So, for the first time in weeks, the GOP seems to have gotten off the mat. All of its spokesmen are singing off the same page. The party is on offense -- words like impeachment and resignation are being tossed around. And this time, the target is a Democrat.
Thank you, Nancy Pelosi.
In just a few days, it's as if the entire DC establishment has collapsed around her.
The House speaker's disastrous press conference last week -- ending in her saying that, essentially, the Central Intelligence Agency lied to her about the nature of the enhanced interrogation techniques being used to get information out of detained war captives -- has been a galvanizing event uniting Republicans and sending nearly all would-be Democratic defenders scrambling. The White Housedistanced itself from her claims.
CIA Director Leon Panetta -- a former Democratic member of the House and White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton -- defended his agency, saying that it's "not in the business of misleading" Congress.
Newt Gingrich piled on repeatedly, saying that she could be in danger of losing her speakership if it appeared she lied. Considering that he was nearly ousted in a internal coup, the man knows whereof he speaks.
This episode demonstrates a couple of things: 1) Pelosi is a real anchor around Democrats, demonstrating so few political skills that she has given Republicans a sword when they were completely flailing around; 2) in the world of baby boomer politics, there is no greater sin than hypocrisy -- not adultery, not torture, nothing but being seen as a hypocrite.
Consider that this controversy began with questions about who knew what when in the Bush administration about torture (or what came to be known as "enhanced interrogation techniques"). Pelosi kept pushing the issue, even as members of the liberal base called for criminal charges to be brought against lawyers in Bush's Justice Department who signed off on the techniques. Even as Obama tried to quell the firestorm and say that no CIA agents would face prosecution, pressure continued against Bush's political aides.
And now, look at what is being discussed: Yes, there is some talk about the Bush lawyers being disbarred -- but that's a far cry from being charged with crimes. Instead, the focus is on why Pelosi didn't say anything about the torture/interrogation techniques when she was briefed on it back in 2002 and 2003.
The focus has completely shifted. And the GOP is on the offense.
Democrats might be wondering what had happened -- except for the fact that they know what happened:
Nancy screwed up and the party -- and the president? -- are stuck left trying to clean up.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.