I don’t want to pick on Dan Balz for this report on the Nancy Pelosi-CIA follies, because in this case, he does his best to stay objective on a story where the obvious exceeds the limits of journalism. Balz does his best to stay within the non-judgmental vocabulary to describe Pelosi’s latest story on her complicity in the enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA, but how does one objectively describe how someone has taken their credibility onto a dais and beaten it to death with a microphone? Balz gives it the old college try:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s extraordinary accusation that the Bush administration lied to Congress about the use of harsh interrogation techniques dramatically raised the stakes in the growing debate over the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies even as it raised some questions about the speaker’s credibility.
Pelosi’s performance in the Capitol was either a calculated escalation of a long-running feud with the Bush administration or a reckless act by a politician whose word had been called into question. Perhaps it was both.
For the first time, Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that in 2003 she was informed by an aide that the CIA had told others in Congress that officials had used waterboarding during interrogations. But she insisted, contrary to CIA accounts, that she was not told about waterboarding during a September 2002 briefing by agency officials. Asked whether she was accusing the CIA of lying, she replied, “Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States.”
Balz waits until the end of the article to write what everyone already knows:
Pelosi is not out of the woods. She could have saved herself some trouble by admitting earlier that she had been informed that the CIA was using waterboarding. By doing what she did yesterday, she has assured that she will remain a central character in the political fight that is raging. But whether by design or accident, she also succeeded in enlarging a controversy that is no longer a sideshow.
In other words, Balz could easily have led with this: “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi threw gasoline on a fire yesterday and blamed George Bush for the fire damage.”
Dana Milbank has more fun with the story:
Nancy Pelosi is a woman of many talents. Yesterday, she performed the delicate art of backtracking while walking sideways.
The speaker of the House had just read a statement accusing the CIA of lying and was trying to beat a hasty retreat from her news conference before reporters could point out contradictions between her current position and her previous statements.
“Thank you!” an aide called out to signal an end to the session. Pelosi walked, sideways, away from the lectern and, still sidling in a sort of crab walk, was halfway to the door when a yell from CNN’s Dana Bash, rising above the rest of the shouting, froze her in the aisle. …
Over the next few minutes of shouted questions — “They lied to you? Were you justified? When were you first told? Did you protest? Why didn’t you tell us?” — the speaker attempted the crab-walk retreat again, returned to the lectern again and then finally skittered out of the room.
Milbank actually gets to the heart of Pelosi’s performance yesterday. She has created so many self-serving narratives on this topic that crab-walking is all she has left. Even Balz can’t help from pointing that out in the news report, and Milbank has a field day with it.
Will Democrats insist that she step down from the Speaker’s seat? Like Allahpundit, I’m not sure what Pelosi gets them in a Democratic administration, especially one that wants to pose as a post-partisan White House. Pelosi may be an attack dog, but they don’t need one any more, not with a 78-vote margin. Steny Hoyer would make a better Speaker for this period, one that has a track record of bipartisan engagement — and one that has his credibility intact. Had this never come up, no one would have thought replacing Pelosi worth the trouble, but she’s kneecapped herself and made it extraordinarily difficult for her party to press forward with a review of interrogations on their own terms.
I wouldn’t predict her ouster, but it wouldn’t surprise me, either.