Friday, April 06, 2007

Pelosi And Other Congress Should Stay Out Of Syria

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi probably should have stayed away from Syria, where she joined other recent Congressional visitors in dignifying the thuggish regime of Bashir Assad, and, actually, in her case falsified the position of the Israeli government. It showed that Pelosi has a lot to learn about foreign policy.

Pelosi foolishly told Assad that she was conveying a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Israel was ready to open negotiations with Syria.

Within hours, Olmert issued a statement saying that this was not what he had told Pelosi, that Israel would not open negotiations with Syria until the Assad regime had abandoned its support of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, which it has been resupplying, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Logan Act, which bars free lancers from representing the U.S. in foreign affairs, is now honored more in the breach. Many members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, have visited Damascus in recent months. It reminds one of the British Members of Parliament who paid visits to Hitler and Mussolini in the 1930s. All went with good intentions, but they often came away calling the Fascist dictators reasonable men.

I don't think Pelosi is guilty of any felony here, as some political partisans have suggested, but still she should have been more careful. Syria has one of the world's most brutal regimes, and it has been allowing Arab Jihadists to cross over into Iraq, where they fight and kill American forces.

The Democrats in Washington have grown frustrated at their inability to change the Bush Administration's course in the Middle East, but they have to recognize they do not have a sufficient majority in Congress to really do so. They can pass nonbinding resolutions, but they probably cannot command a majority that would actually cut off funding for U.S. operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the region., even if they wished to do so, which many Democrats do not. Under these circumstances, the Democratic leadership looks foolish when statements are made, such as by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the other day, that they will somehow throttle back U.S. war involvement.

Pelosi took Jewish members of Congress, such as Californians Henry Waxman and Tom Lantos, on her trip and managed to get both them and the accompanying press corps into both Syria and Saudi Arabia, and aside from the inaccurate statements she made about Israeli policy, she avoided the gross errors of French presidential candidate Segolene Royale when she went to the Middle East several months ago.

Still, it would have been better had Pelosi not meddled in the Arab-Israeli dispute. She and the Democrats In Congress run the risk of placing themselves in embarrassing positions.

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This may not be the moment for Steve Lopez or other Times writers to launch an investigation of Tribune buyer Sam Zell, his beachfront Malibu property and so forth. There is reason to hope Zell may be more friendly to the Times and California in general than the man he will succeed as Tribune chairman, inept CEO Dennis FitzSimons. I see no reason to go out of the way to offend Zell at this stage.

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