By Bruce B. Brugmann (B3)
"PELOSI TO BE PUT TO THE TEST," trumpeted Tuesday's Chronicle front page lead story.
The Guardian has been down on Pelosi ever since she led the campaign to privatize the Presidio
and then refused to debate the issue at the time or in subsequent campaigns. But
she is now in a key leadership spot, at a critical time in U.S. history with the crises of Iraq and Bush,
and we wish her well. We hope she rises to the occasion and at minimum satisifies her hometown dailynewspaper, if not the Guardian on the other end of town.
But there are many telling details, as I like to call them, that raise some doubts.
First, Maureen Dowd's lead comment in her Dec. 20th New York Times column.
Dowd wrote, "The only sects that may be more savage than Shiites and Sunnis are the Democratic feminiist lawmakers representing Northern and Southern California.
"After Nancy Pelosi and Jane Harman had their final catfight about who would lead the House Intelligence
Committee, aptly enough at the Four Seasons hair salon in Georgetown, the new speaker passed over the knowledgeable and camera-eager Ms. Harman and mystifyingly gave the consequential job to Silvestre Reyes of Texas." Dowd then polished off Reyes by pointing out that Reyes, when questioned by a reporter for Congresssional Quarterly, didn't know whether Al Quaeda was Sunni or Shiite (he is "profoundly Shiite," as Dowd said) and didn't seem to know who the Hezbollah were. "'Hezbollah,'" he stammered. "'Uh, Hezbollah. Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish?" He couldn't answer in either English or Spanish.
Second, Steve Lopez from the Los Angeles Time found a few days later that Pelosi's office was annoyed when Lopez called her Washington office and asked if Pelosi was going to "correct her blunder and reverse the appointment" of Reyes, as Lopez put it in his Dec. 27th column. He quoted Jennifer Crider, the Pelosi spokeswoman,as asking why Lopez was still interested in the story.
"Well," Crider wrote, "partly because the committee has the name INTELLIGENCE in it. And partly because I'm still embarrassed as a Californian to have a San Francisco representative pick the one guy fom Texas who seems to know less than Bush. Lopez continued, "Couldn't Pelosi reconsider, I asked Crider, even if Pelosi and Harman have their political differences?" Crider replied that Reyes "misspoke." Lopez wrote that, "in the interest of national security and in the Christmas spirit, I'm sending Reyes a book I found at Amazon.com. It's called 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Middle East conflict.'"
Third, Pelosi and her local and Washington office refuse to respond to the entreaties of the supporters of Josh Wolf, the journalist jailed on orders of the Bush administration for refusing to give up videotapes he took of a demonstration in San Francisco. She and her office refuse to meet with Josh's mother and supporters and she refuses to respond to questions about the case from the Guardian beyond saying through a spokesperson that she can't interfere because it is a "legal matter" (which is nonsense, it is a political hit on journalism and San Francisco by the Bush administration). Pelosi does say that she does support a federal shield law for reporters, which is fine as far as it goes but it is not on her first l00 hour agenda or any other visible agenda. Josh, let us emphasize, is a constituent of Pelosi's, and he is the only journalist in jail in the U.S. for refusing to give up material to the government, and soon will have been in jail longer than any journalist ever' Question: If Pelosi refuses to even meet with Josh's mother on such a serious journalistic and public policy issue, how can she be expected to effectively lead the charge against Bush and the war?
Fourth, Pelosi gives every signal, publicly and privately, that she won't be leading a strong charge against Bush and the war and the sudden surge and acceleration of more troops into Iraq. She has already made it clear she won't use the only real levers of power the Democrats have (impeachment proceedings and the the power of the budget to defund the war) or even the bully pulpit of her new office. As her constituents in San Francisco and the voters in the last election have made clear, there's a misbegotten war on and they want it stopped and they don't want Bush to be following fellow Texan LBJ in Vietnam by sending in more troops, more troops, more troops, to surge and accelerate in Iraq. They want U.S. troops out of this relentless descent into civil war maelstrom.
So: keep the pressure on Pelosi to try to insure she represents the real San Francisco values. That starts with peace and dissent on the war and Bush. B3
Postscript: Meanwhile, the New York Times reports Tuesday in a story headlined, "A Party, with Pelosi Front and Center," that her party schedule is a splash of "Pelosi-palooza." Anne E. Kornblut writes that "In a three day stretch of whirlwind events beginning on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi will celebrate her heritage (at the Italian Embassy), her faith (in a Roman Catholic Mass), her education (at Trinity College), her childhood (in Baltimore) and her current home (in a tribute by the singer Tony Bennett of 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco fame.'") Okay, okay, but the tantalizing question remains: Pelosi can throw a party but is she smart enough and tough enough to go up against Bush and the war gang at this critical juncture and represent the real San Francisco values of her constituency? Follow along at the Guardian, at sfbg.com, and on the Bruce blog.