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Pelosi Travels to Syria; Candidates Release Fund-raising Numbers

Political analysts Mark Shields and Rich Lowry discuss a trip to Syria for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the release of presidential campaign fund-raising numbers.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Lowry, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and National Review editor Rich Lowry. David Brooks is off.

    Mark, let me begin with you. Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Syria this week, a lot of criticism, especially from the White House. Was the criticism deserved?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    First, the criticism. I think it was a little over-reaction, but I want to defend the White House. If you had been through what they've been through the last six months, with losing the Congress, and the first White House official since the 19th century to be indicted convicted for crime, for a felony, to calls from Republicans for the resignation of the attorney general, to Walter Reed, the scandal of indifference, to wounded warriors, you know, you'd take every chance you could, and this was the first opening they'd had.

    Nancy Pelosi had been remarkably sure-footed in her first weeks and months, I think, as speaker. I think this trip was ill-advised. It was legitimate. Republicans did not criticize her, and Frank Wolf and other Republicans went there.

    But I think the fact that she went there and apparently slipped on the nuances of Middle Eastern policy and carrying a message, at least an alleged message, from the prime minister of Israel, who's on political life support. And as soon as she said that, he had to repudiate, for domestic political purposes, the message that he was willing to negotiate with Syria.

    I don't think it worked. I think the principal, overriding concern of Democrats has to be a unified, united policy on Iraq. And while the other is legitimate and interesting, it is not important. And so I think it was a mistake.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Rich, as Mark said, there were Republicans who went, too. In fact, there was a Republican congressman from Ohio who was with Speaker Pelosi.

  • RICH LOWRY, Editor, National Review:

    Yes, Dave Hobson. With all due respect to Congressman Hobson, I wouldn't necessarily make him the touchstone of wisdom in international relations. I think it was ill-advised for the speaker of the House to go there, and it's ill-advised for any Republicans to go there.

    The administration's whole strategy is based on isolating Bashir Assad, who is a murderer. The evidence suggests very strongly he was directly involved in the murder of the former prime minister of Lebanon, Hariri.

    And what he wants desperately more than anything else is not to be isolated and for the international community just to forget about that and other acts of wrongdoing.

    And, unfortunately, the sheer act of the speaker of the House being there with him, sitting, you know, beside him in a chair, and getting photographed serves to send the implicit message, no matter what she says, that he is — if he just kind of waits out the Bush administration, he is eventually going to get out from under this isolation.

    So, diplomatically, it was a very bad idea. And, politically, Mark is exactly right: Nancy Pelosi should be saving every ounce of her political capital for this huge battle coming with President Bush over the funding of the Iraq war. It's a mistake to have exposed herself in this way.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    I'd just say that the administration does not want to acknowledge that Assad's very weak hand internationally has been strengthened by the disaster of the United States policy in Iraq. And that's one of the ironies, that, while he was almost tottering and enfeebled, he has been strengthened, ironically, by the American disaster in Iraq.