The Corner

Why Nancy Will Get Away with It

The Editors summarize neatly what the issues are with Nancy Pelosi’s implausible denials that she signed off on waterboarding in 2002. You know what? She doesn’t have a leg to stand on. It is entirely clear from the statements of the honorable Porter Goss, and the timeline of briefings and events, that she knew what was going on, and didn’t object. And yet, while she looks a little haggard, she isn’t sweating.  

Considering just how serious, awful, and immoral her base — as well as much of the media, new and old — thinks it is to waterboard major terrorists who possess timely information, you’d expect consequences. My bet: There won’t be any. None. In fact, the whole vastly overwrought debate on the proper uses of torture, a subject that no one with the power to actually sign off on ever speaks honestly about in public, will now subside. For this relief, much thanks.

Even as Nancy and her staff cast about for a “narrative” that will exonerate her from complicity with the worst of the hated Bush’s “torture” policies, the only people who are really worked up about this are right-wing pundits. They (we) are rightly appalled at how unserious our national politics have become when a major campaign issue — one which touches on serious matters of law and morality, which only days ago had morphed into a threat to prosecute Bush administration officials, turns out to have been just a political ploy. We are shocked, more fool us, that noting Pelosi’s stunning hypocrisy is a meaningless charge. How do we know this? Because Nancy Pelosi will pay no penalty for supporting waterboarding. The national media will not bang the drums incessantly until the cacophony is painful to hear, demanding her resignation. Her party will do nothing to censure her.

And why should they? For one thing, no one, not even die-hard liberals, thinks that Madame Speaker is anything but a hack. She is unabashedly unintelligent; she loves the trappings of power and the spotlight; she has no shame whatsoever; and she has a canny sense of how to get her people elected. What Democrat will mess with a brilliant, unthreatening formula like that? Not the president — who might find himself with someone smarter or more ambitious, who could be a threat to his policy ambitions. Not the far left, which understands perfectly well the value of the majority she assembled and holds. For that matter, it’s an open question whether the seriously far left does object to torture on moral grounds — or whether they merely found the still-explosive charge tactically useful. (We can all assume that our favorite centrist bloggers who so deeply and earnestly abjure the practice of any rough interrogation method, no matter what the threat, really do think what they say they think. Not that what they think matters.)

The American people won’t waste much time on this revelation either. They, in their wisdom, long ago concluded that yes, waterboarding is torture. And yes, they are for using it against terrorists when American lives are on the line. Just as the CIA so sparingly did. Safety before moral preening is a pretty solid position for the citizenry to take.

In fact, were it not for the requirements of the stylized political-party warfare of our time, a majority of sensible conservatives would admit that they breathe easier knowing that, irresponsible as she so often is, still Speaker Pelosi supported enhanced interrogation methods when she thought they were necessary to keep us safe. In the end, it is a relief to know that, no matter how nastily and unfairly she was willing to attack George Bush for his policies, she has enough love and loyalty for the American people so as not to interfere with the efforts of those who kept us safe. For Pelosi, it was far better to do the right thing and deny it than to do the wrong thing and boast about it. Even if it does make her supporters look like fools.

The question to lose sleep over is, ‘Would Barack Obama have done the same?”


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