Bridging a Divide -- and Crossing an Ocean
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
David L. Hobson, a nine-term House member from Ohio, is becoming the token Republican.
In January, he was the lone Republican on a congressional trip to Iraq led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). This month, Hobson was again the only member of the GOP on a trip to the Middle East organized by Pelosi.
That was the same trip, which included a stop in Syria, that drew criticism from Hill Republicans and the White House. They accused Pelosi of undermining the Bush administration's foreign policy.
Vice President Cheney called Pelosi's trip "bad behavior." House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) said Pelosi traveled to Syria "for one reason, and that is to embarrass the president."
And Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who serves as chief deputy minority whip, wrote in an essay for a conservative journal that Pelosi "and many of her Democratic allies have become so drunk with grandiose visions of deposing Bush that they break bread with terrorists and enemies of the United States."
All that rancor irritated Hobson, a solid Republican who is well regarded within his party.
"Before we left, we met with the State Department people and nobody told us not to go," Hobson said, adding that none of his Republican colleagues broached the subject, either. "Nobody ever called me to say, 'Why are you going to Syria with those people?' "
Why, indeed. Especially when a group of Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (Va.) traveled to Syria days before Pelosi's group.
"I went to dinner with who asked me," said Hobson, the only Republican Pelosi invited to join the group. "Frank Wolf didn't ask me to go to Syria."
It is important for lawmakers from both parties to travel together to lend credibility to the trip and present a cohesive message to foreign governments, Hobson said.
"When we're outside the country, we should be putting forth a bipartisan foreign policy -- and we did," he said. "There could be misconceptions in the region that because we are divided over the [Iraq war] supplemental, there are also divisions on the war on terror.
"But the speaker told the Syrians we are united that Syrians should not support terrorists going into Iraq and should work for peace with Israel," he said. "It's important to have somebody from the other party along to say, yes, that's what she said."