Picking on Pelosi

06/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's no secret that the Republican Party is struggling. Polls show party membership at a low of 21%, the crazies have scared off the credible, and the leading spokespeople are beauty pageant runner ups. The languishing magazine business is even piling it on, suggesting that morbid fascination in the wane of the GOP goes beyond the blogosphere and Op-Ed pages, and is actually tabloid-worthy.

Thus, Republicans continue to assert their irrelevance through the concerted effort to act like it is suddenly so clearly necessary that Nancy Pelosi resign as Speaker of the House. After all, she said the CIA didn't divulge all of their interrogation tactics seven years ago, and how could anyone question anything the CIA said?

John Boehner
, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Steve King, Dick Morris, Sean Hannity, and others aggressively defending the CIA look disingenuous. We don't really believe that they believe that this secretive bureaucratic goon squad is honest about its activities and intelligence. Honestly, they probably get off on the idea.

Defending the CIA against accusations of lying or unseemly behavior is quixotic. It's like acting indignant in defending the mores of Motley Crue. To recount some of the Central Intelligence Agency's greatest hits makes it sound like Cobra from G.I. Joe, the venerable cartoon black ops army with no actual ideological agenda other than evil (before Blackwater). The scheme to sell cocaine to make money to fund a rebel army on the other side of the world was hatched by the CIA, who then lied about it to some guy we arguably elected President, John Kerry. The CIA is the Machiavelli of government agencies.

As with so much in the wars of partisan rhetoric, these arguers are more steadfast to dispute any point making their side look bad, because they fear that their entire ideology fails with it. These Bush apologists were happy to accept that a baseless war was the fault of bad intelligence from the CIA like it was all just a case of food poisoning.

No, the Right Wing readiness to ignore criticism of the CIA and pounce on Pelosi really reveals their pervasive, peculiar, and apparently perverted obsession with Madame Speaker. From the beginning of her tenure as Speaker of the House, Pelosi has been demonized by Republican rabble-rousers to rattle their base. Her San Francisco sensibility was supposed to be code to the bigot belt, that she would spearhead some homo agenda, and maybe make Congressmen hold hands and share their feelings. Pelosi's outsized political persona has more to do with the paranoia prodded by poor punditry than her stalwart stewardship.

It's reminiscent of how vilified Hillary Clinton was as First Lady, when she was still rocking spray bangs and shoulder pads, doing photo-ops with one billion children. But the threat loomed, Republicans sneered, that this pushy dame had a mind of her own, and might just try to get into the act some day. Of course, they were all right about that Hillary Rodham -- she revealed her own ambitions, and damn near went the distance, with even Ann Coulter cheering her on.

I had the opportunity to see Nancy Pelosi speak at a Politco panel in Denver during the DNC last year. She explained in so many words that as Speaker, her job is to get things through the House that can pass. Say what you will about her politics -- Pelosi has shown herself to be shrewd and prudent, aware of her attention, but downplaying her presence.

As such, her effort to distance herself from the CIA's conceit on torture should not be surprising or cause for outrage. To presume the benefit of the doubt with the CIA after countless destroyed interrogation tapes doesn't even pass the straight face test. Whatever discussions Nancy Pelosi ever had with intelligence officials about "harsh interrogation tactics" were well after these tactics were outlined intricately by Bush's cabinet. This is feigned outrage about information that Nancy Pelosi got third hand.

I suspect time will tell of the deep-seeded S&M appetites that ran through the minds of Bush's neo-con perv party. Psychoanalysts will write books on how cabinet members held top-secret White House meetings to conspire about getting men naked and bent over to submit to their throbbing power. Those meetings got detailed in order to hand down the specific language to the CIA. Was anything ever acted out as well? You know, just to explain the positions?

Is it so hard to imagine Donald Rumsfeld snapping his fingers at some poor Pentagon aide to get down on all fours on the carpet as a "visual aid" in front of a stately Colin Powell and a vaguely aroused Dick Cheney? Now, in the middle of that tableau -- probably from that wuss John "History will not judge this kindly" Ashcroft -- comes the cold-water question that is bound to ruin the mood: "What do we tell Nancy?"

Cut to a much graver briefing with pretentious security presence as Rep. Pelosi is slid a very legit-looking file folder, with a cool CIA watermark and shit, and some bullet points in Courier font and spiffy legalese about how seriously we are going to get those bad guys. Pelosi, not yet the Speaker or third in line for the presidency or the most powerful woman in the history of the republic, nods solemnly at the grim assessment, appreciative that they tell her anything.

And now, after so much hot air and regurgitated half-assed talking points, it has come down to powerfully plain sexism: Did the RNC really release a video comparing Nancy Pelosi to Pussy Galore from Goldfinger?

The irony is that in the movie Goldfinger, Pussy Galore was the rare exception of a Bond girl who saved 007's ass when his suave plan fell to crap, and she alerted the CIA to save the day. Besides provoking a unifying growl from women who normally wouldn't care about Nancy Pelosi, the RNC has unwittingly crowned her the most popular Bond Girl of all time, beating out Grace Jones. Nice!

But the restless right-wing attacks, as ridiculous as their rhetoric may be, must continue to be debunked and discredited. They can seem scatter-shot and trivial now, but it was after years of an unchecked, open-ended investigation through Bill Clinton's entire career and associates that a popular president was impeached for off-topic lying about his sexual exploits. Controlling the debate and confronting misinformation is akin to justice, and similarly demands eternal vigilance.