April 6, 2007

Gorgeous scarves and shabby suits.

Naturally, Robin Givhan must do an essay on what Nancy Pelosi wore in Syria and what the Iranians made the British sailors wear, and just as naturally, I must blog about it:
[Each scarf she wore] was incorporated into the day's wardrobe. One hesitates to say that she accessorized her ensembles with the scarves because that makes it sound as though their significance can be equated with a pair of earrings or a strand of pearls. They were more meaningful than that. They allowed her to be respectful of the day's hosts while maintaining her own public identity. She looked like herself and she maintained control of the visual message.

There are few images more discomforting than public figures thrust into foreign cultures and required to wear the host's traditional attire. Almost without exception the visitors tend to look smaller and more vulnerable. They evoke the uneasiness of children who have been dressed by a parent, teacher, minister or other authority figure....

When the recently released British detainees were trotted in front of the media in Iran, the men were not in the uniform of their country, which would have been a reminder of their international stature, but rather in look-alike shabby suits and no ties. They were dressed in the image of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Western mufti was appropriated and served as a stand-in for an emasculating uniform, making the seamen appear small and uncertain. The lone woman looked like she had been overpowered by someone else's cultural traditions.

Pelosi, with her carefully coordinated scarves, respected her foreign surroundings without ceding any control.
It's an awkward comparison. Pelosi got to choose -- not only to go where she did, but also to comply with the clothing requirements with her own things. The British sailors were, obviously, far more constrained. Fawning over Pelosi is bad enough. Of course, this rich woman who has long had an interest in fashion picked really nice scarves when she had to wear a scarf. But dragging in the sailors to load more praise on Pelosi looks really.... shabby.

32 comments:

Internet Ronin said...

Fashionable scarves notwithstanding, I understand that the Israeli government was none too pleased with Ms. Pelosi's undiplomatic misrepresentation of their conversations with her. Apparently, Pelosi misinformed Syria's leaders about those discussions.

MadisonMan said...

I've seen that assertion, but haven't found any news (vs. blog) stories to back it up. If you have one, can you point me to it? It's alluded to here, for example, but that story doesn't read like the Israelis were very upset.

Thanks.

Doyle said...

Apparently, Pelosi misinformed Syria's leaders about those discussions.

Like you have any idea, IR. Surely it's possible that Israel might disavow having expressed interest in peace talks even if they did so.

And there hasn't been as much "fawning" over Pelosi as there has been a characteristically bogus smear campaign. The MSM is pushing the false storyline that this is totally unprecedented (while Darrell Issa and other Repubs went over there as well). Your warm, nurturing right wing buddies have been crying about her wearing a "hijab" and whatnot.

Shameful, but to be expected.

P.S. What on earth is your point about the sailors? Everyone knows they were given/forced to wear those clothes. No one's "dragging them" anywhere to "load more praise on Pelosi." Bonkers.

Synova said...

If it weren't for the pictures of the British sailor in the scarf I don't think that people would have been anywhere near as critical of Pelosi's scarves. The two have to go together. (Her visit would still be every bit as criticized, just not the scarf so much.)

Normally, Western women are apt to put a scarf on voluntarily in circumstances that seem to warrant it, such as visiting a religious place. But we'd just seen pictures of someone who obviously had not volunteered. The message was very clear that a woman was being put in her place. Judgments were made about her virtue and it was, certainly, a case of dominion over her.

Enter Pelosi, who seems to be doing this voluntarily, and there you go.

The British sailors were a different case than Pelosi and her fashionable scarves but the impression because of the timing is that what they were forced to give up, she gave up for free.

Givhan can explain how they aren't the same thing but she can't stop the fact that one illustrates the other.

Internet Ronin said...

Well, Doyle, the Israeli government certainly does and they issued their statement about it, which you can find for yourself if you are really interested. But, of course, you aren't.

Balfegor said...

Re: Madisonman

I've seen that assertion, but haven't found any news (vs. blog) stories to back it up. If you have one, can you point me to it?

Here are two sources:

Haaretz and another article from the NY Sun.

Internet Ronin said...

MM: The story I read was in the Jeruselam Post, I believe.

Balfegor said...

