Pelosi: Bushies Threw “Tantrum”

Bush Administration, Congress, Middle East

Helene Cooper and Carl Hulse write in today’s New York Times:

Ms. Pelosi, in a telephone interview from Lisbon on Friday, said she could not account for the Bush administration’s assault, which she at one point equated to a tantrum. (She said her children were teasing her about Mr. Cheney’s accusation of bad behavior.) Defending her trip, Ms. Pelosi said that members of Congress had a responsibility to play a role in national security issues and that they needed to be able to gather information on their own, and not be dependent on the White House.

“I am used to the administration; nothing surprises me,” she said. “Having said that, I hope we can have the opportunity to convey to the president what we saw.”


Righties are acting as if congress critters aren’t allowed to go talk to foreign heads of state, but of course they do it all the time and have for generations. My understanding is that no one unauthorized by the White House can negotiate treaties or enter into any sort of agreement with a foreign government on behalf of the United States, but they certainly have every right to go talk to heads of state whenever they get in the mood. They have a duty, in fact, to be informed on foreign policy.

The Constitution, Article II, Section 2, paragraph 2:

He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

[Update: I forgot this — In Article I, Section 8, Congress also has power to regulate foreign commerce and define and punish offenses against the law of nations, not to mention its several enumerated war powers.]

So, you see, the White House does not have exclusive authority in foreign policy matters. The idea is that the President and Congress should work together on this foreign policy stuff. But Bush won’t work with anybody; he wants to be dictator. So he’s throwing a temper tantrum because Pelosi is carrying out the normal functions of a member of Congress.

Today righties are linking to an article that calls Pelosi a “dilettante.” If Pelosi, who was “the longest-serving member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence” according to her bio, is a dilettante, what does that make Bush? I’d guess he’s a cross between an amateur and a snapping turtle.

Later in the New York Times article:

Democrats say the complaints have a certain political expediency to them [ya think? — maha], and note that many of the same people criticizing Ms. Pelosi’s decision to delve into foreign policy were fine when Newt Gingrich, then the Republican speaker of the House, made his own foray into foreign policy back in 1997.

The Republican House leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, criticized Ms. Pelosi’s trip, telling reporters that she was in Syria “for one reason, and that is to embarrass the president.” In 1997, Mr. Boehner accompanied Mr. Gingrich to China, and called the trip “very educational.”

You might remember that Glenn Greenwald blogged about the 1997 trip to China earlier this week. On this trip Gingrich attempted to countermand Clinton Administration policy, which exceeded his constitutional authority. And yesterday I quoted this bit from an article by Scott Lilly:

Unlike Pelosi, [former Republican House Speaker Dennis] Hastert and his staff were not reticent to speak on behalf of the United States government, nor were they worried about negotiating as though they were official emissaries of the president. But unlike Pelosi, they were not accompanied by officials of the embassy and often did not inform the embassy of their visits. On occasion they even denied embassy requests to attend the meetings they were holding with officials of the Colombian government.

Over the course of several years, Hastert’s aides negotiated billions of dollars in U.S. arms assistance to elements of the Colombian military for specific weapons chosen as a result of meetings between Hastert’s staff and Colombian officials. Following the negotiations, Hastert would insist that the funds be inserted in appropriation bills; after the weapons were purchased, Hastert’s staff would show up for their delivery.

Hastert got away with this behavior because officials in the Clinton administration knew he and his staff could wreak havoc on a wide range of administration priorities. Clinton officials decided to look the other way rather than confront this outrageous intrusion into the constitutional powers of the president.

By contrast, Pelosi and a group of other congresspersons talked to President Assad of Syria for “more than an hour.” At least one Republican admitted that Pelosi didn’t say anything out of line to Assad.

Rep. David L. Hobson of Springfield, who joined Pelosi and other lawmakers in a meeting yesterday with Syrian President Bashar Assad, disagreed with Boehner that Pelosi “came here to embarrass Bush. I think she came here to reinforce certain policies, understand the region better and have the region understand her better.”

