No, Nancy Pelosi’s Trip to Syria Was Nothing Like “Tehran Tom’s” Iran Letter

Media Matters for America yesterday demolished Republican attempts to compare Tom Cotton’s Iran letter to Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Syria in 2007.

Somehow, we are supposed to believe, Nancy Pelosi visiting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with full knowledge of the White House and State Department, is the same thing as attacking the president’s foreign policy by trying to undermine it with radicals in the other government, are the same thing.

Tuesday, for example, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) tweeted:

Media Matters’ Eric Hananoki has compiled the list of further examples from various right wing sources, including Dana Perino, White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush from September 14, 2007 to January 20, 2009, who certainly knows better. Pelosi met with Assad on April 4, 2007:

  •’s Ben Shapiro cited Pelosi’s visit as one of the “times Democrats advised America’s enemies to oppose the president.”
  • The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein wrote that Pelosi’s visit was one of the “times Democrats undermined Republican presidents with foreign governments.”
  • Sean Hannity said on the March 10 edition of his Fox News program (via Nexis): “You know, it’s very interesting because when John Kerry met with Commandant Ortega of the Sandinistas no liberal was upset, or in 2007 when Nancy Pelosi met with President Assad of Syria against the Bush administration’s wishes, nobody got upset. But now this is the greatest sin of all times and they’re being called traitors in the New York Daily News on their cover.”
  • Dana Perino said on the March 10 edition of Fox News’ The Five (via Nexis): “In 2007 Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House, went to Syria against the wishes of the Bush administration. This is what Hillary Clinton — Senator, at the time said, ‘I have long advocated engagement with countries in the region including Iran and Syria, and I applaud Speaker Pelosi and her delegation for going to the region.’ I bring that up, Greg, because I think it shows the hypocrisy on all this point that people are focused on the politics of it and not the substance of actually what`s in the deal.”
  • Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol said on the March 11 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe that “Nancy Pelosi went to see Bashar Assad in 2007. I think that was questionable, but I didn’t criticize her patriotism.”
  • Fox News contributor Richard Grenell responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s criticism of the letter by tweeting: “Hypocrite! He supported Pelosi going to meet with Assad when Bush was POTUS.”
  • CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer said on the March 12 edition of CNN Newsroom that “most recently you had Nancy Pelosi, who went over to Syria and sat down with” Assad.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in response the other day, “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.”

And it does not.

According to MSNBC’s Steve Benen the “the parallels to this new scandal are tenuous, at best.” Media Matters points out that “Pelosi was also accompanied on the trip by Ohio Republican Rep. David Hobson, along with Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and Keith Ellison (D-MN).” And according to The Washington Post, Hobson has said, “Before we left, we met with the State Department people and nobody told us not to go.”

Oh dear. You can be certain, if the 47 Republicans had tried to clear their letter with the White House and State Department, they would have been told not to send it. Of course, they didn’t even try to clear it with Obama or Kerry or anyone in the administration.

But there is more. Benen explained:

For one thing, Pelosi notified both the White House and the State Department in advance of her trip. She also received a policy briefing from Bush administration officials about developments in Syria, and Pelosi was told that the staff at the U.S. embassy in Damascus would be available if needed.

In other words, Pelosi honored U.S. protocols and worked with the executive branch instead of trying to circumvent it. Let’s also not forget that the Bush administration was not actively involved in delicate negotiations with Syria at the time.

* Update: I spoke to Pelosi’s office, and a top aide reminded me that officials from the Bush State Department literally sat in on the meeting between the then-Speaker and Assad. To see this as comparable to the sabotage letter is plainly at odds with the facts.

Of course, to listen to Fox News and right-wing pundits and media, none of these details matter. For them, it’s just Nancy Pelosi going to Syria. But facts do matter. Details matter. And the context matters.

As Media Matters reminds us,

The Washington Post reported at the time that “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.”

Probably the biggest problem for Republicans trying to compare Pelosi to Cotton is this little nugget, saved for last by Media Matters:

The Bush White House strongly criticized Pelosi’s trip since they were trying to isolate Syria at the time. Still, prior to her visit, three Republican congressmen — Robert Aderholt (AL), Joe Pitts (PA), and Frank Wolf (VA) — met with Assad. Following Pelosi’s visit, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) met with President Assad and reportedly criticized the Bush administration after the meeting. The New York Times wrote on April 6, 2007, that there wasn’t “much carping from” the Bush White House about the Republican visits. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey also held talks in the country prior to Pelosi’s visit.

And never mind how irate Dick Cheney was at the time over Pelosi’s visit, but he has so far had no objection to Cotton’s Iran letter.

The simple fact of the matter is that the two have nothing in common, and the facts speak for themselves. Which is why the Republican critics of Nancy Pelosi are so very careful to exclude any actual facts from the conversation. Nuance is never helpful to firing up the engines of fear and hate.

