‘Prime Minister’ Pelosi vs. President Bush
By Christopher Truscott
The framers of the Constitution were wise to create an executive position independent of the legislative branch.
But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t occasionally be nice to have something equivalent to the British office of prime minister – in which case Nancy Pelosi, as leader of the lower house’s majority party, would be in charge and George W. Bush would reside somewhere other than 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
The latest example of the executive void in Washington is the White House’s criticism of Speaker Pelosi’s Middle East travels, which include a trip Wednesday to Syria to meet with President Bashar Assad.
Pelosi, who has apparently read the Iraq Study Group report, which recommends talks with Syria and Iran, wants to “establish facts” and try to build “confidence” between the U.S. and Iraq’s provocative western neighbor. She’ll also be delivering a message from Israel that it could work with the Syrians if they “openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism.”
Sounds pretty reasonable. She’s already in the neighborhood and there’s no way she can make the situation worse. In the spirit of the new baseball season, the speaker might even hit a homerun – or at least a single to keep the inning alive.
The White House, meanwhile, contends it’s a “bad idea.” But given this president’s handling of world affairs, his word doesn’t mean much.
Nevertheless, one has to ask the administration: What would be a good idea? Not talking to the Syrians (or the Iranians) hasn’t helped. Rhetoric and bravado have taken us nowhere. Even the Saudis, our so-called allies, have clearly turned against us. We’re alienated from the key leaders in the Middle East, which is unfortunately an important region of the world, and we haven’t articulated a coherent plan for the future of our involvement there.
Keeping with the baseball theme, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are 0-for-the-last-six-years on Middle East policy. Even the most obtuse manager would realize it’s time for a pinch hitter. If that means Pelosi carrying on like a de facto prime minister, fine.
On the eve of his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, President John F. Kennedy told an audience in Frankfurt, West Germany: “Lofty words cannot construct an alliance or maintain it; only concrete deeds can do that.”
While one visit does not make a solid relationship, Pelosi’s willingness to sit down as a leading representative of the American people – the No. 3 figure in this government – and open a dialogue with our adversary is a positive step. The Syrians can no longer say that we aren’t willing to meet them halfway.
What do we get from Pelosi’s visit? Leadership. Even if it comes from the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue, it’s certainly more than we’ve had in quite a while.
Good luck and Godspeed, Madam Speaker.
Christopher Truscott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. As Speaker of the House, he’d be sure to schedule important meetings with the leaders of countries like the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic and Australia – all of which have nice beaches.