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Mark Steyn: Nancy Pelosi is to Dick Cheney as Barack Obama is to Carrie Prejean

Thursday, May 14, 2009

HH: Because it is Thursday and we are lucky, we begin with Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at Mark, an amazing press conference today by the Speaker of the House, who apparently is not opposed to waterboarding, depending upon what year you talk to her in.

MS: Yes, it’s interesting to me the evolving defense mounted by Mrs. Pelosi. She’s effectively digging down, I think, here, and absolutely denying what would seem to be the version of events recounted by the CIA and other parties that she was aware not only, had been informed not only that waterboarding might be used, that waterboarding was one of the options, but that it was being used. And I think, I don’t think anyone’s going to succeed in bouncing Nancy Pelosi out of public life out of this. The Democrats are simply not that kind of a party. They’ll swallow any kind of shame or embarrassment. But I certainly think it will complicate their efforts and enthusiasm for destroying the careers of Bush administration officials.

HH: Let’s give a listen to one of the more tortured Q & A’s from today’s press conference given by Speaker Pelosi. Play it, Duane.

Reporter: Madame Speaker, just to be clear, you’re accusing the CIA of lying to you in September of 2002.

NP: Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.

Reporter: And also…

NP: Misleading the Congress of the United States. I am.

Reporter: And doing it again now as they’ve released this list of briefings that says you were briefed on the interrogation tactics that were used.

NP: I’m saying, I’m quoting what the head of the CIA said. This is, we don’t know if this information is accurate that he’s talking about. What they briefed us on, and perhaps they should release the briefings. I would be very happy if they would release the briefings, and then you will see what they briefed in one time, at one time and another, House and Senate and the rest, and perhaps with the intense interest that this has generated because of the distraction that the Republicans want to cause with this, then you can make a judgment yourself about what you think these briefings were. But I’m telling you that they talked about interrogations that they had done, and said we want to use enhanced techniques, and we have legal opinions that say that they are okay. We are not using waterboarding. That’s the only mention, that they were not using it. And we now know that earlier they were. So yes, I am saying that they are misleading, the CIA was misleading the Congress. And at the same time, the administration was misleading the Congress on the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

HH: Now Mark Steyn, I love the dog whistle there at the end that only the left can hear, remember the WMD…

MS: Right.

HH: But it’s not that hard to say I wasn’t briefed or I was briefed. But she can’t seem to give a straight answer here.

MS: No, and I think also, don’t forget she’s picking a fight now with the CIA. She’s accusing them of lying. And at the back of her mind, she’s thinking, she has to be trying to figure out well, what records do they actually have of this? What recordings of what was said at these meetings do they have? Now if this was the CIA of the, of your usual Hollywood conspiracy thriller, they would have a bug that they’d implanted in her garter belt in 1996, and so they’d know full well what had been said at all times. But even if one takes the view that the CIA is not the all-powerful spook agency in movie thrillers, it’s likely just to protect themselves here that they will have a much more detailed account of what they told these Congressmen than these Congressmen’s recollection is of what they were told. And also, there is some room for confusion here in that she claims, she subsequently claimed that she heard about waterboarding from fellow legislators. At some point, she’ll be asked who they were, and the bet has to be that they are Democrats. I mean, this is an inconsistent story. As you say, she can’t give the yes or no clear answer on it. And the minute it gets more complicated than that, then essentially, I think the idea of hounding good people out of public life from the Bush administration, I think that’s just going to get too complicated for them.

HH: Yeah, she may be calling for a truth commission, but she doesn’t want to call for a grand jury, because you don’t get to dissemble in front of a grand jury. You get asked a series of questions which are yes or no questions, and pretty soon you’re perjuring yourself. But Mark, what I’m curious about is what do you think the left, I genuinely have no idea, what the anti-torture hysterical left is going to do with this, because obviously, if Dick Cheney’s got to go in the dock, and the lawyers in the Department of Justice who are parsing treaty language have got to go to jail, then Nancy Pelosi is an accomplice to torture, and how can she be Speaker?

