Well, well, well. Planeloads of Republican politicians have been earning zillions of frequent-flyer miles over the past few years doing unofficial shuttle diplomacy with Syria and Condi Rice did nothing, but it just took newly-elected Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's one little old bipartisan mission to pry Secretary Rice loose from her chair and onto a plane for Damascus.
Here's The Carpetbagger Report on the upcoming Rice trip:
As I recall, when the Speaker of the House chatted with Syrian officials last month, the White House, congressional Republicans, and far-right activists were apoplectic. CNN ran a news segment on Pelosi’s trip titled “Talking to Terrorists.”
The ringleader of this spectacularly stupid smear was the Bush White House. Somehow I suspect Rove & Co. will be a little quieter now.
Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing Rice for possibly having discussions with Syria’s Foreign Minister; I’m just stunned by the hypocrisy of it all.
Literally just one month ago, the Bush administration said U.S. officials should not have contact with the Syrian government, accusing the Syrians of meddling in Lebanon, supporting terrorism, and being unhelpful on Iraq. White House spokesperson Dana Perino said it sends the wrong “message” for members of Congress to discuss anything with Syrian officials.
For a lot of conservatives, that’s all they needed to hear. Indeed, far-right blogs pounced — one said this is proof that “Democrats seem to be setting up a separate government with its own suicidally blind idea of who’s a terrorist and who isn’t (basically, nobody is).” Another insisted that Pelosi’s decision to visit with Syrians is “repulsive” and questioned her loyalty to the U.S. Another still asked, “Can we question [Democrats’] patriotism now?” Yet another concluded that Pelosi’s talks “teeter on the edge of treason.”
Dick Cheney called Pelosi’s discussions “bad behavior.” The president personally criticized talks with Syria, saying discussions have been “counterproductive” and concluding that they send “mixed signals” to the Middle East. For two weeks, Fox News talked about almost nothing else.
And now, lo and behold, Bush’s Secretary of State seems to believe talking with high-ranking Syrian officials may not be such a bad idea after all. Will CNN run features about Rice “talking to terrorists”? Somehow, I doubt it.
Not much more to add to this, other than that Rice's sudden decision to visit Damascus, hard on the heels of the Pelosi trip, shows that Nancy Pelosi's bi-partisan delegation to Syria has had, as those who know what's going on have said, a positive effect.