While Washington mulled over the Mueller report, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was seeing the world. She had work to do. She stopped at the London School of Economics, but her destination was the Irish parliament. She was invited to address the Dail Eireann, the lower House, on its centennial.
This spring jaunt is no isolated instance. While President Trump shouts and tweets his rage 'round the nation and the world, Pelosi has delicately picked up pieces after him. She's reached out to our alienated Western allies and the neglected military in the field. The pattern is clear: She is capable of conducting high-level international engagement — call it cordial diplomacy — amid American foreign policy disarray. That's putting it politely.
Back in January, Pelosi was packed and ready to fly to Afghanistan with a congressional delegation (CODEL). That is a place the president has never been, where we've been at war for long years. So the speaker prepared to visit a war zone, but Trump abruptly canceled her military plane trip, citing the government shutdown.
The gentle lady's got game, and the president has no shame. She didn't get to meet face to face with military commanders about strategy to break a stalemate in that far-off, forbidding terrain. How unfortunate. That said everything about the president and the new speaker (on her second turn) — and how their relationship would bud this spring, impeachment or not. Her cordial counterpoint crafts a strange state of foreign affairs.
Speakers usually focus on domestic policy, but we live in unusually interesting times.
The speaker's diplomatic masterstroke was inviting NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to Washington to address a joint session of Congress earlier this month. After all, it is her House, and it was the 70th birthday of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The United States was the beacon and leader, first among equals. Remember when NATO was a club of friends, large and small? Wars in Bosnia and Kosovo were case studies of success. Notably, Britain and Germany could be counted on in a scrape.
But when Trump started insulting the defense organization, complaining about money spent on defense by NATO members, he changed the chemistry of goodwill between world leaders. The uncouth tycoon showed he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. He paid cursory heed to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and seemed to slight her. Was it because she's a woman or because she and former President Barack Obama were close? Whatever goes through Trump's head, he quickly proved to be the Ugly American, at home and abroad.
Stoltenberg, the former prime minister of Norway, faced a full House chamber, senators crossing the Capitol to hear him at this historic juncture. Never had the NATO secretary general addressed a joint session. He made the most of the chance and won hearty bipartisan ovations.
In the press gallery, I felt the crowd pulse quicken when Stoltenberg told Congress that the Cold War was won without a shot. He declared NATO doesn't stand for nostalgia but for shared strength going forward in an age of sophisticated cyberattacks and artificial intelligence.
The military brass, the joint chiefs, looked like it was music to their ears. Everybody seemed happy — perhaps even loyal lapdog Mike Pence, the vice president.
"Madam Speaker," Stoltenberg concluded, "it is good to have friends." That brought down the House.
The timely invitation was inspired because Pelosi politely put Trump in a spot. Since Stoltenberg was in Washington, the White House had to invite him to see the president, too. The NATO chief is said to be "deft" at handling Trump, so all's well that ends well. For now.
While the Trump White House wages a word war against Iran, Pelosi issued a press release to wish the Iranian community in America a happy Persian new year — or Nowruz. Such a grace note does not go unnoticed in a time like this. I saw her receive the king of Jordan by the speaker's balcony with aplomb.
Pelosi's cordial counterpoint to Trump plays well on the world stage — and will help keep our friends.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit the website Creators.com