Nancy Pelosi Does Not Like Being Compared to 47 Republican Senators, Thank You Very Much

The House minority leader released a statement denouncing the suggestion that her 2007 trip to Syria is analogous to the letter sent by senate republicans to Iran.
Photographer: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Is the shoe now on the other foot?

Defenders of the 47 Republican senators who signed and sent a letter to Iran's leaders in hope of thwarting a nuclear deal with the United States have a response to those who contend that the senators were either guilty of treason, violating the Logan Act, or simply flaunting their disloyalty to the Obama administration: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is no better. 

Pelosi, critics pointed out, took a 2007 trip to visit Syrian President Bashar al Assad when she was speaker of the House to help pave the way for peace negotiations with Israel and try and dissuade Damascus from its continued sponsorship of groups like Hezbollah.

Pelosi was the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit that country in over four years, and, more to the point, her trip came over the protestations of then-President George W. Bush, who, like Obama is now, was in the final years of his second term in office. 

 “Sending delegations hasn’t worked,” Bush told reporters when asked about Pelosi's meeting with Assad. “It’s just simply been counterproductive.”

Much like the current veep, Vice President Dick Cheney offered a harsher rebuke. 

"Fortunately," Cheney said, "I think the various parties involved recognize she doesn't speak for the United States in those circumstances; she doesn't represent the administration. The president is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House."

While there are parallels between Pelosi's attempts to influence the direction of U.S. foreign policy and the senators derided on Twitter with the hashtag #47Traitors, the person at the center of the counter-example isn't having any of them. Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill released a statement Thursday denouncing the comparison. 

"The desperate hyperventilation by Republicans and conservative talkers over the intense, national backlash to this letter has caused them to search for a Democratic equivalent to the dangerous precedent set by 47 Republican Senators," Hammill said. "The fact is, there is simply not one."

Hammill went on to describe how Pelosi's visit to Syria and the GOP senator's letter differed. 

"This visit was organized by the Bush State Department, executed by the Bush Defense Department, and officials from the Bush Administration's Embassy at the time in Damascus even sat in the meeting with President Assad," Hammill said. "As Republican Congressman David Hobson said at the time about the delegation's visit to Syria, 'I think we actually helped the administration's position by showing there's not dissension.' The comparison between the Republican Senator letter to Iran and Leader's Pelosi bipartisan delegation to the Middle East in 2007 does not stand up to any level of scrutiny."

Whether the two situations are directly analogous is a matter of ongoing debate. What is clear, however, is that members of Congress appearing to undercut a sitting president does not sit well with partisans of that commander-in-chief's party. 



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