Speaking Out of the House

Here is an ethnic mystery to ponder.  If I am Jewish and Nancy Pelosi is Italian, why do I look at her behavior and think immediately of an Irish poet?  I suppose it is less a matter of her ethnos than her ethos.

They must to keep their certainty accuse
All that are different of a base intent;
Pull down established honour; hawk for news
Whatever their loose fantasy invent
And murmur it with bated breath….

William Butler Yeats,
The Leaders of the Crowd

This week the Hon. hon, Ms. Pelosi, ventured abroad (if that’s the word I want).  She has been speaker of the House for all of two months and 10 days, and apparently the seventy-day itch has set in.  Suddenly the House became too confining.  No stay-at-home she.  The state of affairs has tested her mettle, so she decided to meddle in affairs of state.  The bills in the House all had clogged passages; she needed to get out for some fresh air.  Perhaps, the thought struck her in an idle moment, she could solve the Mideast conflict in her spare time.  

She shows up in Israel, gives the obligatory America-loves-Israel speech, places the obligatory note in the Wall, eats the obligatory soggy falafel, and meets the obliging Prime Minister.  Olmert, like all bald Israelis with Marty Feldman eyes, fancies himself a ladies’ man, so he lets his guard down.  She asks him would he talk to Syria and he says something like, “Talk shmalk, Syria Shmyria, is that a Valentino you’re wearing?”  One day later she is in Syria, announcing that Olmert asked her to tell Assad he is ready to deal.

This forced Olmert’s office to release a mutually humiliating communiqué to the effect that he had said no such thing, nor had he authorized her to quote him to this effect.  What he actually said was that if Syria stops backing Hamas and Hezbollah, stops destabilizing Lebanon and ceases its support of Iraqi insurgents, they could sit down and have a chat.  Which in diplo-speak means: “You and I ain’t talkin’ in this lifetime.”  What made Pelosi act like such a buffoon?  Yeats said it best, as above.  Self-promotion, the need to be superior, to be seen as in the know.

An intellectual hatred is the worst,
So let her think opinions are accursed.
Have I not seen the loveliest woman born
Out of the mouth of plenty’s horn,
Because of her opinionated mind
Barter that horn and every good
By quiet natures understood
For an old bellows full of angry wind?

William Butler Yeats,
A Prayer For My Daughter

This is the second reason for Pelosi’s arrant conduct: rage.  She is from a school of political ideology that is not satisfied to disagree with its opponents.  No, the other view must be vilified, castigated, demonized and marginalized.  It is not enough merely to go and upstage the President by practicing her own foreign policy.  She must go and demonstrate that only the President’s boorishness stands between the comity of nations and the comedy (in her view) of his foreign policy.  Why, in one conversation she could advance the cause of global peace more than Bush could accomplish in six years!

This bubbling animosity shows through in her features.  Instead of the serenity projected by Condoleezza Rice she evinces a cramped, crabby persona.  She is actually a pleasant-looking woman if she would only let herself, but her bile is always aboil.  She walks around looking like someone put too much lemon juice in her marinara.  In this she resembles her subordinates, who are compulsively insubordinate to the President they despise.

For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours’ eyes?

William Butler Yeats,
To A Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing

As for the President, he is in the awkward position of being bound by a code of honor Madame Pelosi blithely disregards.  He asked her in advance not to visit Syria; instead she not only stopped there, she made unauthorized overtures and proclaimed unrealized breakthroughs.  He cannot compete for generating excitement with a person who is unfettered by a regard for either truth or decorum.

Everything about Pelosi’s behavior bespeaks an insolent commitment to persistently undermine not only the President’s achievements but even his active plans.  It looks like we can look forward to lots more of the same between now and the end of Bush’s term in January 2009; gonna be ugly.  But hey, she is out there in all her coiffed, made-up glory: she will not be denied.

And there’s a player in the States who gathers up her cloak
And flings herself out of the room when Juliet would be bride
With all a woman’s passion, a child’s imperious way,
And there are — but no matter if there are scores beside:
I knew a phoenix in my youth, so let them have their day.

William Butler Yeats,
His Phoenix