The Republicans were wrong, as even some Republicans have admitted, including, at least indirectly, John McCain, whose excuse for committing treason was that he was “in a hurry.” Rand Paul felt the need to field a new excuse as well, one even more outrageous (if possible) than McCain’s, that he committed treason to “strengthen the president’s hand.”

Oh, well that’s all right then, guys. You get a pass.

The Republican leadership has done many repulsive and dishonorable things since 2009, but Cotton’s Iran letter has exposed more ugliness and lack of character and integrity than we have ever seen before.

34 Replies to “No, Nancy Pelosi’s Trip to Syria Was Nothing Like “Tehran Tom’s” Iran Letter”

  1. The GOP is like a runaway train. First it was the plot with Norquist ( signing a letter pledging fealty to HIM and not the USA) to undermine everything the new President wanted to do. They have gotten away with that due to a complicit media and a lack of knowledge in the American public. Then they ginned up fear and loathing of the black people in the WH (who must have lied, cheated or SOMETHING because there is now way America would have elected a community organizer..twice! My goodness, you’d think the votes were close and that the Supreme Court had determined that Obama was President, and we all know how irate the hands-off GOP would be if that ever happened.) They attacked Michelle Obama for daring to suggest that the money we spend on school meals should be used wisely, giving our kids a healthy lunch. Horrors! What’s next? Required phys ed classes?
    They lied abut the ACA to make people scared and angry, and still are lying.
    They lie so often they no longer know truth.

  2. Let’s take all the RW carping to its logical conclusion.

    The fact is, many Republicans were in fact lambasting Pelosi at the time, despite all the things you mention above.

    So in comparing Pelosi’s trip to the letter by the 47, they are indeed saying what the senators did is close to treason.

    If what Pelosi did was wrong (and it wasn’t) then what the 47 have done, (which is far worse) is also wrong and they are, without knowing it, condemning it.

  3. Interesting bit on Pensito Review, read the ruling by Justice Sutherland in the case of
    US v Curtis Wright 1936.

  4. Jon Stewart essentially said the two visits were comparable! I was really upset when he did that! He was not being a comedian at the time. He is certainly no RW crazy.

  5. One set of rules for Democrats, no rules for Republicans.

    And the whitey stations, Fox, hate radio will say anything to provide Republicans cover.

    Yes, boy!

    We should all want to be like those honorable, honest hard working (white) folks.

    It took me 35 years, but I finally figured it out. The only people who’ve ever screwed me are white men in suits, and white “good Christians”.

    Now those types despise me cause I ask them questions like this:

    Okay Mr. investment adviser, do you receive kickbacks from companies whose stocks you recommend?

    Did you make money during the market collapse, and did you see it coming? Did you advise your clients to sell if you did see it coming?

    If there are “no guarantees” for investments for guys like me, why does Wall St. get guarantees from bailouts, scam insurance co’s., and accountants such as Arthur Anderson?

    Whew momma! they get mad! Happened at last Xmas party. White suit about to hit me.

  6. Here’s a letter written to sen. Cottonbrain’s by consituent:
    A concern U.S. citizen written open letter to Iran:
    BREAKING: Netanyahu’s party confirm his speech given to congress was a campaign stunt:

    This confirmed Boehner betrayed his oath office and to all the men and women in uniform. And that goes to all of congress who attend prove you sell out your own country for money and self-preservation.

  7. No- Jon Stewart is simply playing the false equivalency game.

    If he criticizes the Republicans, he feels the need to do the same with Democrats- regardless of the inaccuracies. He wants to be “fair” so that Republicans will go on his show (the ones he wants won’t).

    He did the same last night rightly criticizing Gov. Christie- but he just couldn’t help himself, so he brought up the alleged charges against Democratic senator Bob Menendez.

    Jon Stewart is really disappointing.

  8. They hate Ms. Scarlet more than they hate you.
    They are pushing to have female citizen’s bodies be public property.

    They’ll control my eggs when they cut them from my cold, dead body.

  9. The Republicans love to bring up false equivalencies in order to justify their actions or those of colleagues. They are getting a well-deserved reaming nationally and globally for their destructive stupidity that stems from their unreasoning hatred for this president. That hatred has clouded their judgment to such a degree that they were more than willing to commit a treasonous act with that letter.

  10. And further more: Syria does not have The Bomb.

    Nor as far as I’m aware- are they pursuing one.

    Case Closed.

  11. Have any of you actually read the letter? It simply states facts. If Obama doesn’t submit the treaty to the Senate for confirmation,then it would not be legally binding. And could be reversed by a future president or even Obama himself. I have read many of the stories on this site but i haven’t seen any that cover what was in the letter. Just hints that it was treasonous.

  12. Dumbass this is not a treaty between the US and Iran, This agreement falls under the NPT agreement which BTW we are already members of. You stupid ass Reich wing assholes need to go back to school

  13. You’re correct, they’ve lied so many times they can’t figure out what the truth is.

    Now they’re compairing this letter to Jane Fonda when as a provate citizen went to Vietman to protest, not the same at all.
    They’re disparately trying to justify their blatant stupidity.