In a telephone interview last night from Saudi Arabia, Hobson said Pelosi “did not engage in any bashing of Bush in any meeting I was in and she did not in any meeting I was in bash the policies as it relates to Syria.”

Instead, Hobson said, Pelosi and the congressional delegation urged Assad to curb the number of suicide bombers who cross the Syrian border into Iraq to “murder our troops and the Iraqi people.”

For this, the Right has worked itself into an inchoate rage. They are, we might say, unhinged.

Update: See also this NY Times editorial:

There is at least one point on which we and the critics of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Damascus can agree: It is the White House, not the speaker of the House, that should be taking the diplomatic lead. But the Bush administration has far more appetite for scoring political points than figuring out whether talking to Syria might help contain the bloodletting in Iraq or revive efforts to negotiate peace.

So long as Mr. Bush continues to shun high-level discussions with this troublesome but strategically located neighbor of Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, such Congressional visits can serve the useful purpose of spurring a much needed examination of the administration’s failed policies.

Ms. Pelosi and the five Democrats and one Republican who accompanied her are scarcely the first to raise such questions during the three years that Mr. Bush has instructed his top envoys — and reportedly Israel as well — to avoid negotiations with Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. Plenty of other Republicans and Democrats have been taking similar trips and offering similar advice. They were ignored, but spared the White House’s ridicule.

I didn’t know Bush was The Decider for Israel as well. Weird.

In the administration’s perverse view, the only legitimate time for negotiations would be after the most contentious and difficult issues — Syria’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, its meddling in Lebanon and open border with Iraq — have already been resolved. Thus, what ought to be the main agenda points for diplomatic discussions have been turned into a set of preconditions designed to ensure that no discussions ever take place.

It seems Bush learned all he thought he needed to know in kindergarten. “Do what I want or I won’t talk to you” might be acceptable on a playground but not, I think, in international relations.

Update2: The Heretik says, “Bush believes all conversations end at the barrel of a gun, which is one reason he has shot himself in the foot.”

Update3: The graphic is a hoot. See also Scott Lemieux on “collective guilt.”

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  1. Swami  •  Apr 7, 2007 @11:56 am

    Pelosi doesn’t have to bash Bush..Just showing that she’s willing to talk with Syria shows that she’s reasonable…and Bush gets exposed for being the arrogant clown that he is. It’s spiritual warfare..and Bush is getting his ass kicked royaly.
    Bush is a big spoiled baby. It’s a shame that Georgie’s parents were too absorbed in their own social climbing to expend the energy nesscessary to raise up an emotionally healthy child. Society is suffering because of their failed parenting..

  2. marc sobel  •  Apr 7, 2007 @1:26 pm

    I think “tantrum” is a very good sound bite and along with ‘Take a deep breath and calm down’
    is an effective use of her position and gender politics to deal with the bush posturing

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Apr 7, 2007 @2:17 pm

    Our current Administration is like a gaggle of auticstic children (with apoligies to autistic children – my nephew is one of them). Any change of routine can be a cuase for tantrum’s.

    And, the Republican routine has been changed with the new Congress.

    From Macbeth:
    To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
    To the last syllable of recorded time (the last 12 years of Republican authority),
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools (Cheney/McCain/Mitt/Gingrich)
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage (the Republican Presidential Candidate’s),
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot (Bush/MSM), full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing (The MSM).

    And meaning everything.

    We have a two-year window to get a hold of the government. If we don’t, I suggest getting the Hell out of this country…

    I’ve thought about going. But, I’ll stay to fight. Someone has to cover the flight. I’d love to leave. But, I think it’ll be more important to stay.

    I’ll cover you as you leave. Just don’t forget me when you go…

  4. Marlow  •  Apr 7, 2007 @2:29 pm

    “So, you see, the White House does not have exclusive authority in foreign policy matters.”

    You are quite wrong. You are confusing advise and consent in appointments with the power to negotiate (negotiate does not only apply to treaties…but to speaking for the United States of America).

