As the scandal over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's and other top Congressional Democrats' bald-faced lies to the American people about what and when they knew of enhanced interrogation techniques enters its second week, questions are beginning to be raised about the Obama Administration's role in the release of information contradicting Pelosi's account of briefings she received. Specifically, inquiring minds are wondering whether the White House signed off on CIA Director Leon Panetta's internal agency memo responding to Pelosi's accusation that the CIA had misled Congress in its briefings on the techniques.
That question has been answered. The White House knew about the memo, and alerted Pelosi that it was going public.
"The Central Intelligence Agency gave House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., advanced warning before CIA Chief Leon Panetta sent a memo to employees at the spy agency that countered Pelosi's claim that the agency lied to Congress about waterboarding.
A CIA official, but not Panetta, made the call to Pelosi. [...]
The aide said Pelosi protested Panetta's memo on the call to no avail."
Now, new questions are raised. Pelosi must surely be wondering why a president of her own party is allowing the release of information that will make her look bad in the press; why he is remaining silent on the issue; and why he is taking no action to try and stem the feeding frenzy surrounding her.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked today whether President Obama had confidence in Pelosi as speaker. "He does," Gibbs answered, which could not have inspired much confidence in Pelosi since Obama has shown time and again that his confidence, like his promises, come with an expiration date. Usually that day comes sooner rather than later.
More than words, however, there are actions Obama could be taking to relieve some of the media pressure on Pelosi, who has gone into full backtrack and bunker mode after last week's torturous press conference. There are at least two guaranteed ways Obama could change the news cycle tomorrow, knocking Prevarigate™ off the evening news and relegating it to the inside pages of the newspapers: he could name a Supreme Court nominee to replace David Souter; and he could reverse himself and release the pictures showing the alleged abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody.
In the case of the Supreme Court, announcing a nominee would instantly change the news cycle to one of analysis of the president's pick, and the drama that is sure to surround his confirmation. The pictures would not change the news cycle. However, they would refocus the press on allegations of mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. soldiers under the Bush Administration. The Pelosi story - which let's be honest the press doesn't really want to report anyway - would pale in comparison to either of these and would give the Speaker the breathing room she is desperately seeking.
So why would the Obama Administration want to see Pelosi twist in the wind? To be sure, bare knuckles politics plays a role. There is no doubt a little of the White House showing Pelosi and Congress who is boss. But there is someone close to the president who may have a personal motive to see Nancy Pelosi laid low: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.
Emanuel gave up his safe Congressional seat and a place in the leadership in the House to become White House Chief of Staff. But he has not given up on his dream of becoming Speaker. Furthermore, Pelosi, Emanuel's former boss, pulled a power play on him when he took the new position, reportedly letting Emanuel know in no uncertain terms that she was running the show on the hill and would have no input from him or the White House. Now it appears that the high-heel is on the other foot, and Emanuel may be advising President Obama to send an equally strong message up Pennsylvania Avenue.
No doubt, all is not sweetness and light for Speaker Nancy Pelosi right now. Some Republicans are beginning to call for her resignation as Speaker, although the leaderhship has not joined them, yet. The Obama Administration, led by the president himself, is not helping. Worse, the White House appears to be feeding the media frenzy by word and lack of action. Pelosi's fate may hang on how badly President Obama believes he needs her to shepherd his agenda through Congress, and whether she is willing to swallow her pride and give Rahm Emanuel a foot in the door of the House.
Cross posted at Mark on the Right.