Diggin’ It

Crack open a newspaper this morning, and you’ll see plenty of CAFE coverage. But another question gurgles beneath the surface that may determine whether President Obama gets his new auto efficiency standards or any of his priorities.


Quick, who is more help to the Democrats these days: congressional leadership or Dick Cheney?


The Senate Majority Leader is in trouble. Today, a Las Vegas Review-Journal poll shows Nevada voters would show Harry Reid the door if his reelection were on the line today. That looks bad.


But it’s House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that has neglected the first rule of holes, dear reader: when in one, stop digging.


First, she claimed CIA staffers never briefed her about EITs (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques), or waterboarding. Then she claimed the Agency said they had okayed waterboarding, but never told Pelosi they were actually waterboarding suspects. Then she claimed the Agency specifically said they were not waterboarding alleged terrorists.


Turns out none of that is exactly true. As Pelosi was campaigning for a Democratic majority in 2006 and 2008, she was arguing in part that Republicans had betrayed American ideals by torturing terrorism suspects. Problem is, it seems she knew torture was going on for years, but raised no objection until it was politically advantageous.


As Washington Post columnist David Ignatius notes (see today’s Top 5), Pelosi is putting self-preservation above her congressional oversight responsibilities. That doesn’t just look bad. It is bad.


So the President’s friends on the Hill aren’t pulling their weight. That’s important, because Republicans aren’t going to sit idly while Democrats try to accomplish their legislative objectives. The GOP can’t outvote the Dems, but they can alter legislation to make it so unappealing that no reasonable legislator of either party would vote for it.


If America likes congressional Democrats, voters are likely to view Republican roadblocks as cynical obstructionism. But if the Dems appear incompetent, or self-serving, or on the way out, the same roadblocks become bulwarks against liberal connivances.


The Blog is tracking several other stories. Today the president will, as noted above, announce new federal standards for auto emissions. The aim is threefold: curb greenhouse gasses, increase American energy independence, and nudge automakers to produce cars of the future. It’s kind of a big deal.


The White House reversed one (er, one and a half) policy last week. It decided to withhold CIA photos of detainee abuses and reopen the detainee tribunal system. The former is something of a disappointment to the Blog. The president campaigned on open government and honest reckoning with our mistakes. This seems to be a flip-flop.


On the other hand, as James Carville recently said, Obama’s decision on the photos would either alienate the ACLU or Muslim moderates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Alienate the ACLU, and they file a complaint. Alienate Muslim moderates, and they may decide to plant IEDs near American troops.


As for the tribunals, there has to be some way to process these suspects—they can’t languish untried forever. The president had said he would stop the tribunals altogether. But now, Obama has given detainees more access to proper legal protections and representation, and has thrown out evidence gained by torture. These look substantially less like kangaroo courts. We haven’t heard the last of the tribunals or the photos, dear reader. Count on it.


Top 5

The week’s best political reporting and commentary…


The Washington Post: “Speaker vs. Spies: A Test for Obama” by David Ignatius.


National Journal: “Business Climbs Abroad” by Ron Brownstein.


Newsweek: “A Highly Logical Approach” by Jon Meacham.


The New York Times: “Conservatives Map Strategies on Court Fight” by Charlie Savage.


Economist: “Phoney War.


On Deck

This week’s stories may become next week’s stories. Flaps over Pelosi, CIA photos, cap and trade, healthcare, and an open seat on the bench show no signs of letting up; both Republicans and Democrats see a reason to keep these storylines going. As they continue to develop, you can count on the Blog to bring you the skinny.


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