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I am a grouchy, bald headed old fart filled with opinions and not the least bit shy about sharing them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Political suicide on live TV

Tallahassee, FL - Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) held a press conference Thursday. The majority of the press conference centered around whether or not Speaker Pelosi was briefed on enhanced interrogation methods (waterboarding) used on terrorists. As luck would have it, I got to watch the entire presser live.

The Speaker spoke from a written statement. In fact, at one point during questions from the press this exchange took place:

Q: If I may, you said that Mr. Sheehy did tell you, that your staff did tell you.

Speaker Pelosi. He informed me that the briefing had taken place. We were not in a place where he could -- that was all that he was required to do. We were not in a setting, we weren't -- I mean, I was no longer the Ranking Member of Intelligence. He just informed me

Q: But he did tell you?

Speaker Pelosi....that the letter was sent. That is the proper person to send the letter, the Ranking Member of the Intelligence Committee. So my statement is clear, and let me read it again. Let me read it again:

I was informed that the Department of Justice's opinions had concluded that the use of enhanced interrogations was legal. The only mention of waterboarding in the briefing was that it was not being employed. When my staff person -- I'm sorry. The pages are out of order.

The Chicago Sun-Times

It strikes me as odd that The Speaker needed to go back to her written statement to see exactly who briefed her and what they briefed her on. It strikes me that this matter is so near and dear to her heart and her political survival, she would be very clear on who, what, when, where and how by this point in the process.

But The Speaker's story is that she did not know and she is sticking to it. In fact she is so determined to stick to that she uttered these words.

That's right. We were told -- in the briefing that I received, we were told that they had legal opinions that this was legal. We were not told that it was -- that there were other legal opinions to the contrary in the Administration, and we were told specifically that waterboarding was not being used.

When my assistant told me that the committee had been briefed -- now, I'm not on that committee anymore, I'm now out of it. We have a new -- that that Ranking Member wrote the appropriate letter to protest that. And then we find out, just slightly more subsequent to that, that perhaps they were using waterboarding long before.

The point is I wasn't briefed. I was informed that someone else had been briefed about it. I'm only speaking from -- I'm only speaking from my own experience. And we were told that it was not being used. Subsequently, the other members of the committee were informed.

The Chicago Sun-Times

That was followed up with the question, "And so were you?"

She answered in part, "No, I wasn't. I was informed that a briefing had taken place. Now, you have to look at what they briefed those Members. I was not briefed that. I was only informed that they were briefed, but I did not get the briefing."

Can't you just hear echoes of President Clinton saying, "I did not have sex with that woman" in those words?

The best part of the press conference has to be this exchange:

Q: Madam Speaker, just to be clear, you are accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002?

Speaker Pelosi. Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States. Misleading the Congress of the United States.

The Chicago Sun-Times

Madam Speaker, that is one very powerful statement. As of that statement she picked a fight she simply cannot win. For one thing we already have a pretty good ides that Rep. Pelosi was thoroughly briefed on what we were doing and who we were doing it back in 2002.

The Speaker seems to have forgotten that she is dealing with an agency that probably knows more about her then she does. There is one thing the Speaker's words do guarantee though. Those briefing memos are going to leak and fast. We are talking a screen door on a submarine here. I am willing to bet there are reporters and producers doing background and fact checking on information from CIA sources as I write this.

I recommend going to The Chicago Sun-Times and reading the entire transcript. It is very enlightening. In fact, it would be fun to have a contest to see who can spot the most number of times she contradicts herself just within the context of this press conference. The transcript does not do justice to the real thing. Before it was over, she was visibly shaken.

Even The Speaker's staff knew she was digging a political hole. Several times before The Speaker actually ended her duel with reporters, you could hear staffers loudly saying "thank you" which is press conference code for "we're done here."

Next week is going to be very interesting news week.

- 30 -

“Nancy Pelosi has more integrity in her pinky than Karl Rove and Dick Cheney possess in their entire body,”
- House Democratic Caucus Chairman, Rep. John Larson (D-CT)

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