King James Bible
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.
Nancy Pelosi is a bit like Britain's Margaret Thatcher in reverse. Mrs. T. was tough and steely in her public role as prime minister, but womanly, flirtatious, even gossipy, in private. (One of her cabinet members once told me he harbored erotic thoughts about Maggie as she walked past him, trailing a "whiff of Chanel.") In Pelosi's case, it's the other way around.
When I first talked to her at her office on Capitol Hill in the third week of April, she had just come from a sisterly ceremony, sharing a platform with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton to unveil a bust of the legendary slave, abolitionist and suffragist Sojourner Truth at Emancipation Hall. The specter of briefings on the netherworld of the CIA's "enhanced interrogation techniques" could not have been more at odds with the aura of lunch-club femininity the Speaker projected with her lilac Armani pantsuit, professional gracious smile and freshly coiffed hair. ("She always was put together," one of the five Pelosi offspring, filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi, told me. "She never drove carpool in her pajamas, she always got dressed.")
But when the door to the Speaker's office closes, she is fast-talking, formidable, high-energy and supremely self—confident—more Baltimore's Little Italy, where she was raised in a powerful political family, than latte-sipping San Francisco, where she has lived for 40 years as the wife of a rich financier.
Leaning forward in a straight-back chair, she refers several times for emphasis to a small laminated bookmark listing the eight major bills her leadership has pushed through the House in Obama's first 100 days. "I'm disciplined. I keep informed. I know the policies. I understand the people," she rattles off, when asked how she has consolidated her power base in the House.
The only moment she gives a mildly beseeching glance at her press secretary is when I ask her when and what she knew about "waterboarding."
It's a fact that on Sept. 4, 2002, she was briefed by the CIA on its "enhanced interrogation techniques," along with Republican Porter Goss (the GOP's Richard Shelby and Democrat Bob Graham, the other two members of the "Gang of Four" intelligence--committee leaders, were briefed separately, three weeks later). What's very much in dispute is what they heard. Pelosi insists that she was briefed just this one time, and only on the fact that administration lawyers had concluded certain techniques were legal—not the truth that emerged later, which was that Al Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah had already been waterboarded 83 times following his capture in Pakistan in March 2002. "Any contention to the contrary is simply not true," she said.
Democrats have a genius for knitting nooses for themselves. Nancy Pelosi was having it pretty much all her way in Congress until President Obama released the Bush administration's legal memos on torture.
© Janet Crain
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