Lantos On Board for New Diplomatic Offensive: Blasts Anti-Pelosi <em>Washington Post</em> Editorial


Mid-day yesterday, House International Relations Committee Chairman Tom Lantos sent out an editorial to the Washington Post‘s Editorial Board blasting the Post‘s critique of Nancy Pelosi’s Syria trip and the content of her comments to President Assad.
I concur with Lantos and am impressed that he is actively (and finally?) promoting dialogue and negotiations with Syria — a key tenet of the Iraq Study Group’s New Diplomatic Offensive proposal.
The editorial comment from Representative Lantos reads:

The Washington Post
Today, the Washington Post Editorial Board published an unwarranted broadside against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bipartisan delegation to the Middle East. As a part of that delegation and a participant in its every meeting, I would like to set the record straight.
The editorial is based mainly on a misreading of a statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s office. That statement said that a message Speaker Pelosi conveyed to Syrian President Assad — at Prime Minister Olmert’s request — did not indicate a change in Israel’s position toward Syria. True enough. In fact, the Speaker neither said nor implied that the message was a change in Israel’s position. But even more to the point, the Speaker told Assad that Syria must end its support for terrorists, including Hamas and Hezbollah, if it wants peace talks with Israel.
Speaker Pelosi has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Damascus. She delivered tough messages to Assad regarding Iraq, Lebanon, and the Hariri assassination tribunal.
As the Speaker said during her visit, she supports the Administration’s policy goals in Syria, so the Post‘s claim about a “shadow Presidency” is absurd. But she also agrees with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group report’s conclusion that constructive dialogue is a critical means of addressing our concerns with Damascus.
The Administration’s approach has yielded nothing but more Syrian intransigence. Five Republican congressmen have visited Assad this week. Based on the traffic to Syria, a growing number of Republicans and Democrats share the Speaker’s misgivings about the White House’s ineffectiveness in the region.
Tom Lantos, Chairman
House Committee on Foreign Affairs

Lantos is no apologist for Syria — but a declaration of support for a new and different track of engagement from Tom Lantos can be considered important progress.
Pelosi was right to go to Syria.
With her actions, Nancy Pelosi may be reminding the White House that “Congress as a full and equal branch of government,” as Joe Biden often says, matters.
— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “Lantos On Board for New Diplomatic Offensive: Blasts Anti-Pelosi <em>Washington Post</em> Editorial

  1. Pissed Off American says:

    President Carter: Bush Ordered Me Not to Go to Damascus
    BY Scott Horton
    PUBLISHED April 6, 2007
    More evidence of the White House’s partisan manipulation of relations with Syria emerged yesterday, as President Jimmy Carter told a gathering in New York about his recent request to visit Syrian President Assad. The former president stated:
    “I have known President Bashar al-Assad since he was a college student, and I thought it might be helpful if I went and urged him to support the peace process in the Middle East. But for the only time in my life as a former president, I was ordered by the White House not to go.”
    The White House has had no criticism of three Republican Congressmen who are currently also visiting Syria. Indeed, one of them – Rep. Darrell Issa of California – sharply criticized President Bush after emerging from his meeting with Assad, something which Pelosi carefully avoided.
    Attacks on Pelosi have also now regularly featured photographs of her wearing a headscarf, coupled with suggestions that she is engaged in “appeasement” of Islamic extremists. Joe Conason assesses the attacks in a column at this morning. He states:
    As for the headscarf, which Pelosi wore while visiting a mosque and a marketplace, there could be no conceivable reason to vilify this natural gesture of respect — except to excite religious and ethnic bigotry. Women have been covering their heads upon entering certain places for hundreds of years, and so have men for that matter. Nobody complains when an American politician puts on a yarmulke in a synagogue or an American woman covers her bare arms in a cathedral, and nobody should.
    No, the war against Pelosi is a rear-guard assault by the White House against moderates and liberals in both political parties who understand that the failed Bush policies have jeopardized American interests and hurt the Mideast peace process. What Wolf and Pelosi have in common is their endorsement of the Iraq Study Group’s proposals, which emphasize regional diplomacy, including direct talks with both Syria and Iran. Indeed, it was Wolf who first approached James Baker about undertaking the Iraq report, and who sponsored the legislation that paid for the group’s work.
    The malice behind these attacks leaves the clear impression that the “war party” is still at the helm in the White House, and that military confrontation with Syria is still given a priority ahead of talking. This belies the president’s muddled statements about pursuing a dialogue with Syria.
    Found at……


  2. adam says:

    The real deal with this trip is this: there is now a schism within Israel and within Israel’s agents in America about whether to talk to Syria or not. The Likud, Aipac, the neocons and the very nutty right-wing do not want that, and they have the ear of the administration. On the other hand, the Israeli government and some of Israel’s nutty supporters in America that like to think of themselves as “moderates” want to have some sort of talks with Syria. These people have the ear of the Democrats.
    So we Americans should be really happy: Our main political parties are sock puppets posturing against each other at the behest of parties within Israel. It is also delightful that the debate in Israel is between the right-wing (Olmert) and the crazy extra-right-wing (Netanyahu). This should tell you a lot about the state of debate in this country.


