At this moment, the Reid-Pelosi flanking maneuver is brilliant and powerful. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves aggressively to turn around the military escalation, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moves aggressively to support Middle East peace initiatives.
Lets begin with one key point. When George Bush said yesterday that he decided to surge the troops and escalate in Iraq at the request of American commanders, he was telling a bald-faced lie.
No more niceties. This is so fundamental and important, with so many American lives at stake, that we should be crystal-clear about the truth.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff overwhelmingly advised against the surge while Bush was making the decision. The commanders in Iraq similarly, overwhelmingly, advised against the surge when Bush was making the decision. This is a matter of indisputable public record and any assertion to the contrary is a proven lie.
After Bush disrespected and overruled the overwhelming advice of the Chiefs and of the Iraq commanders, and did the surge they pleaded with him not to do, he found a new commander. He also, by the way, ignored and disrespected the advice of Republican leaders such as Sen. John Warner (Va.) and countless Senate GOPers.
When the president claims, falsely, that he decided to surge based on the requests of commanders, who in truth pleaded against the surge, there is a delusional and dishonest quality to this, which is extremely dangerous and symptomatic of what has gone wrong.
It is sad to see Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), with his famous walk in Baghdad, look equally delusional and disingenuous.
The state of play today is that Harry Reid moves boldly against the military escalation while Nancy Pelosi moves boldly in favor of the diplomatic option. In essence Bush is flanked, which explains much of his recent anger.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are home hearing the riot act from voters. When close to 70 percent of Americans want major change in the policy, when Bush attacks Democrats in demeaning terms, he is also attacking a large majority of the American people, who agree with the Democrats.
Regarding Syria, I have long argued that a diplomatic move is the potential game-changer. A deal with Syria offers potential benefits to Israel, to America in Iraq, to Lebanon and to broader Middle East progress while also isolating Iran and creating pressure on that country to make concessions.
Jim Baker has been very visible and aggressive arguing in favor of a mega-diplomatic move with Syria. It is no gimme; it would take hard and tough negotiations, with no downside for trying and huge upside for success.
Regarding the Pelosi trip, I’ve done a number of these congressional trips working for the Democratic leadership, in my case during a Republican presidency, in my case: Reagan’s.
I would predict that when all is said and done, it will be seen that the Pelosi trip supported American goals, and Israeli goals, and is most likely in line with the private thinking of the secretaries of State and Defense. (Though this is speculaton based on experience.)
As both Sen. Reid and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), among others, have said: The president is not a king. America tried that before, and we didn’t like it. Congress is a co-equal branch of government; the Senate has a major constitutional role in foreign affairs; and the Speaker of the House is challenging the Syrians to do what the Bush administration, Israel and the entire free world has called on them to do.
I predict that before the rooster crows 60 times, our president and secretary of state will be sounding and acting like the Speaker today.