Howard Kurtz rounds up the latest on Speaker Pelosi’s request for airlift.
The Washington Times broke what seemed a legitimate story: The Pentagon has limited the size of the military planes that the House speaker can use to fly home to California.
Did you know she was entitled to a military plane? Neither did I. But under legislation passed after 9/11, it’s legally mandated for security reasons. Dennis Hastert had such special transport for five years.
Nancy Pelosi asked for a bigger (and far more expensive) plane because the one she was using couldn’t make it to the West Coast without a refueling stop. Hastert didn’t have that problem getting to Illinois.
Pelosi may be right on the substance, but the symbolism is awful. She insists she didn’t ask for the plane, but if a military flight is needed, she wants a nonstop to San Francisco. The average voter will be left wth an image of her flying around on a jumbo jet in the lap of luxury.
She’s not even right on the substance–why does landing on a military base to refuel a military plane constitute enough of a security risk to justify a bigger and far more expensive plane? And as is typical of elites like Pelosi, once she feels a hundredth of the heat she regularly pours on her opponents, she blames the little guy:
Pelosi has gone on the offensive, saying that Pentagon officials leaked the dispute for partisan reasons and that the negotiating was done not by her but by the House sergeant-at-arms.
On whose behalf was the sergeant-at-arms acting? I doubt he just decided to waltz over to the Pentagon and request non-stop air travel for the Speaker.
Now, how important a story is all this? Well, it depends on what she actually asked for. If she asked for the C-37 and that her family plus the entire California congressional delegation be able to use the plane any old time they want, that’s extravagant and arrogant and deserves criticism. If she’s really “happy to fly commercial” then the story may have taken taken an unfair turn.
When you have Jack Murtha out there issuing threats to the Pentagon over this, and Murtha is as all of Washington knows one of Pelosi’s closest confidantes, then there’s probably more to the extravagance angle than Pelosi would like publicly known. She and Murtha may be playing a sort of good cop/bad cop routine.
And what’s with the outrage over the Pentagon leaking details of this silly story, if that’s even what happened? Pelosi is quoted a couple of times saying that that’s what happened, but she hasn’t offered any proof that I’ve seen. And I don’t recall Pelosi or indeed any other Democrat generating much huff when the NY Times has published leak after leak on the way to destroying useful anti-terrorist programs. But they’re all mad as hatters over the Air Pelosi leaks, which have zero national security implications?
Pelosi may be getting a (slightly) bum rap in all of this, but it’s hard to generate much sympathy at this point. She’s been smearing Republicans for years and undermining support for the war since assuming the minority leader post in the House (and her daughter just produced a crockumentary that amounts to a smear of Southern evangelicals, a strong hint of where Pelosi herself is with respect to conservative Christians and Southerners, the latter of whom form a disproportionately large number of the all-volunteer armed forces). The Speaker just came back from a “fact finding” junket to Baghdad during which she never left the Green Zone. It’s awfully hard to see much of the war from inside that vast fortress. I’m sure that for the troops who are over there, it was obvious that she went to the Green Zone to give the appearance of looking at the war close up but with the intent of coming back home saying exactly the same things she has been saying about the war all along. So a little turnabout might be fair play.
More: I’d be remiss to leave out the woman angle–Pelosi has accused her critics of misogyny, essentially, when the issue is the plane not the gender of its chief passenger. She shouldn’t get a pass for that.
FRED BARNES: I’d say . . . she deserves a plane that can fly there nonstop if we’ve decided that the number two person in line, the speaker of the House, needs this kind of security . . .
She’s handled this very, very poorly. I mean, she suggested for one that she’s being discriminated against because she’s a woman. She suggested that Donald Rumsfeld still has a desk at the Pentagon and he’s getting retribution. And then, really very crudely, having Jack Murtha, the congressman and her pal, call the Pentagon and lean on the Pentagon to get her this plane, and then Murtha suggests that maybe the Pentagon should do it because she has such control over Pentagon spending that they shouldn’t be rejecting her request.
She is the first woman Speaker of the House. To stoop to the “they’re picking on me cuz I’m a girl” line is, or ought to be, beneath her. But evidently no behavior is beneath the standards of our political class these days.