  3. Will says:

    Regarding the alleged Olmert-to-Assad “mistake”, and regarding the Speaker’s role in international affairs…
    …please read what Karina of “The Gavel” has to say about Nancy Pelosi’s delegation trip to the Middle East:
    Fact vs. Fiction: Washington Post’s Poisonous Editorial on Speaker Pelosi
    April 5th, 2007 by Karina
    Today, the Washington Post published an editorial attacking Speaker Pelosi’s bipartisan delegation trip to the Middle East. In a telling sign, the poisonous editorial contradicts the Post’s own reporting on the Speaker’s visit to Syria.
    The Facts
    Speaker Pelosi accurately relayed a message given to her by Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to Syrian President Assad.
    The tough and serious message the Speaker relayed was that, in order for Israel to engage in talks with Syria, the Syrian government must eliminate its links with extremist elements, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
    Furthermore, the Speaker told Assad that his government must also take steps to block militants seeking to cross the Syrian border into Iraq and that it must cease its ongoing efforts to destabilize Lebanon and to block the international community’s expressed desire for an international tribunal to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri. The Speaker has no illusions about the nature of the regime in Syria.
    The Post’s editorial misinterprets a statement issued by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, which sought merely to express that the message given to Speaker Pelosi did not indicate a change in Israel’s position toward Syria. The Speaker neither said nor implied that this message was a change in Israel’s position.
    Most troubling, the editorial contradicts the Post’s own reporting on the bipartisan delegation, asserting that Pelosi is attempting to “establish a shadow presidency.” From the Post’s reporting by Elizabeth Williamson today: “Foreign policy experts generally agree that Pelosi’s dealings with Middle East leaders have not strayed far, if at all, from those typical for a congressional trip.” Clearly, this consensus opinion by policy experts was lost in the one page from Williamson’s reporting to the Post’s editorial page.
    In fact, as The New York Times reported, Pelosi herself stated that she supports the President’s policy goals in Syria. She agrees, however, with the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that constructive dialogue is a critical means of addressing our concerns with Syria. The Administration’s cold-shoulder approach has yielded nothing but more Syrian intransigence.
    The delegation stressed to Assad that President Bush and the Congress are united in fighting terrorism and that, if Syria is interested in being part of that effort, it must rethink its association with Iran.
    Five Republican Congressmen have visited Syrian President Assad in the last week – Congressmen David Hobson of Ohio, Frank Wolf of Virginia, Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, and Darrell Issa of California:
    Congressman Hobson, the Republican member of the bipartisan Pelosi delegation, told the Dayton Daily News yesterday: “I think actually we’ve helped the administration’s position by showing there’s not dissension.” Hobson went on to say: “They (Democrats) have not gone around this region attacking the president for his, I thought, inappropriate discussion of this.”
    Mr. Hobson also told the Columbus Dispatch that Speaker 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.”
    The Associated Press quoted Congressman Frank Wolf: “I don’t care what the administration says on this. You’ve got to do what you think is in the best interest of your country. I want us to be successful in Iraq. I want us to clamp down on Hezbollah.”
    Congressman Robert Aderholt told the AP: “This is an area where we would disagree with the administration. None of us in the Congress work for the president. We have to cast our own votes and ultimately answer to our own constituents…I think there’s room that we can try to work with them as long as they know where we draw the line.”


  4. Gadfly says:

    It is naive in the extreme to assume that Pelosi made a “mistake” simply because the mendacious neo-con Bushies & their main-stream media puppets vomit such propaganda.
    Pelosi’s visit was far more productive than any of the ludicrous photo-ops by the incompetent & corrupt Rice.
    Pelosi was right to go to Syria. And, of course, when it became clear that she is far more credible than Rice– Bush & Rice got angry; got on the phone to Olmert; and told him to under-cut Pelosi. Rice is jealous of Pelosi– understandable, since Pelosi is clearly a superior diplomat.
    And, one wonders what Bush & Rice traded for Olmert’s betrayal of Pelosi:– perhaps, turning a blind-eye to Israel’s terrorist attacks upon the Palestinians today… Hmmm…


  5. Robert M. says:

    Ah, Tom Lantos! One of the true adults in The Congress. So good to see such back leading committees.


