be hard for Pelosi to sound more hackish and pathetic. Even if Hoyer has come around, others like Biden and Obama (mentioned above) have not. I guess none of the pols from either party really admit this kind of thing in public, but Pelosi did an especially poor job of pretending to believe herself.

I'll leave at that for the moment, even though there was a bit more to the exchange about Iraq. In fact, Pelosi even made a few more gaffes. But I'm going to save them for later, for after the defenders of the Future Speaker have their chance to explain in the comment section why Pelosi did better than I give her credit for.
(7) opinions -- Add your opinion

This isn't the first time Pelosi has claimed to speak for all Democrats on Iraq. She said a few months ago that all Democrats favored withdrawal.
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she doesn't speak for me.
On reason to reconsider one's views on Iraq are the posts by Iraqi bloggers in the past year.

And the lack of a government. And the spiral into what Michael Yon, that crazy leftist, calls "civil war."

That sort of thing.
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