- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2007

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi apparently is willing to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad, though Syria has supported terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah and allowed terrorists to cross the Syrian border with Iraq to attack U.S. troops. But until late last Wednesday, she would not accept an invitation from the president of the United States to discuss legislation to fund the Iraq war.

At a hometown press conference last Tuesday, Mrs. Pelosi explained: “What the president invited us to do is to come to his office so that we could accept, without any discussion, the bill that he wants. That’s not worthy of the concerns of the American people. And I join with Sen. [Harry] Reid [Nevada Democrat] in rejecting an invitation of that kind.”

If Mrs. Pelosi’s Tuesday logic — meet with Mr. Assad, but not Mr. Bush — doesn’t work for you, consider her spin on her recent trek to the Middle East. Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat and House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, joined Mrs. Pelosi at her press conference, crowing, “It was on a scale of 10, a 10, and the United States foreign policy was dramatically advanced by the speaker’s mission.”

Funny, when in Syria, Mrs. Pelosi said, “There is no division on policy between us and President Bush — be it on Israel, Palestine or Syria.”

Sooooooo: The Pelosi mission was a 10 out of 10 — because Mrs. Pelosi and company advanced Mr. Bush’s foreign policy? It helps if you forget that while in Israel, Mr. Lantos announced, “We have an alternative Democratic foreign policy.” And forget that the Bush policy is to not call on Mr. Assad. I don’t understand why Mrs. Pelosi can’t be honest about the fact she was deliberately undercutting Mr. Bush. Maybe the speaker was shaken by editorials that took her to task for overstepping her powers as she moonlights as a general and a diplomat.

The Washington Post chided Mrs. Pelosi for her “foolish shuttle diplomacy,” most notably her “ludicrous” assertion that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had asked her to deliver the message to Mr. Assad that “Israel was ready to engage in peace talks” with Syria. The Olmert government promptly issued a statement correcting Mrs. Pelosi — and the record.

The Post harrumphed over the speaker’s misstep — and her equally wrongheaded claim that Mr. Assad was ready to “resume the peace process” — thus: “Ms. Pelosi not only misrepresented Israel’s position but was virtually alone in failing to discern that Mr. Assad’s words were propaganda.”

While the Los Angeles Times editorial page opined that the Bushies’ criticism of the Pelosi trip was “off-base,” the Times, as well as The Post, has editorialized against the House bill that would tie war funding to a troop-withdrawal timetable. Under the headline, “Gen. Pelosi?” the Times criticized the Democratic House for trying to micromanage the war and tie the military’s hands.

Before November 2006, the Democrats could take unlimited potshots at Mr. Bush. Mrs. Pelosi is discovering, now that she is speaker, her rhetoric has consequences.

This is why the lame lament repeated by Mr. Lantos — that Republicans, including California Rep. Darrell Issa, also have gone to Syria — falls flat. Everyone knows a speaker’s words carry more weight than those of rank-and-file members. More to the point, inside the Beltway, it is bad form for the other party to undercut a sitting president outside American borders.

Sure, some of the criticism from the right has been cheap and low. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was wrong to fault Mrs. Pelosi, who has excellent manners, for wearing a head scarf.

But the speaker’s words bring into question whether she has the courage of her convictions. Mrs. Pelosi won’t be honest about undermining Mr. Bush abroad. After bashing Republicans for overspending, Team Pelosi larded the $124 billion supplemental war spending bill with $20 billion in pork.

Last Tuesday, Mrs. Pelosi lauded Mr. Lantos for his longstanding attempts to meet with the Holocaust-denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — but then she didn’t want to sit down with Mr. Bush. Later, she changed her mind.

On “60 Minutes” recently, Arizona’s Republican Sen. John McCain said, “I’d rather lose a campaign than lose a war.” Does anyone believe the same of Nancy Pelosi?

Debra J. Saunders is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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