MS: Well, I would say that they would look on it this way, that if you were to make the comparison with the Miss USA gay marriage flap, that in this instance, not to get too lurid, Dick Cheney is Carrie Prejean, and Nancy Pelosi is Barack Obama. In other words, Carrie Prejean and Barack Obama both have exactly the same position on gay marriage, but the left knows that Barack Obama doesn’t mean it, so they don’t mind. He’s just doing what was politically necessary, politically expedient. Now I think the left, which is disciplined in partisan terms, will conclude that yes, it’s likely that Nancy Pelosi signed off on this torture in 2002, but as Dianne Feinstein said, you’ve got to remember the different, there was a lot of hysteria around, it was a different time, politicians were looking to cover themselves. They know, in effect, that like Barack Obama on gay marriage, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t mean it, whereas Dick Cheney is like Carrie Prejean, he is sincerely in favor of the statements he’s made.

HH: I think that must be it, plus the idea that no one had told Nancy Pelosi she was supposed to be against it at the time, so they’re going to give her a pass for that as well. This brings me to Maureen Dowd, and one of the most amazing paragraphs I’ve ever read, Mark Steyn. Yesterday in her New York Times column, she wrote about Dick Cheney that, “He has no coherent foreign policy viewpoint. He still doesn’t fathom that his brutish invasion of Iraq unbalanced that part of the world, empowered Iran, and was a force multiplier for Muslims who hate America. He,” meaning Cheney, “left our ports unsecured, our food supply unsafe, the Taliban rising and Osama on the loose. No matter if or when terrorists attack here, and they’re on their own timetable, not a partisan, red/blue state timetable, Cheney will be deemed the primary one who made America more vulnerable.” That is an astonishing statement, Mark Steyn.

MS: Yeah, I don’t read Maureen Dowd, and when I used to, I liked her because she would write about Clinton’s sex life framed in terms of the movie There’s Something About Mary or whatever. So she’s fine for doing cheap knockabouts framed in pop culture terms. I like to do a bit of that myself. I can respect her as one to another on that front. But I do not take her seriously on anything other than that. And I think this is completely preposterous, but also it gives an indication of how people think. And I would imagine that in the event of a terrorist attack on the U.S. mainland, which God forbid there won’t be, but in the event that thee was, I think you would certainly see a sustained attempt to say that this is some kind of blowback for the Bush-Cheney years. So in that sense, I think she’s, she’s getting her trial balloon up in the air, but that is going to be a pretty common thesis in the event that it actually happens.

HH: Well, that’s what…it’s sort of an admission against interest combined with an anticipatory defense of whose…Obama’s not responsible for anything that happens to us. When she writes no matter if or when terrorists attack here…

MS: Yeah.

HH: That could be like 2020, and it’s still going to be Dick Cheney’s fault.

MS: Yes, and in fact, I would actually, I will also actually add that when she talks about his lack of a compelling worldview or whatever it is, that I would say that that is actually the one thing that the Vice President can’t be accused of. I found that both he and the people around him thought very seriously, not just in the sort of real politick chessboard maneuver way, but about the real long terms trends and issues going on in the world. And I think that actually, you’d be far easier making that case against the present Vice President who doesn’t…

HH: Yes…

MS: …who doesn’t seem to even have a…when he issues a definitive pronouncement on not using public transportation or whatever, it usually has to be withdrawn by a spokesperson for the administration twenty minutes later. The idea that somehow Cheney is not a serious thinker, you only have to look at his successor to put that one aside.

HH: We’ve got a minute left. I think Cheney’s taking the Churchill in the 30s role, and I think he’s being met with exactly the same kind of robust dismissiveness and scorn that Churchill was met with in the 30s. Am I overreaching for a comparison, Mark Steyn?

MS: No, I think you’re not. I mean, I think the President, President Bush, has concluded, if you look at the remarks he makes when he’s giving speeches in foreign countries, in contrast to Obama blaming everything on Bush, Bush speaks very warmly about Obama, wishes him well, and generally speaking, says nothing controversial about him. I think Cheney has real concerns, not about stuff he did in 2002 or 2003, but I think he has real concerns about the way the rest of the world is concluding very rapidly that Obama is simply not interested. We’re moving into the post-American era, the post-American era.

HH: It is very troubling. Mark Steyn, always a pleasure,

End of interview.

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