Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nonsense, Gingrich/Boehner Edition

Are these guys really serious?

The GOP continues its torturous media blitz a)to divert attention from Dick Cheney to Nancy Pelosi; and b) to drown the enhanced intelligence techniques debate in a swelter of "he said, she said" accusations allowing the media to push the meme that one Party is as bad as the other. And so it was that Newt Gingrich appeared Tuesday to be interviewed by Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America (transcript courtesy of, video below from You Tube):

SAWYER: Former Speaker, political gladiator, Newt Gingrich, here with us this morning. We heard about, we heard you were saying it, we saw that you were writing it. What do you want to happen?

GINGRICH: Well, I think that with Speaker Pelosi’s comments last Thursday, particularly the ones in which she alleged that the Central Intelligence Agency routinely lies to Congress, that she really disqualified herself to be Speaker. I mean, there’s no problem with her being a member of the House, but —

SAWYER: So you think —

GINGRICH: I think the Democrats should get a new Speaker. [...]

SAWYER: But as you know, some people have said that you’re doing this for political reasons. It’s really a political salvo that you’re hurling at her and a kind of double standard. For instance, Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who is head of the House Intelligence Committee at the time, wrote a letter in which he, on another issue, said this about the CIA: “We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress.” That’s a Republican saying it and they’re saying, “Where were you then? You didn’t call for him to resign.”

GINGRICH: Well, I think in that particular he’s fighting with them over a particular report he wants. This is about a year and a half ago. But I’ve had a similar standard of toughness with Republicans on other issues. For example, Secretary Paulson, when I thought he was failing as Secretary of the Treasury.

SAWYER: So should he [Hoekstra] be repudiated for those words too?

GINGRICH: Well, in that case, he’s writing a specific letter asking them to change something they were doing. He did not say the CIA routinely lies —

SAWYER: “Lies,” he said —

GINGRICH: — to the Congress.

SAWYER: Well, he says “lies.” He says “what it does and then lies to Congress.”

GINGRICH: And I think they actually had to come back and testify.

I think that it’s important for Congress to keep the CIA under observation, it’s important for the CIA to report regularly, but I think what Panetta said Friday is very telling. It is illegal to lie to Congress. And the CIA doesn’t do it, and Panetta said it is harming this institution. He made a speech Monday in which he said this is harming the institution. And I have no sense that — I mean, I would certainly, if I were a person trying to defend this country, I’d have very little confidence that the Speaker of the House had any regard for what we were doing and what we’re trying to do to stop terrorism.

Apparently, the Central Intelligence Agency was operating an air interception program for illegal drugs, the Narcotics Airbridge Denial Program, in Peru from 1995 to 2001. On April 21, 2001 a Peruvian Air Force jet shot down a missionary plane carrying the Bowers family, resulting in the death of two members of the family, with two others surviving. Although the C.I.A. acknowledged that proper procedures were not followed, it contended that the incident was an isolated one. Hoeskstra maintained that approximately ten other private planes had been shot down during the program and "they (C.I.A.) never followed the rules as meticulously as they should have." The House Intelligence Committee, then chaired by Hoeskstra, conducted an investigation and the C.I.A.'s Inspector General's report alleged a widespread cover-up of this and other incidents. Consequently, Representative Hoekstra called for a new federal inquiry into the program, already ended, and remarked

"We cannot have an intelligence community that covers up what it does and then lies to Congress."

And now Newt Gingrich says "he (Hoekstra) did not say the C.I.A. routinely lies." (Gingrich's comment "is writing a specific letter asking him to change something they were doing" may have referred to the letter Hoekstra after his charge wrote the Inspector General . Or Gingrich may have been blissfully ignorant. Or careless with his facts.) And current House Minority Leader John Boehner (R.- Ohio), asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer whether the C.I.A. "lied to Congress", responded "I know as much about this case as Pete Hoekstra does and the Inspector General did in fact do an investigation, produced a report and frankly supported, I think, Pete’s claims."

The hypocrisy is stunning. Boehner now says "The Speaker has had a full week to produce evidence to back up her allegations, and frankly I am disappointed she hasn't done so. We'll have no choice but to call for a bipartisan investigation." (Boehner obviously knows that Pelosi legally was precluded from making notes during, or following, the briefing.) And Gingrich says Hoeskstra "did not say the C.I.A. routinely lies" (emphasis mine). Except that Pelosi says "the C.I.A. was misleading Congress;" Hoekstra was more explicit and damning: the C.I.A. "lies to Congress." And Gingrich says, and Boehner implies, that Nancy Pelosi should be removed as Speaker of the House.

These fellows might be serious. But they're not serious individuals and have no serious argument.

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