Did Bush Pressure Olmert to Deny Pelosi’s Statement about Syria?

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi left Israel last week, her delegation announced she was bearing a message from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Bashar al-Assad, the president-for-life of Syria.

This suggests that the Bush White House may have also tried to “order” the speaker not to meet with Assad, only to find itself tripped up again by the inconvenience of the separation of powers in the Constitution. Since they couldn’t stop Pelosi’s visit, the next best option was to ruin it, which was likely accomplished with a single phone call.

In Syria, Pelosi’s meeting with Assad made good visuals: A Democratic leader was taking charge of putting Israel back on a path to negotiations with its Arab neighbors. Commentators noted that the speaker was carrying out a key recommendation of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group — engaging governments in the Middle East in dialogue — that the Bush administration has stubbornly refused to do.

Within hours, however, the Israeli government issued a statement that essentially called the U.S. Speaker of the House a liar by flatly denying Olmert asked Pelosi to convey anything to Assad.

Yesterday, Pelosi was asked about the confusion:

PELOSI: There was no confusion. There was absolutely no confusion. The message that we carried from Prime Minister Olmert was the exact message that he gave us. He is a man of peace, and he expressed to us that we should express to the president of Syria his interest in going to the negotiating table, but not until Syria took steps to stop its support for Hamas and Hezbollah. And that is exactly the message that we conveyed.

Q: But the prime minister of Israel’s office issued a clarification, a denial, in effect, because according to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz the other day, the statement from the prime minister’s office, from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office, said that Olmert had told Pelosi that Israel continued to regard Syria, quote, “as part of the axis of evil and a party encouraging terrorism in the entire Middle East.” If I heard you, you didn’t — you don’t recall him saying that in you conversation.

Pelosi: No. What he told us was that the thrust of his statement is that Israel is prepared to go to the negotiating table; we are not preparing for war — that was the important part of it — we are not preparing for war; we’re prepared to go to negotiation when Syria takes steps to stop its support of Hamas and Hezbollah.

In light of this, former Pres. Jimmy Carter announced yesterday the Bush White House ordered him not to meet with Assad, whom Pres. Carter has known for nearly 30 years.

This suggests that the Bush White House may have also tried to “order” the speaker not to meet with Assad, only to find itself tripped up again by the inconvenience of that pesky constitutional separation of powers. Since they couldn’t stop Pelosi’s visit, the next best option was to ruin it, which was likely accomplished with a single phone call to Tel Aviv.

Interestingly, the White House responded with little more than a pro forma complaint about Rep. Darrell Issa’s meeting with Pres. Assad yesterday. Issa is a Republican from San Diego County.

Update: (April 11, 2007) Rep. Tom Lantos who was on the trip confirms that Bush pressured Olmert to change his story. However, on C-SPAN last week Rep. Nick Rahall, D-West Virginia, who was also on the trip, denied that the Bush administration ever tried to forbid Pelosi from meeting with Assad.

13 Comments

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  • tpagy
    April 7, 2007 - 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Is anyone suprised at this we know Bush allowed the slaughter in the fake war in lebanon with the comp Israelis so why would’nt Olmert lie about this It does show them to be the war criminals that they are neither want peace in the middle east its about money plain and simple

  • April 7, 2007 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Olmert is on thin ice. But after this stunt, let him sink.

  • Charlie
    April 7, 2007 - 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I think Nancy looks nice in a hijab. Might as well. Maybe American women should get use to wearing one.

  • mouse
    April 7, 2007 - 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Why don’t we just impeach bush and chaney and then Nancy will be in charge?

  • Kewalo
    April 7, 2007 - 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I have a link from 4/02 that clearly states the Olmert sent a message. I think that after that the admistration got ahold of Israel and they changed their story. Didn’t the story change after the 2nd?

    New York Post

  • Greg Bacon
    April 8, 2007 - 3:19 am | Permalink

    “I think Nancy looks nice in a hijab. Might as well. Maybe American women should get use to wearing one.”

    Is that what that head covering is called?

    Back on the farm, my mom used to wear something similar on her head whenever she worked outside.
    But us dumb country folk just called it a scarf.

    Better wearing that than enduring all the scratch marks from being clawed on our backs from being anally reamed-figuratively speaking–the last six years by the Bush/Cheney nation rapers.
    Maybe we should all wear a “hajib” to help cover the shame from not defending and protecting our
    Constitution.

    greg bacon
    ava, mo

  • David G. Boyle
    April 8, 2007 - 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Just one little question. Since when can a president “ORDER” another president to do, or NOT do anything???

  • MysticInd
    April 9, 2007 - 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Yeap that about covers it!

    Whether it was done before or after, the effect and influence is still the same-Hijack the media and discredit the opposition.

  • Vance
    April 9, 2007 - 6:13 pm | Permalink

    That’s right Charlie, as soon as al Qa’ida gets access to the Indian ocean, builts a large fleet, recruits an army, develops an airforce, crosses the Pacific, invades and conquers the U.S., then U.S. women will have to get used to wearing hijab. Interested in making a small wager on the likely timeframe for these events…?

  • bogi666
    April 10, 2007 - 7:24 am | Permalink

    Pelosi acting as an adult with dignity is befuddling to the Bush administration since they not only have no dignity they don’t even know what it is. As far as acting like an adult, well it’s disgraceful to see Bush/Cheney and their minions acting like immature, impetuous children. Those who voted for these cretins have embarrassed our country and brought shame upon themselves although they don’t comprehend healthy shame which they hide with deflections with unhealthy shame of lies and concocted misinformation about others.

  • April 10, 2007 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Apparently Charlie never saw Laura Bush when she visited al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem when she was wearing her head scarf.
    Funny how the republicans only has eyes for BS…
    Impeach Bush and Cheney , and get our freedom and democracy back.
    This administration has broken more laws then the Mafia or any country in our history. If not for lies , deceit and corruption this administration would have not policy….

  • siri
    April 11, 2007 - 5:11 pm | Permalink

    It wasn’t a hijab! It was a headscarf, worn by women in many Christian denominations, especially when they are within a holy building, and/or visiting a gravesite.

    The Olmert denial has “BU$HCO” written all over it. There is NOTHING this administration will not stoop to doing to continue to attempt to gain some kind of ground. It’s not working and it’s not going to work. They’re “ground” is an earthquake over a black hole. They are on the way out, they are a failed administration who have damaged this country beyond what could ever have been imagined.

    IMPEACH BU$H AND CHENEY!!!!!
    INVESTIGATE
    INDICT
    AND
    IMPRISON, BU$H AND CHENEY AND THE ENTIRE REST OF THE NEST!!!
    Pelosi in ’07!
    For the love of God and Country!
    siri
    Sovereign Citizen of the FORMER United States of America

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