Sheehan Campaign Sees Opening, Going To 'Hit Hard' On Torture Issue

| Thu Dec. 13, 2007 3:19 PM EST

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Right from the time Cindy Sheehan announced her independent Congressional run against Nancy Pelosi, there was an obvious tactical problem: her big lines of attack—the Democrats' failure to impeach the president or effect any policy shift on Iraq—were less about Pelosi herself (who had voted against the war, after all) and more about the Democrats in general. Those criticisms would inevitably be deflected with the "we just don't have the votes" refrain. But with Sunday's Washington Post report that in 2002 Pelosi was "given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites" and its "harsh" interrogation techniques, the Sheehan campaign has been handed a big new line of attack, one that's inescapably about Pelosi's own conduct.

Then-Rep. Porter Goss, who was also at the briefing, told the Post that "the reaction in the room was not just approval, but encouragement." Pelosi hasn't come up with a reasonable explanation for her failure to speak out against torture when it might have actually mattered. She issued a short statement insisting that legal counsel had concluded "the techniques were legal." A Pelosi aide claimed that the Post report was "overblown."

Cindy Sheehan's campaign is on it. "We really plan to hit this hard and not let it go," spokeswoman Tiffany Burns told me yesterday.

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"This is one of the key reasons why Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table, because she's complicit in the Bush Administration's crimes," Burns said. Sheehan added in a press release:

"Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress should be using their Constitutional authority to end all use of torture. Acquiring information through use of torture on prisoners of war is as inhumane as it is unreliable."

If I were working at the Sheehan campaign, I would be calling every political reporter in the city and pushing hard to introduce a very simple question into the news cycle: Do Bay Area progressives want to support a Speaker of the House who is personally complicit in the Bush Administration's torture policies?—Justin Elliott