Nancy Pelosi was brainwashed. It was not difficult. They did not even have to rinse and repeat.
In September 2002, Pelosi, now the speaker of the House, was the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee and was told by the CIA that "enhanced interrogation techniques" were being used on detainees suspected of terrorism.
Pelosi says that the CIA told her that waterboarding was not being used, however.
Later, Pelosi learned that waterboarding was indeed being used and now says that "those briefing me in September 2002 gave me inaccurate and incomplete information."
OK, fine. The CIA gasp! fibbed, and she fell for it.
To me, that is not the real question, however. To me, the real question is what on earth Pelosi thought the CIA meant when it said it was using "enhanced interrogation techniques" on detainees.
Did Pelosi think the CIA was sending these men to bed without dinner? Or not letting them watch "American Idol"? Or cutting down their PlayStation time to just one hour a night and only after they had finished their homework?
Or did Pelosi not think at all about what "enhanced interrogation techniques" really meant? Sometimes it is easier not to think. Sometimes it is easier to avert one's eyes, close one's ears and shut one's mind.
Unfortunately for Pelosi, one of her colleagues (and detested rivals) did find out what the CIA was doing. Just five months after Pelosi says she was misled, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) was told by the CIA at a briefing that it was using waterboarding. One of Pelosi's aides was also at that briefing and told Pelosi.
Harman quickly sent a letter of complaint to the CIA, but Pelosi did not.
"No letter could change the policy," Pelosi recently sniffed.
So what was Pelosi's solution? What trees did she plant? "It was clear we had to change the leadership of the Congress and the White House," Pelosi said. "That was my job."
And what a comfort that must have been to men who were being strapped face up to boards, being tipped backward and having water forced down their throats.
Leon Panetta, a longtime Democrat who is now director of the CIA, says that "contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully."
In other words, Panetta says Pelosi was told the truth about waterboarding and did nothing about it five months before she says she learned the truth about waterboarding and did nothing about it.
(And why would the CIA go to the trouble of lying to Pelosi in September 2002 and just five months later freely admit to Harman what it was doing?)
The Republicans are jumping up and down over all this. And Pelosi made matters worse by conducting a disastrous news conference last week at which a reporter asked her if she wished she had done more to object to waterboarding and she said, "No, no, no, no, no, no."
Six no's is a lot, considering the correct answer should be: "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes."
But because Pelosi now is being attacked by Republicans, many Democrats feel the need to rally around her. Some point out that CIA records are often not complete and cannot be taken as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Gee, no kidding. These guys are, after all, professional spies. I am very glad they are on our side, but they deal in stuff like secret codes, disappearing ink, forged documents and fake evidence. (George W. Bush is still kicking himself for not having them fake a few weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.)
So why would anybody believe utterly and completely what the CIA was saying?
Except for Nancy Pelosi, that is.
Nancy Pelosi was baffled and bewildered by the CIA. Unfortunately, she was also unbothered.
Now Pelosi wants a "truth commission" to get to the bottom of things, though President Barack Obama is not thrilled with the idea, knowing that such a commission will reveal not only Republican wrongdoing but also Democratic complicity with wrongdoing.
Democratic analyst Bob Shrum wrote a defense of Pelosi a few days ago in which he stated: "As much as a politician can be, she's prone to telling the truth."
And as much as a veteran journalist as I am, I am still sometimes prone to wanting to laugh out loud.