Reading the NY Sun article posted above more closely, it seems likely that Olmert did give Pelosi some sort of message, possibly to go to Assad II himself, she just screwed it up:

But according to a "clarification" posted on Mr. Olmert's official Web site, there was no such communication. "Although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East," it read. "What was communicated to the U.S. House speaker does not contain any change in the policies of Israel, as was communicated to other foreign leaders."

hdhouse said...

Let's play "for instance" here.

If Pelosi were given a message in diplomatic speak that simply stated Israel's position in effect "you stop being such bad people before we will talk to you" and she repeated that position in Syria it would be nothing more than what happens when diplomats or participants do in any exchange. They repeat verbatim or nearly verbatim the position of their government.

What is then looked for is a slight change in language, nothing major, just a nuance. That is the signal. It is also why diplomacy takes so long. If word then "leaks out" as to what was said there is deniability or disavowance if you want.

This is what happened here.

Drew W said...

Givhan says that the British naval woman "looked like she had been overpowered by someone else's cultural traditions." I think that's because . . . she was, Robin. And isn't being a hostage actually a graver situation than merely being "overpowered?" Givhan doesn't seem to realize what she's saying here. (Since the first video of Faye Turney showed her smoking a cigarette, I have to admit that I expected to hear some nanny-state commentator suggesting that Turney's nicotine habit sets a bad example for hostages everywhere.)

I think the criticisms of Pelosi's headscarf were unfair. She wore it visiting a mosque, which seems only polite, if not diplomatic. I would've been unnerved by her wearing one in front of Baby Doc Assad, but she didn't. (Remember how Oriana Fallacci theatrically tore off her Islamic garb in front of Ayatollah Khomeini? Have any of the smug scolds from Code Pink ever committed such an audacious act?) Still, there's something decidedly amateurish about the way Pelosi comports herself -- is it that real-estate-broker's smile of forced goodwill? -- that makes her look out of her depth, whether she ought to be conducting diplomacy or not. No matter what you think of Hillary, I don't think you'd see such a look on her face if she were in the same situation. (And I think Hillary's probably learned whom to hug and not to hug when in the region.)

And since Ahmedinejad's often been criticized as a bumpkin who's out of his depth on the world stage, there should be no surprise that his idea of a delightful parting gift is a $20 suit like the one he wears himself. Cleary the men's shops of Tehran are in dire need of either a) Italian suits or b) Jewish tailors. Bets on which one you'd see there first?

Doyle said...

IR -

What you don't seem to be interested in is applying any sort of critical thinking whatsoever to the statements of the Israeli government.

The Prime Minister's Office was quick to issue a denial, stating that "what was discussed with the House speaker did not include any change in Israel's policy, as it has been presented to international parties involved in the matter."

And they said Syria is still part of the Axis of Evil, and that Pelosi cherry picked parts of their discussion.

BUT, this is hardly a blanket denial of their having expressed interest in peace negotiations. It's just not, and if Pelosi had really just made up this crazy story out of whole cloth, you'd think they'd have said so.

You see, the Olmert government has an interest in appearing tough on unfriendly regimes (much like our government) for political reasons. For the same reason that a third party intermediary would be necessary to reach out to Syria, it would be helpful to deny that the third party was asked to do so.

Balfegor said...

Re: HDHouse:

If Pelosi were given a message in diplomatic speak that simply stated Israel's position in effect "you stop being such bad people before we will talk to you" and she repeated that position in Syria it would be nothing more than what happens when diplomats or participants do in any exchange. They repeat verbatim or nearly verbatim the position of their government.

Yes -- if she managed to get that right, that wouldn't be a problem at all.

What is then looked for is a slight change in language, nothing major, just a nuance. That is the signal. It is also why diplomacy takes so long. If word then "leaks out" as to what was said there is deniability or disavowance if you want.

I think the problem is not so much a problem of nuances or slight changes in language or anything subtle like that. It's that Pelosi decided to hold a press conference after her audience with Assad II to announce:

"At the meeting with the president, I conveyed the message from Prime Minister Olmert that Israel is ready to restart negotiations as well as to talk peace," Pelosi said.

That's not a subtle shift at all. If accurate, that would be a complete repudiation of Israel's entire bargaining position -- throwing out the whole "you stop being such bad people before we will talk to you" precondition to restarting negotiations.

