Let's summarize the situation: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was embarrassed by Dana Bash of CNN; was teased by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post; was taken to task by Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal; and, was called a liar by CIA director Leon Panetta.
How's that for about five days in the life of the Speaker?
This whole thing started when Barack Obama, in a fit of childish pique, decided to stick it to Dick Cheney after Cheney said he thought the nation was less safe under Obama than it had been under former President George W. Bush.
Obama released a series of memos detailing the legal authority for the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" to, literally, squeeze information out of terrorists about their plans to attack America.
That fell under the Law of Unintended Consequences which was invoked after Congressional Democrats called for the establishment of an Orwellian-named "Truth Commission" to find out who, in the Bush Administration, should be arrested, indicted, tried and thrown in jail for … keeping America safe since 9/11.
Caught in the backwash was Nancy Pelosi who used to be the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and who claimed she didn't know nothin' about no enhanced interrogation techniques notwithstanding the fact that the CIA said it had briefed the top Intel Committee members on the whole thing back in September of 2002.
Following a long-established tactic of answering a question which was never asked, Pelosi claimed the CIA had lied to the Congress about using the enhanced techniques - not that she was unaware of the potential of using them.
In a press briefing late last week, Pelosi tried to gloss over the whole thing, but was called back to the podium by CNN's senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash and asked, point-blank whether she had been told about the CIA's activities.The scene was described - not by CNN - but by the Washington Post's Dana Milbank (no relation):
The speaker of the House had just read a statement accusing the CIA of lying and was trying to beat a hasty retreat from her news conference before reporters could point out contradictions between her current position and her previous statements.
"Madam Speaker!" [Bash] called out. "I think there's one other question that I would like to ask, if that's okay."
"We were all clearly trying to get at the broader question of whether you knew about waterboarding at all," Bash said. "And the idea that we got from you was that you were never told that waterboarding was being used. But now we know that later, in February, you were told."
That last line has to do with the fact that Pelosi's aide on Intel was also briefed and said that he had told his boss about the waterboarding. She tried to maintain that telling an aide was not the same thing as telling her and so she couldn't have known what she didn't know.
I have been an aide to senior House officials. If I had told, say, Newt Gingrich, about something I had been briefed on and he (a) didn't believe me, or (b) discounted what I'd told him because he didn't think my telling him counted … I would have quit.
By taking the lead on this issue, and identifying the CIA as her opponent, she is reinforcing the stereotype of her that Republicans want to keep alive. The image they want to present of Ms. Pelosi, of course, is that she is an unadulterated "San Francisco liberal."
And, finally, came Leon Panetta. Former Democratic Member of Congress. Former White House Chief of Staff under Bill Clinton. Now, CIA Director.
He wrote a memo to the CIA staff which pretty clearly states that either Pelosi was taking a little beauty nap during the briefing in question or she is being less than truthful:
Our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing the enhanced techniques [waterboarding] that had been employed.
Leon Panetta is not a holdover from the Bush Administration. He was appointed by Barack Obama. He is a Democrat. He is a Californian. He has called the Speaker of the House (also a Democrat from California) a liar.
Pelosi v the CIA. Who do you think is going to win this one?