Any garden variety Republican operative can run with the farcical non-scandal ginned up from someone requesting on behalf of the Speaker of the House of Representatives the legal privileges claimed by her predecessor as well as low-ranking Republican cabinet officials, even though she’s not only a Democrat but a woman. It also has some standard applications, like using it as an even-more-feeble-than-usual pretext for not caring about global warming like your friends at Dow 36,000 Central, because everyone knows that global warming turns on the individual choices of one’s political enemies and not actual public policy. But it takes a truly shameless and innovative brand of Republican hack to add to this less-than-pseudo-scandal some demagoguery about how Democrats hate the troops!!!!!!ONE!!1111! I give you Ann Althouse:
Yes, it’s a question of distance between you and ordinary mortals. Can someone explain how Nancy Pelosi has the nerve to tell a group of veterans that her desire to avoid having her plane stop to refuel is all about security?
What could possibly give her the idea that this policy had anything to do with national security? Even Howie Kurtz can get this right:
Did you know she was entitled to a military plane? Neither did I. But under legislation passed after 9/11, it’s legally mandated for security reasons. Dennis Hastert had such special transport for five years.
So what gave Pelosi the crazy idea that this had something to to with security was the fact that the relevant legislation was passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President as a security measure after 9/11. Amazingly, she failed to notice either the fact that voting for this legislation is spitting in the face of the troops or the troubling implications of the fact that powerful people don’t take the Greyhound from D.C. to San Fransisco like an honest proletarian when it was Republicans taking advantage of the law. What could possibly explain it?
To summarize, then, Howie Kurtz understood that this was an idiotic non-scandal, and yet still tried to push it by cherry-picking blogs that didn’t exist on January 31st, one of which has one post in its history. Ann Althouse is a considerably more egregious Republican hack.
…in light of the ad hominems predictably being flung against me, I thought it would be worth flashing back to this example of Althouse’s law-school-trained close reading skills and legendary impartiality about Democratic politicans. Althouse, you may recall, claimed that John Kerry was “outrageously lying” when he claimed that a botched joke wasn’t referring to American troops, although even the most cursory read of the context would make clear that the joke only made sense if he was referring to George W. Bush (and certainly at a very minimum Kerry’s reading was plausible, making flat-out claims that he was lying outrageous.) Something similar is evident here. Obviously, Althouse isn’t applying some sort of pre-existing principle holding that the jet used by Denny Hastert is acceptably close to the experience of the people but a jet that can fly to direct to California is evidence that one sees themselves as being above ordinary mortals, for the obvious reason that nobody could believe such nonsense. It’s just an opportunity to propagate a well-coordinated right-wing smear campaign against a politician she dislikes, with the extra bonus of claiming that she’s insulting the military (just like John Kerry likes to!) by simply telling the truth about why the jet was requested on her behalf. That’s all that’s going on here, and we’ve seen it countless times, and I’m not going to stop criticizing such arguments whenever I see them. As Bob Somerby once again pointed out, these pseudo-scandals and transparently bad faith attempts to portray Democrats as unpatriotic out-of-touch elitists on the most spurious grounds may seem silly, but they’re what gave us Bush in 2000, and they’re not going to stop doing it as long as it’s working.
…I should also add that I’m assuming that people will click through to the Greg Sargent link to explain what’s going on with the “Pelosi requested a luxury jet, not the good Republican cloth jet that was good enough for Denny Hastert” smear. For those who aren’t familiar with the facts, 1)Hastert’s plane couldn’t reliably fly direct to California, 2)Pelosi (entirely reasonably) wanted to make direct flights and offered to fly commercial, 3)but the law requires the Speaker to use a military jet for security reasons, and then 4)the House Sargent-At-Arms–not Pelosi– requested a a plane on her behalf that could make direct flights to California. So, in other words, Pelosi was just telling the truth by saying that the jet was mandated by national security concerns, and to conceive of this as an insult to the troops is silly. And as for the faux-populist resentment that opens Althouse’s post, given the facts what could the argument be here? Again, is it acceptable to have a direct flight to Illinois but not California? Is there some pre-existing, precise level of expense at which the use of a private jet is insufficiently plebeian, even if more expense is justified by perfectly reasonable requirements? Does anybody think that this precise, rarified populism, rather than simple partisan rancor, explains Althouse’s attack on Pelosi? Look, Althouse supports the Iraq War, she supports Bush, and would (logically enough) like to see Republicans in control of Congress–that’s her privilege. But to pretend that she’s an above-the-fray non-partisan despite these kinds of obviously specious attacks on Democratic politicians is simply an insult to our intelligence. And she and her defenders are the ones with a shaky grasp on the facts here.
…Since I’m tired of explaining this in comments, let me elaborate one last time. It is, as it happens, true that Althouse doesn’t understand the basic facts of the non-scandal. There is uncontroverted evidence that the Sargent-at-Arms–not Pelosi–requested the jet for security reasons. The very story Althouse cites is inconsistent with her interpretation. The Bush Administration acknowledges that the request was for legitimate security reasons. I left this to a link rather than elaborating upon it because I don’t really care–this would be a non-scandal even if the charges against Pelosi were true. If someone–Republican, Democrat, 3rd in command, lower-tier cabinet secretary–who has to use a jet wants one that can fly home directly just like Denny Hastert had, fine with me. Who the hell cares? The point of my original post, rather, was simply that 1)the allegedly non-partisan Althouse wedges the discussion of this triviality into two predictable Republican smear narratives–”Democrats are chardonnay-sipping elitists!” “Democrats hate the troops!” and 2)the self-and-by-nobody-else described “feminist” Althouse is willing to smear Pelosi with uppity-woman narratives being pushed by feminist-baiters like Glenn “why vote for the first woman President if we’ve already got one?” Reynolds, which is entirely preidctable given her support for radical woman’s rights opponent Samuel Alito, her creepy misogynist sniggering about Jessica Valenti’s breasts, etc etc. Althouse is wrong about this non-scandal too, but it’s the “why” that matters because it’s a much larger problem than one hack blogger. You’ll be seeing a lot more of these smears used against Pelosi (and Clinton.)