Next Year, Year After, Whenever: Pelosi's Addled Take on US Departure From Afghanistan

How I look forward to Rachel Maddow's chummy chats with Bay Area soulmate Nancy Pelosi -- especially when it turns awkward.

On her MSNBC show last night, Maddow showed clips of her "exclusive" interview with Pelosi earlier in the day. It was during their discussion of the Petraeus scandal that matters took a turn toward hilarity, an outcome always on the horizon whenever Pelosi is involved. (video clip after page break)

A transcription of the exchange with unavoidable snarky asides  --

MADDOW: To have this scandal now touch on General John Allen, who's the commanding general in Afghanistan, today was the confirmation hearing for the man who would be his successor, General (Joseph) Dunford, in Afghanistan. Obviously that sex scandal, that personal behavior scandal, is unrelated to the war. But the fact that these things are all happening at once raises for me once again the strangeness of the fact that we have so little political debate about our ongoing war. In the terms of the realm of political possibility and what is doable after this election, I have to ask you why Congress shouldn't be expected now to push for a faster end to the Afghanistan war than the end of two years from now?

PELOSI: Well, I, it isn't two years, it's just one year from now, to December ...

MADDOW (shifting uncomfortably in chair): End of 2014, right ...

PELOSI: ... -14, right, well, I guess, yeah, almost two years, but let's hope it's before then. Let's hope it's by then, but let's hope it is before then. (When we come to that fork in the road, take it). Uh, how is it, what is our mission, how is it in our national security to stay the long time? What I think we have to be vigilant about is that we're not staying any longer. (Camera pans to a distressed Maddow). And I know there's been some comments about, well, we may keep a force. I don't think there's any appetite for that.

MADDOW (as if speaking to a child): General Dunford said today that he'd be in favor of keeping a force beyond 2014. Are you against that?

PELOSI: Well, I'm more interested in what the president of the United States has said is that we will be out by the end of, uh, of uh, 2014. (You know, like I didn't say just a moment ago). But it is, it's unpopular, the country is weary of war. They want our troops to come home and they are coming home. But I don't know (as I just demonstrated) if there's a majority in the vote in Congress to bring the troops home in a faster schedule than the president has. And remember (sees opening to save face), the president said by 2014. So, hopefully it will be sooner. (Please tell me you haven't been recording this).

MADDOW (back in studio, in hushed tone of someone feigning awe): Nancy Pelosi in an exclusive interview with me today (which she now regrets) saying that from what we know now, General Petraeus's affair does not seem to have risen to the level of the kind of national security matter that might justify the FBI telling other people about that affair (and for which I'd be condemning Bush if this happened while he was president). Also saying that the ultimate drawdown timeline in Afghanistan should be shortened, to earlier than the end of 2014 which is what it is now. (And not "by" 2014 as Pelosi claimed in a vain hope to avoid appearing ridiculous).

Best moment still to come -- after the Pelosi interview, Maddow turns to a guest in the studio with her, Foreign Policy magazine reporter Josh Rogin -- who rolls his eyes in apparent reaction to Pelosi's remarks. Worth the price of admission.

For the record, President Obama's highest profile statement this year on withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan came during his visit to the country in May on the anniversary of the raid to kill bin Laden. Here's what Obama said about the timeframe for withdrawal (2:23 in the video) --

The goal that I set, to defeat al Qaeda and deny it a chance to rebuild, is now within our reach. Still, there will be difficult days ahead. The enormous sacrifices of our men and women are not over. But tonight I'd like to tell you how we will complete our mission and end the war in Afghanistan. First, we've begun a transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Already nearly half of the Afghan people live in places where Afghan security forces are moving into the lead. This month at a NATO summit in Chicago, our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year. International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward. As we do, our troops will be coming home. Last year we removed 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan. Another 23,000 will leave by the end of the summer. After that, reductions will continue at a steady pace with more and more of our troops coming home. And as our coalition agreed, by the end of 2014 the Afghans will be fully responsible for the security of their country.

Pelosi was also not paying attention during that otherwise widely viewed final presidential debate when Mitt Romney, much to the chagrin of many Republicans, said he agreed with much of Obama's foreign policy, including his plans for US forces to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

To conservatives unsettled by the specter of four more years of Obama, let me state two words to convey how much worse things could be -- President Pelosi.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts