Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's recent trip to Syria to meet with President Bashar Assad has sent the Bush administration and its media allies into a frenzy over the past week or so. Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino called Pelosi's visit "a really bad idea," while the Wall Street Journal's editorial page hints that Pelosi may have violated the Logan Act (which she didn't). CNN's Suzanne Malveaux accuses Pelosi of giving "a big wet kiss to President Al-Assad." Others, predictably, are accusing Pelosi of treason and of being a "1960’s radical anarchist communist," whatever that is. (I always thought communism and anarchism were opposing philosophies.)
Conveniently ignored amid these attacks on Pelosi is the fact that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has visited Syria 14 times in the past ten years, including a visit last year. Rep. David Hobson (R-OH) was a member of Pelosi's delegation last week and publicly praised Pelosi's conduct upon his return. Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) went separately earlier this month. According to Pitts's chief of staff, the Republican delegation's trip "was done in cooperation with the administration." So, when Republicans go to Syria, they can do it in cooperation with the administration; when Democrats go, they're accused of treason. While this is consistent with the administration's relentlessly partisan style, it's dishonest. And it's irresponsible of the mainstream media to fail to note the hypocrisy.
There are lots of good reasons for members of Congress to visit Syria, especially if no one in the Bush administration will. Syria is not our enemy, and they too have a stake in trying to stabilize the Middle East. Stability in Iraq, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and Lebanon is in Syria's interest at least as much as it is in ours. While it's true that Assad is a dictator who has worked tirelessly to build his own power and influence, and while it's true that he has been implicated in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, it's counterproductive to simply refuse to talk with him. Specter says that Assad can be negotiated with, and I think he's probably right. I support Pelosi, Specter, and the other members of Congress for traveling to Syria, and for discussing matters that affect our national security and our standing in the world. In particular, I applaud them for confronting Syria about suicide bombers crossing the border from Syria into Iraq to kill American troops and Iraqi civilians.
And doesn't Pelosi look fetching in a hijab? The right-wing smear merchants love this photo. If you'd like to see Laura Bush in one, go here. She doesn't look quite as good as Pelosi, which I'm sure is the reason why right-wing bloggers haven't obsessed over Laura Bush's photo.