    From the WSJ: “the landmark 1936 Curtiss-Wright case, the Supreme Court reaffirmed: “Into the field of negotiation the Senate cannot intrude, and Congress itself is powerless to invade it.”

    The Supreme Court has supported this interpretation. The Secretary of State for the United States does not take instructions from Congress, you might have observed.

    Pelosi, thru Lantos, declared that this marked the beginning of a “alternative Democratic Foreign Policy” This was not “talking” as you say. In their own words, Pelosi and Lantos declared they could create their own foreign policy.

    In a couple of years, there may be a Democrat in the White House, and he/she will determine Foreign Policy. That is how it goes. But don’t warp the Constition for partisan purposes.

  5. Anil Petra  •  Apr 7, 2007 @2:58 pm

    Any objection to the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate possible breaches of the Logan Act?

    Take this out of partisan hands and put this in the lap of the impartial judiciary.

  6. maha  •  Apr 7, 2007 @3:24 pm

    Marlow — I specifically said that only the President could negotiate treaties or agreements with foreign nations. But you are wrong that Congress only has advice and consent in “appointments.” And if you had read the entire bleeping post you would have known that.

    You are herewith banned for violating comment rule #8 — you didn’t read the bleeping post before you commented.

  7. maha  •  Apr 7, 2007 @3:25 pm

    Anil Petra — You’ve got to be kidding. In cast you aren’t, just read this for an explanation of why the Logan Act doesn’t apply.

  8. bashful  •  Apr 7, 2007 @4:20 pm

    Mark Sobel – I couldn’t have said it better. I hope that she keeps up this type of language, illustrating that the administration is nothing but a bunch of whiny, spoiled babies.

  9. bashful  •  Apr 7, 2007 @4:21 pm

    Marc – sorry – it’s Marc, not Mark (my bad).

  10. moonbat  •  Apr 7, 2007 @5:13 pm

    Loved the “Girls Gone Wild” graphic! What Marc Sobel said in #3.

    I love how Nancy P confidently uses mommy language to shush her childish critics, it’s appropriate and there’s nothing these adolescent twerps can say in response.

  11. Swami  •  Apr 7, 2007 @6:45 pm

    If our founding fathers were really foresighted they would have includes a provision in the constitution for a ” time out”. We could send litle Georgie off by himself to think about his social skills and his behaviour.

  12. joanr16  •  Apr 7, 2007 @11:14 pm

    OMG, that entire “Edicts of Nancy” blog is a scream! There’s another blogger who’ll never get to advise the Edwards campaign.

    I certainly needed the laugh, after 48 hours of listening to flaming Rightie hypocrites who haven’t a clue what the Constitution really says.

  13. joanr16  •  Apr 7, 2007 @11:17 pm

    By the way, this:

    For this, the Right has worked itself into an inchoate rage. They are, we might say, unhinged

    says it all. Thanks for that too, maha.

  14. Fat Bastard  •  Apr 8, 2007 @2:01 am

    Dubya’s actin’ like a spoiled child, and Gramma Nancy’s callin’ him out on it.

    Sometimes, Gramma has to be the one to administer the spankings…


  15. Ruben Luna  •  Apr 8, 2007 @4:33 pm

    Arrogant, immature, cinical, petulant, etc. What else can this man
    be? From deserter to questionable president. Bush has proven
    that the drugs and alcohol he absorbed in his past damaged his
    brain. This man is unfit to be president, the Democrats are
    afraid of impeaching him, and that is the sole reason he is
    still the pretender to the presidency.

  16. Jonathan Versen  •  Apr 8, 2007 @9:37 pm

    Swami(#13), as I imagine you already realize, the founding fathers would never have imagined that somebody like GWB could ever have emerged as a serious presidential contender, let alone be foisted on us by the supreme court, let alone become a 2-term president, let alone not already have been impeached by now, let alone …

    well, you get the idea.

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