Posted by Lex, on November 13, 2006
What passes Ms. Pelosi’s test for leadership?
“With respect to Iraq in particular, I salute your courageous leadership that changed the national debate and helped make Iraq the central issue of this historic election,” Pelosi wrote in a personal letter to Murtha. “Your leadership gave so many Americans, including respected military leaders, the encouragement to voice their own disapproval at a failed policy that weakens our military and makes stability in that region even more difficult to achieve. The enthusiastic response of Americans all across this nation gave an enormous lift to our Democratic efforts, and your unsurpassed personal solicitations produced millions of dollars which were new to the effort. Those resources made a huge difference and particularly for the candidates on whose behalf you campaigned.”
Pelosi added: “Your strong voice for national security, the war on terror and Iraq provides genuine leadership for our party, and I count on you to continue to lead on these vital issues. For this and for all you have done for Democrats in the past and especially this last year, I am pleased to support your candidacy for Majority Leader for the 110th Congress.”
Courageous leadership. The kind that passes extra-judicial verdicts on combat Marines. The kind of national security voice that recommends that American combat power withdraw to support the nascent Iraqi democracy from neighboring Okinawa. Japan. The man who holds out as an avatar of perfect foreign policy President Clinton’s withdrawal from Somalia – a withdrawal that as much as anything else encouraged Osama bin Laden to see the US as a “paper tiger,” ripe for defeat:
“After leaving Afghanistan, the Muslim fighters headed for Somalia and prepared for a long battle, thinking that the Americans were like the Russians,” bin Laden said. “The youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat. And America forgot all the hoopla and media propaganda … about being the world leader and the leader of the New World Order, and after a few blows they forgot about this title and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.”
And we know where that took us.
I’ll admit to you that this is a little bit personal for me. Many of you know that my sister died last year. She’d spent over 20 years in Congress as an aide, and a number of years after as a lobbyist. She adored Mr. Murtha and – as a conservative herself – withstood heavy criticism from very senior conservative partisans who wanted her to distance herself from the man back in the heady days of a unified Republican government, when there was no benefit to supporting him but for the fact that in her mind it was the right thing to do. Because he was a friend, and it didn’t matter what party he was from. Because you didn’t cut friends off. You stood by them.
And when she died, the rest of her friends had a celebration of life party for her on Capitol Hill. Mr. Murtha was an invited speaker. When his turn came, he didn’t speak about their friendship, or about all the things that she had done, or the life that she had lived, that coal miner’s daughter who never went to university and who nevertheless became a Capitol Hill powerhouse.
No. He spoke about an alleged ethical lapse ten years in her past. A political hit job architected by a partisan prosecutor designed not to attack her, but to have her “roll over” on another friend she’d known for thirty ears. She refused, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending herself before pleading out to a misdemeanor to close the whole thing out. Well, that and signing a pledge not to sue the government for wrongful prosecution.
She was a big girl, and that was the world that she lived in and she knew the way the game was played. But in her mind a certain decency still obtained, a certain degree of decorum. There were things you didn’t to, not to friends. I doubt that she’d ever have imagined though, that a man she considered a friend would take the opportunity of a party thrown in her own tribute, herself not two months dead, to rake her over the coals for a purported ethical lapse. In front of her still grieving family and friends. Shocked, for the moment, into speechless immobility.
Still. Paragon of virtue, and all that. Glass houses, thrown stones.