Apr 6, 2007

Meant well? I don't think so

Claudia Rosett:
In visiting Syria this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi no doubt meant well. She wants dialogue. As a woman, mother, and now the third-highest-ranking elected official in American politics, she has achieved a great deal in life by talking with people. On this trip she made a point of showing how easy it is to interact with Syrians, with an itinerary that included a visit to a souk in Damascus - where she was photographed holding out her hand while a cheerful vendor gave her some nuts.
What a crock! Pelosi is a grown woman, a veteran member of Congress who knows that foreign policy is the province of the President. As such, she knew exactly what her trip meant: It meant she was shoving a sharp stick into the President's eye. It meant that she was legitimizing a dictatorial, terror-supporting state to score cheap political points against George W. Bush.

This search for a reason to justify Pelosi's behavior reminds one of the mental gymnastics I've seen people perform to mitigate Jimmy Carter's freelance diplomacy. He's a good man, they say, pointing to his work with Habitat for Humanity and his conspicuous church going. As it happens, Carter's most recent book and his petulant behavior since GWB took office pretty much puts paid to that notion, but his motives don't matter. Carter is a former President who knows better. He has no right to go jetting off to foreign capitals on unauthorized diplomatic junkets. He knows that such behavior undermines the president, whoever that may be, and damages America's reputation abroad.

The same goes for Nancy Pelosi. She isn't some naif who just landed in Congress; she was elected in 1987. She knows--or should know--how the Syrians operate.

The Assad regime knows a thing or two about manipulating world opinion at America's expense. Eleven years ago, Bashar Assad's father made a point of humiliating us by making Bill Clinton's Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, cool his heels for four hours before refusing to meet with him. There was widespread outrage about Christopher's servile kowtowing to Assad. But the GOP didn't send in its own diplomats to negotiate a ceasefire in Lebanon.

And that's how it should be.

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