  6. MP says:

    A nice piece on Pelosi’s visit from MJ Rosenberg at IPF:
    “You know what they say: no good deed goes unpunished.
    That is certainly the case with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her visit to Syria.
    At a time (the Easter-Passover recess) when dozens of House members and Senators are visiting foreign capitals and discussing policy with foreign leaders, Pelosi is being skewered for, in the words of the Washington Post’s editors, “substituting her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican President.”
    The Post accuses Pelosi of “try[ing] to introduce a new U.S. diplomatic initiative in the Middle East.”
    Heaven forefend! Things are going so swimmingly in the Middle East that the last thing anyone needs is for the 3rd highest official in the United States trying to resuscitate diplomacy.
    The specific objection is to her meeting with the Syrian leader, Bashar Assad. Of course, few could object to what she told Assad – that he should stop trouble making in Iraq and Lebanon, that the Israeli government is ready for negotiations, that Israel has no bellicose intentions toward Syria and that Syria should use its influence to free Israeli prisoners.
    In fact, David Hobson, a Republican from Ohio who accompanied Pelosi, said that the Speaker did not stray very far from Bush administration policy. Hobson said Pelosi “did not engage in any Bush bashing. She did not…bash [Bush] policies as they relate to Syria.”
    Instead, Hobson said, Pelosi urged Assad to curb the number of suicide bombers who cross the Syrian border into Iraq to “murder our troops and the Iraqi people.”
    Republican House leader, John Boehner, admitted that there was nothing wrong with legislators in general visiting Syria. “It’s one thing for other members to go,” Boehner said, “but you have to ask yourself, ‘Why is Pelosi going?”
    The answer isn’t that hard. She went for the same reasons as Tom Lantos (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, as Henry Waxman (D-CA), the most senior Jewish Member of the House, as Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim-American in Congress, as Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Rules Committee Chair, as Nick J. Rahall II (D-WV), the senior Arab-American in Congress, and Senior Defense Appropriator David Hobson (R-OH). She went to advance US interests in the Middle East, believing that we can perhaps get more out of Syria by engaging it than by shunning it.


  7. MP says:

    gq writes: “I think this is what separates Clark, Richardson, and to some extent, Biden from the other Democratic presidential candidates. They are trying to improve regional stability by forcing diplomacy, while the top three are just twiddling with troop deployments and funding to score cheap, easy political points.”
    Yes, these three definitely have more “chops” than the leaders. Good point. They are much more of what we USED to expect from our political leaders.


  8. Carroll says:

    Well, can we get back to reality here?
    Lantos is speaking for the Israeli position and using this latest flap over Pelosi to restate the “Israeli” position once again. He doesn’t have a democratic position or an administration position, all he has is an Israeli position. Period.
    I read Israel’s official statement yesterday saying Olmert didn’t say what Pelosi said he said. So what else is new? This has gone on forever…. Condi carries messages between Israel and Syria and Saudi,followed by no one said what she said they said, Pelosi carries messages between Israel and Syria……Israel and everyone else involved is jerking the US chain. Even gd monkeys learn by repetition but obviously our goverment doesn’t….I imagine in between being pissed the Israelis and the Arabs are both falling down laughing at this f****** circus.
    The funniest and most truthful thing I have seen lately is Palestine using Israel’s excuse of…”we have no partner for peace talks”
    All future acts will be the same.. lie, rinse,repeat,lie, clarify, garbage in, garbage out.


  9. gq says:

    I think this is what separates Clark, Richardson, and to some extent, Biden from the other Democratic presidential candidates. They are trying to improve regional stability by forcing diplomacy, while the top three are just twiddling with troop deployments and funding to score cheap, easy political points.
    It’s a shame that the policy grown-ups are being marginalized by the media for relatively untested newcomers who seem to spend more time on media strategies than policy proposals.
    So it goes.


  10. Brigitte N. says:

    Thanks for publishing the Lantos letter to the Post–I wonder whether they will publish it. It is not only the White House that is going after Pelosi in the most ugly way–the media pile on mightily as well.They all should read what Lantos writes–but as often, most of these people are not interested in facts.