Bruce Hayden said...

Fred Barnes in a Daily Standard article: Pelosi Abroad: The new speaker stumbles in Syria essentially calls Pelosi an amateur, in an arena where most everyone else is a professional. She is a novice here, and showed it by her ham handed attempt to broker a Israeli-Syrian peace deal.

After all, why should either the Israelis or the Syrians entrust her with really breakthrough offers? Neither has a compelling reason to do so, and likely has compelling reasons not to. The Israelis surely don't want to piss of the Bush Administration, and lose its support. And that same Administration is the one that periodically has troops near the Syrian border, chasing Syrian enabled miscreants.

Barnes seems to think that both sides gave Pelosi their stock positions, which she mistakenly thought were somehow breakthroughs. They weren't. The Israelis aren't going to talk seriously with Syria as long as Hisb'Allah keeps control over part of Lebannon and occasionally lobs missles into Israel.

I think that Barnes thinks that Pelosi was much too naive here. Some would say stupid instead. In any case, she seems to have missed most of the subtlities inhearant in Israeli/Syrian negotiations.

Bruce Hayden said...

Reading the NY Sun article posted above more closely, it seems likely that Olmert did give Pelosi some sort of message, possibly to go to Assad II himself, she just screwed it up.

But was it a new message? Or just new to Speaker Pelosi? My bets are on the later.

I am still waiting to hear what the Israelis were doing or offering that was really new here. If someone does believe that Israel's position has somehow changed and that they were using Pelosi to communicate this with the Syrians, I would be very interested in the specifics of what this change was.

So far, it looks more to me like she thought that she had something new to deliver to Syria, but only because she misunderstood what the Israelis were saying.

But I am open to being convinced that she was given something new - I just haven't heard anything convincing yet of what it was.

Balfegor said...

Re: Doyle:

BUT, this is hardly a blanket denial of their having expressed interest in peace negotiations. It's just not, and if Pelosi had really just made up this crazy story out of whole cloth, you'd think they'd have said so.

Yes -- I think she was given some message for Assad II. Hopefully, in the private meeting, she managed to get it right. But a third party messenger that goes out and crows to the press about being a messenger, and points the finger . . . that's . . . somewhat indiscreet. And kind of dumb.

As hdhouse suggests, the change from Israel's stated policy was probably incremental, nuance, subtle change in wording, etc etc. Her statements to the press came off as a full-blown retreat on Israel's part. I would be extremely surprised if those statements were accurate. She shouldn't have made them in any event. That's just not what you do when you're trying to work as a go-between in a negotiation.

Balfegor said...

Re: Bruce Hayden:

If someone does believe that Israel's position has somehow changed and that they were using Pelosi to communicate this with the Syrians, I would be very interested in the specifics of what this change was.

I don't think we'd see that. If there has been a change, it would be secret -- we don't get status updates on the 6-party talks with North Korea until something has actually changed, and I don't think we would with Israel and Syria either. Besides, I think Israel has just repudiated any representations Pelosi made on their behalf.

So far, it looks more to me like she thought that she had something new to deliver to Syria, but only because she misunderstood what the Israelis were saying.

That seems credible too. I think, though, that Olmert's statement, at least as represented in the NY Sun, does carry the suggestion that he did give her a message, only she got it wrong.

Bruce Hayden said...

One hesitates to say that she accessorized her ensembles with the scarves because that makes it sound as though their significance can be equated with a pair of earrings or a strand of pearls. They were more meaningful than that. They allowed her to be respectful of the day's hosts while maintaining her own public identity. She looked like herself and she maintained control of the visual message.

She may have thought that she controlled the visual message, but the problem is that this is a dead giveaway that she was playing the multiculteral card here.

Our presidents don't don traditional Arabic tribal garb when visiting Saudi Arabia, even when their hosts are dressed that way. And you just don't see Sec. Rice wearing head scarves in the more traditional Moslem countries.

So, Pelosi makes nice and wears acceptable appearal, giving the message that if Syria pretends to be nice, she will give them what they want. Sec. Rice doesn't, giving the message that if they don't stop screwing around, they might be next on the list of countries needing Regime Change.

It comes down to the decision, do we want the Syrians, etc. to like us? Or to respect (and maybe fear) us?

