The underlying goal

THE UNDERLYING GOAL…. There are more than a few annoying angles to the recent Republican attacks on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, related to the CIA interrogation briefings she received in 2002 and 2003. Most notably, the GOP’s goal is transparent: don’t investigate officials from our team, they’re telling Democrats, or we’ll want an investigation of officials on your team.

With that in mind, Faiz Shakir did a nice job pulling together some Fox News coverage from this week, in which this very dynamic is discussed rather candidly. The goal, the reports indicated, is to create a “Mexican standoff,” in which both sides back off in some kind of mutually-assured-destruction scenario. Looking at accountability for possible war crimes through this lens seems crazy, but here we are anyway.

As long as this is the debate, and with the Sunday morning shows likely to explore this “controversy” in great detail today, it’s probably worth re-emphasizing how pointless it is to make Nancy Pelosi the villain of the Bush administration torture scandal.

In 2002 and 2003, Pelosi was the oft-ignored House Minority Leader, with minimal power, and even less influence, over what kind of interrogation policies the Bush administration used. She was briefed on the administration’s tactics, but according to her, Bob Graham, and a healthy dose of common sense, officials were far from forthcoming when it came to details on torture.

It boils down to this: Republicans are demanding to know what Pelosi knew about the Bush administration’s crimes and when she knew it. This is more important, they argue, than the crimes themselves.

Note that some of the right’s criticism is backwards. The Weekly Standard‘s Stephen Hayes said on Fox News that Democrats are reluctant to push the idea of a truth commission because it might produce evidence that makes Pelosi look bad. In our reality, Pelosi — who might seem like she’d want all of this to go away — is actually the leading proponent of a truth commission. She’s not trying to sweep all of this under the rug; she’s trying to do the opposite, even in the face of Republican intimidation tactics.

To be sure, there are legitimate questions about the briefings. If Pelosi was told about torture and failed to raise objections, that warrants criticism. If there’s evidence that Pelosi was less than candid about what she was told — there isn’t — that’s a political problem.

But in general, this entire “controversy” is a ridiculous GOP stunt, which the media is falling for. We’ve effectively been told that the only person who should face real scrutiny for the Bush/Cheney torture scandal is the liberal, powerless, then-House Minority Leader who opposes torture.

As A.L. noted the other day, “The level of hypocrisy and incoherence it takes for Republicans to point to Pelosi as being some sort of key figure in this scandal is astounding. And the fact that the press corps would latch on to this rather ridiculous diversion is telling.”