  11. JohnH says:

    Aluf Benn reported in Ha’aretz that Nancy Pelosi was passing notes, not for herself, but for the Israeli government. It was intended to diffuse tensions with Syria:
    It would appear that Pelosi’s complicity in diffusing tensions is what this brouhaha is all about, since it runs counter to the wishes of some important players in the administration. If you recall, some in the administration were reported to have encouraged Israel to take on Syria during the fight in Lebanon. Other credible sources have reported that the Bush administration has basically ordered the Israel government not to respond to peace overtures from Syria. The warmongerers in the administration must be seething about Olmert’s disobedience, but are free to express themselves publicly only about Pelosi.
    If Pelosi did indeed diffuse tensions, she should return as a hero.


  12. MP says:

    Zathras writes: “No, Pelosi should not have gone to Syria.” I agree the passing notes between Israel and Syria was a bumble. But, Congressman go on foreign fact-finding missions all the time.
    In any event, Bush’s policies have left a HUGE vacuum, and Pelosi could be excused for thinking, “SOMEONE has to do something, and certainly isn’t going to be the President.”


  13. Zathras says:

    No, Pelosi should not have gone to Syria. Congressional Democrats interested in sending messages that they endorse foreign policy approaches the Bush administration has rejected should have sent a delegation led by someone — like, for example, Rep. Lantos — with a background in the controversies of that part of the world. The fact that Pelosi needs Lantos now to come to her defense in response to foreign press stories about what messages she did or did not carry to Assad from the Israeli government should be a clear enough indication of that.
    Rep. Pelosi’s experience in the foreign affairs field, apart from her periodic heckling of the Chinese government, is limited enough to make her a poor foreign policy spokeswoman for her party. Such a role is not one to which a speaker of the House ought to aspire anyway. The way for Congress to live up to its Constitutional role as a full and equal branch of government is for its leaders to do their jobs. These include legislation, appropriations and oversight; in the speaker’s case they include, primarily, running the House. They do not include photo opportunities in Damascus.


  14. Pissed Off American says:

    “Also, do not forget that Pelosi is far more intelligent, seasoned & effective than Condi Rice– who has stumbled, bumbled, and fumbled from one fiasco to another, making Rice the laughing-stock of the diplomatic corps.”
    Hmm. Speaking about Rice, it appears she doesn’t want to answer Waxman’s questions about the Niger lies. One would hope Waxman subpeonas the lying bi….uh…witch, but it may be too much to hope for.
    Waxman is a badger. I hope he has more balls than Reid did over the Phase Two issue.


  15. Gadfly says:

    P.S. So now the neo-con Bushies & their main-stream media toadies, prodded-on by their paymasters (Halliburton, Bechtel, Carlyle Group, the Military Industrial Complex [i.e. “defense” contractors, arms manufacturers], Big Oil, etc.) are attacking Pelosi.
    Laughably, these war-mongers and arm-chair chicken-hawks are attacking Pelosi for a so-called “mistake”! LOL!
    After six disastrous years of catastrophic mistakes- disastrous mis-calculations- traitorous bald-faced lies- the Bushies’ bluff should be called: Impeach Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rove, Gonzales, et. al. And, forget about getting any sane analysis and/or objective news reporting from the “Washington Post” which has become nothing more than a nauseating propaganda-arm for this horrible neo-con, corporate-owned regime.
    Noam Chomsky’s “How to Stop a Showdown with Iran” is a must-read:
    Chomsky points out that the vast majority of the American and Iraqi peoples do not support the Bushies’ military march of follies in the Middle East. Of course, democracy is a concept hateful to the neo-con Bushies– who instead choose to impose their neo-fascist policies at the point-of-a-gun.


  16. Gadfly says:

    “Congress as a full and equal branch of government”
    Yes indeed. Unhappily, Bush does not see it that way, for he had 6 years of a dictatorship with a rubber-stamp GOP Congress that let him run-amok, and we are suffering the miserable consequences of his disastrous reign.
    Also, do not forget that Pelosi is far more intelligent, seasoned & effective than Condi Rice– who has stumbled, bumbled, and fumbled from one fiasco to another, making Rice the laughing-stock of the diplomatic corps. Rice’s constant shuttle-“diplomacy” [sic] at the U.S. taxpayer’s expense has resulted in nothing more than her being seen as Israel’s lap-dog.
    Thank goodness that Democrats are becoming actively involved in listening to the leaders in the Middle East, and let us hope, that we can return to a more balanced and fair-minded policy therein, whereby listening & talking in order to achieve peaceful solutions to the problems which plague that region replace the bombastic lecture & brute force which the Bush administration has employed to disgrace our nation.


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