Synova said...

Trying to suggest that Pelosi was saying what Israel essentially said and that public disavowal is just a "no big deal" sort of thing and shouldn't be seen as actually disavowing anything is...

What is that?

Firstly, it's not "no big deal" for Pelosi that she was denounced, no matter how politely, by Israel. Feelers meant to be deniable are not sent by a courier of her stature and then announced in a press conference.

Bruce Hayden said...

I don't think we'd see that. If there has been a change, it would be secret -- we don't get status updates on the 6-party talks with North Korea until something has actually changed, and I don't think we would with Israel and Syria either. Besides, I think Israel has just repudiated any representations Pelosi made on their behalf.

Agreed that we don't see much of what is going on. But, still, why should the Israelis give a new proposal to one of the Bush Administration's most prominent critics? If it were truly new, giving it to Pelosi would be sticking a thumb in Bush's and Rice's eye. Not a good way to get along with the leader of Israel's biggest supporter.

Synova said...

I'm sure I saw a picture of Condi with a scarf on when she visited a mosque. If someone is going into someone elses religious place it makes sense to follow custom. A non-Catholic might cross herself and do that little dip thing before entering a church if that seems to be expected.

I'm not clear on just how often Pelosi wore a scarf on her head. For the visit to John the Baptist's shine? Other times?

And I think it definately made a difference that the scarf photos were prominent and that we'd just been exposed to pictures of someone who had no choice to wear a scarf and so it was emphasized in the public consciousness as a symbol of domination and oppression.

Balfegor said...

Re: Bruce Hayden

If it were truly new, giving it to Pelosi would be sticking a thumb in Bush's and Rice's eye. Not a good way to get along with the leader of Israel's biggest supporter.

That may be so, but no matter what, Bush II will be gone come 2009. Pelosi may or may not be gone in 2009 (or rather, she will be there, since SF is a noncompetitive seat, just not clear whether she holds onto the Speaker slot, or someone else, like Steny Hoyer, bumps her back down) but in any event, it's reasonable for them to try and reach out to the people who may still be around exercising formal power two years hence.

And if what they were doing was, in fact, meant to be secret, it's not like it would be much of a thumb in the eye -- I'm sure there are many channels, including American channels, which Israel uses without opening every one to the scrutiny of the American President. Israel is entitled to conduct an independent foreign policy, after all, and can send out diplomatic feelers, even through Senators or House members, without offering to let Rice or Bush deal with it first -- sending it out via Rice or Bush sends a very different message, much more formal. More "offer" than "feeler."

The problem is that Pelosi turned around afterward and held a press conference to trumpet her message-carrying. If they had authorised her to go blabbing to the press without apprising the American President beforehand, that would be a thumb in his eye. But they don't seem to have done.

hdhouse said...

balfegor...your point is well made. my qualifier here is that Pelosi may be a lot of things but one thing she isn't is dumb. I can't think that she got it that wrong nor do I think that trumpeting it in a press conference without prior Israeli knowledge would have happened willynilly.

Although you may be perfectly correct and by odds you probably are, there seems to be more here than meets the eye...starting with the entire trip....

Balfegor said...

Also -- trivial point, but it bugs me -- the IHT article there has captioned the photo:

"Pelosi with Assad on Wednesday. She is the most senior U.S. politician to visit since bilateral relations with Syria faltered in 2003. (SANA, via Reuters)"

That's . . . not Assad II. Don't know who that is, but that's not Bashar al-Assad.

Sloanasaurus said...

Maybe someone has wrote about it already, but a column reported int he Journal today that Pelosi should be a felon. Apparently she has violated the Logan act from her visit to Syria. An act passed by our founding fathers who thought it was wrong for members of Congress to be negoitating with other countries.

So its the criminal Pelosi now. It was only a matter or time.

Der Hahn said...

A non-Catholic might cross herself and do that little dip thing before entering a church if that seems to be expected.

You're moving out of the head-covering gray area with this statement. Making the sign of The Cross and genuflecting are rituals that reflect the acceptance of the teachings of Christ and the Church by a believing Catholic. I'm a Christian but even I would *never* perform these specific rituals in a Catholic Church because I am not Catholic. You're talking about something very close to joining in bowing to Mecca when you're not a Muslim.