  14. You’re clueless, congress can’t do anything about the NPT.

    The NPT is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament. The Treaty represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Opened for signature in 1968, the Treaty entered into force in 1970. On 11 May 1995, the Treaty was extended indefinitely. A total of 190 parties have joined the Treaty, including the five nuclear-weapon States.

  15. That’s 1000 times of WRONG to do this to our veterans.

    The tea bag/repubs M.O.
    Love the soldier, forsake the Veteran.
    Love the fetus, hate the child.
    Love the farm, forsake the farmer.
    Love the corporation, hate the workers.
    Love America, hate Americans

  16. I don’t even listen when the fright wing starts crowing about Nancy Pelosi. They hate her. She’s everything they despise.

    They’ll be railing against her long after she’s dead.

  17. Comparable? Of course they were. Nancy Pelosi visited Syria against the wishes of the White House, to engage in discussion with a foreign diplomat with whom we had frozen negotiations. She undertook to “negotiate” a peace process and in fact announced when she returned that she had delivered to Assad a message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that “Israel was ready to engage in peace talks” with Syria. What’s more, she added, Mr. Assad was ready to “resume the peace process” as well (which both sides denied). So, she was attempting to implement her own foreign policy instead of that of the president. Not identical, but pretty dang close.

  18. Emmm…no. Even if everything else were on point, which it isn’t , facilitating negotiations to ensure peace is different from sabotaging them to provoke war.

  19. I don’t see the “why” above – why did Pelosi want to travel to Syria and what did she want to accomplish? Isn’t that important too?

  20. Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Syria was arranged by the US State Department, which happens to be part of the presidential administration.

    Why in the world would you think it was against the sitting president’s wishes?

  21. While I agree w/some of ur comments, I also find some offensive.
    To categorize FOX (Faux News) as a ‘whitey’ station offends both ‘whites’ (as a race) and those who do NOT support FOX. The logical conclusion from your statement is that all ‘whites’ support FOX. “Whitey” – particularly in the ‘tone’ you use it, I put on a level of epithets that we no longer use to describe blacks.
    U said ‘The only people who ever screwed (you) are ‘white men in suits and good Christians.’ Hmmm, so, didya see the video posted of the indigent black man who was brutally beaten, shot 5X in L.A.?? I am among many who were appalled, expected an outcry. Why did that get a pass? Because cop shooter was black?
    Maybe at least some people react 2 U less than positively because of your TONE when you speak to or about them. This type of behavior insults those who worked for & supported Civil Rights Movement & makes me wonder if a grave mistake was made.

  22. Nobody wants to control you are your eggs. What we want is for you to take responsibility for your actions. If you want to be the play toy at the boys dorm that’s your business. But have one of them pay for the contraceptives, not tax money. If you get pregnant, again your business, but don’t expect taxes to pay for your choice. Pay for it yourself. If you want others to pay for your “choices” then they get to put their opinion about it out there too. With freedom comes responsibility for your actions.


    Special Importance
    Committee on State Security of the USSR
    14.05. 1983 No. 1029 Ch/OV

    Regarding Senator Kennedy’s request to the General Secretary of the Communist Party Comrade Y.V. Andropov

    Comrade Y.V. Andropov

    On 9-10 May of this year, Senator Edward Kennedy’s close friend and trusted confidant J. Tunney was in Moscow. The senator charged Tunney to convey the following message, through confidential contacts, to the General Secretary of the Center Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Y. Andropov.

    Senator Kennedy, like other rational people, is very troubled by the current state of Soviet-American relations. Events are developing such that this relationship coupled with the general state of global affairs will make the situation even more dangerous. The main reason for this is Reagan’s belligerence, and his firm commitment to deploy new American middle …

  24. KGB letter cont’d

    range nuclear weapons within Western Europe.

    According to Kennedy, the current threat is due to the President’s refusal to engage any modification on his politics. He feels that his domestic standing has been strengthened because of the well publicized improvement of the economy: inflation has been greatly reduced, production levels are increasing as is overall business activity. For these reasons, interest rates will continue to decline. The White House has portrayed this in the media as the “success of Reaganomics.”

    Naturally, not everything in the province of economics has gone according to Reagan’s plan. A few well known economists and members of financial circles, particularly from the north-eastern states, foresee certain hidden tendencies that many bring about a new economic crisis in the USA. This could bring about the fall of the presidential campaign of 1984, which would benefit the Democratic party. Nevertheless, there are no secure assurance…

  25. You all get the picture. Why don’t you set aside your partisanship and be truly objective? It is dangerous when people place too much faith in any one party, both sides are guilty of this, both sides play the game at our expense. There is no such thing as a politician acting out of altruism. Power is what politics is all about.
    As an old Anti-Establishment poster child, I have seen this all before.

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