Glenn Greenwald writes about a 1997 trip to China by then-House Speaker Newt Gringrich. Vice President Al Gore had been in China one week earlier to discuss the Clinton Administration’s “one China” policy regarding Taiwan and its commitment to peacefully address the Taiwan issue. But Newt bluntly told the Chinese that the U.S. would intervene militarily if China tried to take Taiwan. A week later, China admonished the United States for sending mixed signals and accused Newt Gingrich of making ”improper” statements. Glenn comments:
Back then, the media treated Gingrich like he was the American Prime Minister, and his right-wing supporters had no problem with the House Speaker traveling and expressing his own foreign policy views which deviated from the Clinton administration’s. Quite the contrary, many right-wing leaders — including Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, and Vin Weber — went on PBS and praised Gingrich’s “aggressive role in China.”
They couldn’t have been more pleased that Gingrich did what, in their minds, the Clinton administration was failing to do — standing up to the Chinese. Gingrich, as House Speaker, was heroic for going on his own and doing that. The same behavior from Pelosi (which I’m sure is, in actuality, completely different for all sorts of unknown and indiscernible reasons) is now both a grave political mistake and a reckless breach of protocol.
All together now — It’s OK If You’re A Republican.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post still struggles with its selective amnesia and publishes a story titled “Speaker’s Role In Foreign Policy Is a Recent, and Sensitive, Issue.” This very weird article by Elizabeth Williamson says, in effect, that even though “Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip” and that a mess o’ Republican congress critters have been hobnobbing about Syria also, Pelosi was still wrong to go because she’s a Democrat. Seriously.
The Republicans who have also been in Syria are sending mixed signals about what Pelosi did there. House Republican Leader John Boehner is sticking by the party line and whining that Pelosi just went to Syria to embarrass President Bush. This is nonsense; it’s obvious that Bush is incapable of feeling embarrassment. A normal person wouldn’t show his face in public again after screwing up as badly as Bush has screwed up. More on this in a minute. Here’s the other GOP POV:
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.”
Back to embarrassment — I looked up embarrassment as a psychological phenomenon and found this:
Human behavior experts who study mortifying moments say four conditions must exist before we blush.
First, there must be a failure for which you feel responsible. Then, the failure occurs suddenly, with no time to prepare or adjust. “And it must take place in public,” says Domeena Renshaw, M.D., professor of psychiatry at Loyola University in Chicago. “Your face gets red because shock instantly increases blood pressure, which helps more blood get to the brain to help you figure a way out of the predicament in which you just found yourself.” The final condition: you must value the opinion of others who witnessed your goof.
“Beware the person who can’t be embarrassed,” says Dr. Gross. “That rare individual may consider his position, intelligence and status so lofty, he cares not what others think.”
See? I say no one need worry about embarrassing President Bush. He can no more feel embarrassment than he can fly.
Update: See also “Pelosi in Syria” at the Center for American Progress.