If a devout Catholic saw you doing this, and knew you weren't a member of the Catholic faith, they wouldn’t and shouldn't see it as a sign of respect. It's a mockery of their beliefs as a child's dress up game.

I've seen reports, though I don't have links, that indicated that Pelosi not only covered her head but wore a hajib, and did this not only when visiting the mosque but while visiting several non-religious sites.

XWL said...

What kind of fashion writer would praise the main scarf Pelosi has been photographed in?

Who wears an autumnally themed scarf in April?

Doesn't seem like the carefully chosen and coordinated piece that Givhan tries to make it out as.

(if she were in Australia or Southern Chile, she'd get a pass, as it is fall down there, but up here in the Northern Hemisphere, I'd expect someone purported to be fashion forward to pay attention to the season)

Joe Baby said...

Anyone see the Brit press conference with six of the sailors/marines?

If the British nation and it's armed forces look like surrender bunnies to me, I wonder what they look like to crazy Muslims.

And now some Brit schools are dropping lessons on the Holocaust so as not to offend. Mind you, the only ones who would take offense are those who committed the Holocaust and those who think it was a good idea.

I'd think that those are exactly the people we should offend.

Something to ponder, once we're done surrendering.

Synova said...

der hahn, where are you from? I won't take communion in a church I don't belong to but a lot of Christians will and do. And the Catholic thing, well, it's not that big a deal most places in the US that protestants refuse to be associated with Catholics. It really wouldn't be viewed as that different from a Baptist going to a Lutheran service and standing up and sitting down at all the right parts. (And protestants *do* make the sign of the cross thing, just not often).

Where are you that a head covering is a gray area and some other minor religious observation is out of the question?

Synova said...

It's not that big a deal and protestants *don't* go out of their way to avoid associating with Catholics.

At least not any more than they avoid each other.

monkeyboy said...

My guess?

Pelosi "I'm going to Syria do you have any message?"
Olmert "tell them we will talk if they stop killing us."


Pelosi "The Israelis want to talk!"


I don't think there was an official message sent throuhj the Speaker.

Cedarford said...

Bruce Hayden - She may have thought that she controlled the visual message, but the problem is that this is a dead giveaway that she was playing the multiculteral card here.

Our presidents don't don traditional Arabic tribal garb when visiting Saudi Arabia, even when their hosts are dressed that way. And you just don't see Sec. Rice wearing head scarves in the more traditional Moslem countries.


People have wrongly focused on the scarf, and propriety of it. Indeed, Rice and Laura Bush have work scarves on past visits to mosques.

But Hayden is on mark on her playing multi-culti (AND Queen Bee). On her 1st day, the self-proclaimed "2nd most powerful person in America" ALSO wore an abaya the full length "robe of modesty" that shields women from the violence and purient interest the men of the Religion of Peace display at the sight of a bare arm or ankle.

The rest of the women in her delegation wore business suits. Same with the men. Pelosi in mufti and robes was meant to show her "sensitivity" during photo ops.

As for her message to Syria from Israel, the bottom line is Pelosi has always been dependent on AIPAC to be her entree` into the big bucks world of Hollywood and Cali real estate tycoons for money. That Cali money is doled out by Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Harman to poorer Cali Democrat House Districts and poorer Dem Districts nationwide for further the agenda of the moneymen in gay rights, Israel, progressive politics - and gives the 3 bagmen/women their immense clout. (And Pelosi the Speakership on decades of building up IOUs)
Her "diplomacy" was all vetted and cleared with her AIPAC folks. She did not cross Israel. Somehow, she merely screwed up the message Israel gave her.

AS for the Brit woman in the bright clown suit and scarf, the "spin" now from the UK is that the soldiers have said were not tortured or threatened with anything other than trial and jail, just yelled at a lot...and individually or collectively decided it was just "easier" to do what the Iranians expected them to do.
Not mich different than Pelosi selecting her words and costume for Syria...

ron st.amant said...

I have nothing add on the Pelosi scarf issue..but as for Mahmoud and his shabby dress...I say he doesn't go all out for fancy clothes because he's always hunting Road Runners...

dude...the likeness IS astonishing:

Separated at Birth