Former President Jimmy Carter expressed his support for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to Syria, rejecting White House criticism of the visit.
Anyone with the slightest knowledge of modern-day politics could have guessed this. Not much deliberation is necessary to arrive at this one. Equally as predictable is the White House's response:
Bush on Tuesday called the trip "counterproductive" and said it would send mixed signals.
"Photo opportunities and/or meetings with President Assad lead the Assad government to believe they're part of the mainstream of the international community, when, in fact, they're a state sponsor of terror," he said at a news conference in the White House's Rose Garden.
To which Carter responded:
Carter, however, said there was "no threat" that the Democratic speaker's visit would dilute the United States' ability to speak to Syria with one voice.
Even Nancy, herself, weighed in:
Pelosi defended her visit, saying her talks with Al-Assad focused only on topics on which she and Bush agree.
"On the issues that we set before the president (of Syria)," she said, "there is no division among us or between our congressional delegation in Congress and the president of the United States."
But if we take even the proverbial New York minute and think about this, we can see that this may not be the case. You would have a difficult time explaining what transpired next, as something the Bush administration would approve.
Take a look at this part of the story reported during her visit.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on a visit to Syria opposed by the White House, said on Wednesday she conveyed an Israeli message to President Bashar al-Assad that the Jewish state was ready to resume peace talks.
But as you might guess, there is a problem with that story. It seems that Olmert's office denies ever sending a message in those words.
The Prime Minister's Office issued a rare "clarification" Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks.
To quote an old Strothers Martin line in Cool Hand Luke, "What we have here is, failure to communicate!" This is known as a discrepancy of the obvious kind. It only serves to demonstrate, precisely what kind of confusion can be created when novices at foreign affairs try to stick their noses into things that are not in their areas of expertise.
Whether or not one agrees with her view of talking to states like Iran and Syria, over and above Bush's view of not engaging in talks with them, is irrelevant. Conducting foreign affairs visits without the approval of the administration, is not in the Speaker's constitutional job description.
If that's not enough, we also have Syria exploiting the situation by attempting to take credit for Iran releasing the British hostages.
Syria played a key role in resolving the standoff over the 15 British sailors and marines held by Iran, two government officials said Wednesday.
Syrian efforts and the Iranian willingness culminated with the release of the British sailors," said Information Minister Mohsen Bilal.
If this isn't confusing enough, consider that this release was supposed to be a gift from the people of Iran.
Ahmadinejad said he had pardoned the sailors as a gift to the British people and to mark the birthday of Islam's Prophet Muhammed and Easter.
On the occasion of the birthday of the great prophet (Muhammad) ... and for the occasion of the passing of Christ, I say the Islamic Republic government and the Iranian people -- with all powers and legal right to put the soldiers on trial -- forgave those 15," he said, referring to the Muslim prophet's birthday last Saturday and Easter, next Sunday.
"This pardon is a gift to the British people," he said.
"On behalf of the great Iranian people, I want to thank the Iranian Coast Guard who courageously defended and captured those who violated their territorial waters, the president told a press conference.
Confused? Maybe you are, maybe you aren't. But if there is an ounce of objectivity in your hearts, you will see that this was a bad idea. And you can plainly see why.
Pelosi goes to Syria against the wishes of the duly elected President of the United States, whose job it is to set foreign policy for the nation. Pelosi then gets credited for carrying a message that Olmert says was never sent. Then, the Syrians take the opportunity to claim they were responsible for what Iran says was an Easter gift to the British people, at the very time of her visit. No mention is made by the president of Iran, of Syria's claimed role in all of this.
If that's not confusion, mixed signals, or a diluted message, I don't know what is.
Addendum: Apparently, even the liberal-leaning WaPo agrees.