- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

As if getting on the CIA’s bad side were not worrisome enough, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi now finds she is as unpopular with the American public as the often-maligned former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney.

A Gallup Poll released Friday found that just 34 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the California lawmaker, compared with 37 percent who view Mr. Cheney favorably.

Both are viewed unfavorably by at least half of those polled, according to the survey, conducted May 29-31.

Except for the poor polling numbers, the two have little in common. Politically, Mrs. Pelosi is the liberal yinq to Mr. Cheney’s conservative yang.

Both Cheney and Pelosi are now positioned as highly polarizing figures on the political landscape, according to Gallup. Both are viewed favorably by the large majority of their own party members and unfavorably by most members of the opposing party.

The two have been linked in recent weeks by the sharp debate over the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects under President Bush.

Mr. Cheney has emerged as the chief defender of his former boss’ policy. Mrs. Pelosi condemned the methods as torture and possibly criminal, endorsing a truth commission to question Bush administration officials who authorized the program.

The speaker butted heads with the CIA over the issue last month when she said intelligence officials lied to her and other lawmakers about the use of the harsh interrogation methods, including a technique known as waterboarding that simulates drowning.

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta bluntly rejected Mrs. Pelosi’s charges in a letter to agency employees, instead urging them to ignore the noise and stay focused on your mission.

The speaker made the accusations while under fire for her shifting story on what CIA briefers told her in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks about the interrogation methods and when she learned about some of the more controversial techniques.

She has struggled to put the episode behind her, but Republicans continue to press the speaker to either back up her accusations or apologize.

A Pelosi spokesman dismissed the poll findings.

What’s important is results, [and] Congress is delivering, spokesman Drew Hammill said when asked about the poll.

The political attacks on the speaker over the past four months are nothing more than a diversion from the success we are delivering for America’s working families, he said. Congress is committed to dealing with the economic crisis by passing health care reform and clean-energy jobs legislation, while ensuring fiscal discipline and responsibility.

Mrs. Pelosi’s popularity is slipping, and the CIA flap likely hasn’t helped, according to Gallup.

Those viewing her unfavorably outnumber those who view her favorably by 16 percentage points 50 percent negative to 34 percent positive. Six months ago the division was nearly even at about 42 percent.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cheney is experiencing a popularity surge although, with a 54 percent unfavorable rating in the poll, he is still viewed more unfavorably than favorably by a margin of 17 percentage points.

In a Gallup poll in March, only 30 percent viewed him favorably and 63 percent unfavorably his worst ratings since he was nominated as Mr. Bush’s running mate in July 2000.

Pelosi has had a major, high-profile role in the legislative agenda of Congress all year, most notably with passage of Obama’s economic stimulus package in January, the pollsters said. However, the recent controversy over her possible knowledge of waterboarding and her claim that the CIA misled Congress about briefing her may have more to do with her depressed favorable ratings, which are down eight points since November.

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