The Wall Street Journal editorial page, with typical judiciousness, gets the Pelosi trip quite wrong. First, George Logan was not a member of the Congress when he made his “pacifist” trip to France. (He was elected to the Senate three years later, in 1801.) Second, Pelosi did not make the trip to negotiate with Assad, but to talk with him. Third, this is not a “wartime” situation–in fact, we continue to have diplomatic relations with Syria. Fourth, as others have noted, numerous Republican members of Congress have gone to speak with Assad. In fact, it was a Republican, Chris Shayes, who first told me that I should go over and interview Assad. Fifth, the media coverage of this on CNN and elsewhere has been abysmal. (Do you think CNN would repeatedly call itself the best political team on television if it actually was?)
Something about the utter absurdity of the press reaction to this trip seems to me to have really gotten to people. Time and CNN are, of course, part of the same company. And Washington Post op-ed columnist Eugene Robinson is here on Hardball rightly dissing the Post‘s inane Pelosi-bashing editorial. I mean, the WSJ editorial page is in the business of vicious smears, but the Post and CNN are really unusually off the rails here. On the other hand, the Post‘s been dabbling in neoconservatism for years now and CNN, too, decided a while back that it would rather be Fox-lite than a news channel.
What really baffled me is the pea-brained proceduralism of something like USA Today‘s editorial on the subject holding that Pelosi “violated a long-held understanding that the United States should speak with one official voice abroad — even if the country is deeply divided on foreign policy back home.” This rule has, simply put, never stood. Members of congress have always voiced their opinions on foreign policy questions. Foreigners have always listened more to the president since he has, you know, all this power. Worse: “smiling photos of Pelosi and the Syrian president convey the unspoken message that while the U.S. president is unwilling to talk with Syria, another wing of the government is.” This is nonsense on its face. The problem with Pelosi’s decision to talk to Assad was that it sent the message that Pelosi is willing to talk to Assad? They even go on to agree with Pelosi on the merits that Bush’s Syria-freeze policy is stupid. So what’s the problem?
It’s as if they think that maybe if we all close our eyes and just believe hard enough, Bush will suddenly become a non-terrible president and so there’s no need to actually challenge his policies and doing things that puncture the bubble of faith are positively harmful.