House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's make-believe secretary of state routine in Syria has been painted by the press as a sign of emboldened Democrats taking on Team Bush's neocon bumblers. Chris Matthews echoed his colleagues' sentiments when he joyously declared Pelosi would "open the doors to peace."
It was, of course, an outrage, a direct slap at the president, an effort to humiliate him on the international stage. President Bush, Vice President Cheney and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett were quoted decrying Pelosi's diplomatic freelancing. Conservative talk radio was livid. But where, oh where, were the congressional Republicans?
More to the point, where is the GOP leadership? I haven't seen the polling data, but it would surprise me if one in 10 Americans could even name them, so absent are they from the scene. John Boehner and Roy Blunt lead the House; Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott lead the Senate. Other than an occasional spot on the Sunday talk shows, they might as well adorn milk cartons with most Americans.
Did the Republican leaders protest Pelosi's freelancing? There was no sign of it on ABC, CBS or NBC, or even in The Washington Post or The New York Times. OK, but perhaps that's because the networks are ignoring their blizzard of press releases, once more proving the bias of the press?
But in this case, no. A search for criticism of Pelosi's jaunt on the Websites of Boehner and Blunt turned up nothing. Ditto with the sites of McConnell and Lott. Even the conservative House Republican Study Committee's site carried nothing. The Republican National Committee had nothing on its Website other than a reprint of a Wall Street Journal editorial against Pelosi, under their feature "In Case You Missed It." It would be easy to miss it when there was close to zero GOP opposition to the Pelosi fracas on these sites. They were leaving the work to Team Bush and talk radio.
Brian Kennedy, John Boehner's press secretary, suggested that it's still early in the electoral cycle. "When he handed the gavel to Speaker Pelosi in January, Mr. Boehner stated his belief that Republicans could disagree without being disagreeable. And I don't think he felt the need to make repeated public remarks to state the obvious here, which is that Pelosi's trip was embarrassing and potentially dangerous." In other words, he passed the buck.