Pelosi’s sure in hot water

Published 1:02 am Saturday, May 16, 2009

There is a saying that goes, “Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it.” That might be exactly what is going to happen to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the coming months.

Earlier this year, the Obama administration made the decision to release memos detailing the “enhanced interrogation techniques” the U.S. had used in the past to try and obtain information from unrepentant terror suspects. Among these techniques – which some have labeled as torture – is one called “waterboarding,” a form of simulated drowning.

The release of these memos certainly seems to cast the previous Bush Administration in a negative light, but it may actually backfire on Pelosi and the Democrats, if it hasn’t backfired already.

The problem arises when you try to determine just how much Pelosi knew about waterboarding. In April, Pelosi made a statement saying that she nothing at all about waterboarding or other techniques. Earlier this week, Pelosi instead stated that she did attend a 2002 briefing on waterboarding, when she was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. However, she said at that briefing she was only told that these techniques may be used in the future.

The problem for Pelosi is that she is one of the highest ranking members of the Democratic Party. This is a party that includes a base of voters who believe that torture is intrinsically wrong, and that Bush should be tried for war crimes and violating the Constitution. If it is discovered that Pelosi knew just as much about waterboarding as Bush, then it would seem that she too should be held just as responsible.

It is not surprising, then, that Pelosi would come out and say that she knew about waterboarding but did not know the U.S. was actually using it. It seems to allow her to “wash her hands” of the whole controversy.

However, this answer opens up yet another can of worms for Pelosi. It seems fair to then ask, “Well, Madame Speaker, why didn’t you stand up in the middle of those briefings, put your foot down and say, ‘No, absolutely not. The U.S. will not participate in any torture under any circumstances.’”

Pelosi’s willingness to stay silent during the briefings can certainly be seen as a subtle endorsement of waterboarding. The base of her party should then send just as much vitriol toward Pelosi as it has sent toward the “war-mongering” Bush.

In fact, there is already a considerable number of voters – both on the Right and the Left – who are calling for Pelosi to resign her position as House Speaker, because of this controversy.

The release of these memos might eventually do more harm to Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party, rather than President Bush and the Republicans. Now that’s irony you can believe in.