House Speaker Nancy Pelosi provided a good example yesterday why members of Congress should not attempt to "help out" the Secretary of State when traveling abroad.
After a meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in Damascus,Pelosi announced that she had delivered a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that "Israel was ready to engage in peace talks" with Syria. She added that Mr. Assad was ready to "resume the peace process" as well.
The problem: The Israeli prime minister said no such thing. In fact, Mr. Olmert told Ms. Pelosi that "a number of Senate and House members who recently visited Damascus received the impression that despite the declarations of Bashar Assad, there is no change in the position of his country regarding a possible peace process with Israel." Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel's position but was virtually alone in failing to realize that Assad's statements were propaganda. Mr. Olmert specifically told Pelosi that he thought her trip to Damascus was a mistake. Apparently, Pelosi, who seems to think she's "on a roll", didn't get the message.
President Bush criticized Pelosi for visiting Damascus at a time when the administration has frozen high-level contacts with Syria. Bush said that thanks to the Speaker's "freelancing" Assad was getting mixed signals from the United States. Ms. Pelosi responded by pointing out that Republican congressmen had visited Syria without drawing presidential censure. That's fine, but those other congressmen didn't try to introduce a new U.S. diplomatic initiative in the Middle East. And - they're not the Speaker of the House.
The real issue here is the attempt by a congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting president. The party involved (Democrat, Republican) is not germane to the issue. Two weeks ago Pelosi rammed legislation through that would strip Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she wants to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president.
Now Sen. Harry Reid, along with other Democrat leaders, is threatening to introduce a bill that would completely defund our troops by March 2008. This is in direct contradiction to Reid's statement of November 2006, when he firmly stated: "We're not going to do anything to limit funding [for our troops] or cut off funds!"
It's bad enough that we've got a real "loose-cannon" hot-shot for Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House presides over the House of Representatives, that is all they are supposed to do. The office is not Secretary of State, it's not the Cabinet, and it certainly isn't the Oval Office. But now Ms. Pelosi has also demonstrated that she is a fool. Let Secretary Rice handle this. She's probably fuming, since she's been remarkably quiet about the whole thing.