Republicans of the populist right in the US have a phrase they sometimes use about Nancy Pelosi.
‘ A master political strategist ‘
Well….when I say Republicans I largely mean Steve Bannon on his War Room: Impeachment podcast. Some of the contributors on the show slightly bristle at his use of the description.
Watching some of Pelosi’s recent podium utterances, in front of a largely unquestioning press, has been at times confusing and borderline nonsensical. In recent years, thinking on her feet and responding to even moderately challenging questions isn’t her strongest suit. However behind the scenes, with the time to think and plan strategy is where she really comes into her own.
A quick recap
Let’s bear in mind that she has been under massive pressure to find reason to impeach the President from the hard left wing of her party. Pelosi wasn’t against the idea of impeaching the President just that her preference would have been to have something really concrete to launch one on.
The fact that she allowed two hyper partisan Congressmen in Schiff and Nadler to head up the key committees at the heart of the eventual impeachment process chosen, namely Intelligence and Judiciary, acknowledged a willingness to allow these Democrats to go after President Trump. The initial choreographed Whistle-blower leaks hinted strongly that the Dems may finally have stumbled on something to hang their hats on.
Unfortunately, the release of the call transcripts of both phone conversations with President Zelensky placed a huge fly in the ointment. There just wasn’t enough in there to prove their case categorically. Sadly, it was more than enough for the ” impeach at any cost” majority in her party to steamroll ahead.
So these are the cards Nancy Pelosi has been dealt. Up to now it’s been a pretty weak hand to try and play but nonetheless she has played it well to date.
Think back to the impeachment vote on Dec 19th. It was on this day Pelosi made her first move, she simultaneously coordinated a successful impeachment in Congress with the surprising announcement of a vote to pass Trump’s USMCA deal. Within a day or two of doing this, she got the budget spending bill passed thru the House for 2020. With large concessions to Trump on Military expenditure and Border security funding.
At a micro level this is sending out two completely contradictory messages to the US public. Impeaching a President while simultaneously passing and trying to take credit for a trade deal that was his from conception to successful execution.
While you may argue that the above was merely an attempt to hoodwink the average US citizen into believing Democrats have achieved more in 2019 than an increasingly unpopular impeachment process, the real point is that in 6 months time people won’t necessarily remember the politics of what she did. Especially if the narrative has changed.
Pelosi is playing her impeachment hand at a macro level and trusting that these micro sleights of hand will be forgotten because the macro narrative will have changed. The beauty of the strategy is that she is betting on President Trump to be the one that changes the narrative.
Lessons from recent Turkish conflict with Kurds
We saw in the last quarter of 2019 the sudden escalation of hostilities between Turkey and the Kurds. Trump applied some decidedly unorthodox methods to bring the matter to a conclusion. Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republicans temporarily broke ranks with the President over his decision to stand back and let the two warring factions fight it out for a few days before stepping back in. But It created a temporary vacuum where a number of Republicans got very, very nervous about his strategy.
Ultimately the President’s call on the dispute worked more or less. There are two lessons to be learned from the Turkey situation.
- President Trump is prepared to use unorthodox, perhaps even risky steps to resolve matters of foreign policy.
- A cohort of Republicans get very, very nervous when he does.
Point 2 has probably not gone unnoticed by Nancy Pelosi.
And this is where the Steve Bannon’s of the world might be correct in labeling Nancy Pelosi a master strategist.
There has been much head scratching in Washington over Pelosi’s 2nd big play – to delay the submission of the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.
Many see it as the Speaker of the House attempting to control and influence the Senate process due to the weakness of Adam Schiff’s case. There may well be a grain of truth to this but it is not the overwhelming reason for the delay in my opinion.
I don’t think Nancy Pelosi is in anyway stupid. She knows the case that is currently gathering dust in the House of Representatives hasn’t a snowball’s chance in Hell of gaining a two thirds majority in the Senate at the moment. Zero.
Once it goes over to Mitch McConnell, it’s out of her hands and critically will be judged on the facts as they stand on the day they go over. A crucial point in addition, is they will also be evaluated in the political climate of the Senate, Washington and the country that exists during the trial.
This is what perhaps the Republicans and in particular the Republican Senators are not giving due consideration to at the moment.
Nancy Pelosi isn’t waiting for an opportunity to add to her threadbare exculpatory evidence or to call more witnesses.
Her big final play is to bet on a changing political temperature. An altering narrative away from impeachment granularity to something else. President Trump might just have provided it yesterday.
Pelosi remembers Turkey and particularly some Republican Senators reaction to it.
Which brings us quite neatly to Iran and the targeted killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani near Baghdad airport less than 24 hours ago. We all know the recent background music.
The initial killing of an American contractor and American soldiers injured.
The retaliation by the US on over a dozen Irani backed militiamen.
The subsequent two day siege/attack on the US embassy in Baghdad.
When you cut out the noise from the partisan outrage/euphoria from either side of the aisle there is only one pertinent question to ask.
Was the action taken by President Trump an over-playing of his hand?
Given the hugely significant standing Soleimani held in the Iranian regime , the answer to this question will be provided by Iran. Not Republicans or Democrats or media. The answer to it will have major implications for the President of the United States.
Was his decision to execute this mission a strong enough statement to prevent Iran from retaliating hard. Retaliating on American interests, Infrastructure and most, most importantly American lives. Because if it wasn’t he could find himself in pretty big trouble very, very quickly.
President Trump, from this point forward has taken personal ownership of every death or injury to an American or close ally that takes place in the Middle-east for the foreseeable future. Over and above his oath of office. Every death from here will be linked, rightly or wrongly, with this Soleimani killing. It’s actually the biggest gamble President Trump has taken during his presidency.
This could very well be the type of climate change Nancy Pelosi requires to set the optimum temperature for a Senate trial. If Iran responds hard and fast the pressure on Trump will ratchet up exponentially and with ferocious speed.
A few US troop casualties anywhere in the world in the next three weeks and a number of Republican Senators will start to get very nervous again.
Early social media reaction has seen some bizarre hashtags trending like #WorldWar3
Comical stuff really.
Despite social and journalistic commentary the last thing Trump needs or wants is a war, even a guerrilla proxy war, with Iran. It will absolutely have the potential to destroy his re-election campaign even if it doesn’t de-rail his impeachment defense.
While other Presidents may or may not have used force as a rallying cry to an electorate, it is not likely to be one President Trump will call on. Or can call on easily.
On foreign policy, the Trump Presidency has been a promise to extricate the US from trillion dollar conflicts around the world. Not potentially create new ones.
He has a taken bold and decisive action against Iran – but he will need to tread very carefully from here.
Iran isn’t a place where the Leadership are wearing MAGA hats.
For more background info on Qassam Soleimaini click here