Don’t Know Much About History . . .

Congressional Quarterly National Security Editor asked Congressman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked head of the Intelligence Committee, whether al Qaeda is Sunni or Shiite. He said “they have both” before dashing out to the end of the limb, saw in hand, with a firm “predominantly — probably Shiite.”

Oops. Wrong. The correct answer is Sunni, “profoundly Sunni” in the words of Jeff Stein, Reyes interlocutor, who adds “the extremist Sunnis who make up al Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.”

This was not an ambush interview of a soccer mom at the supermarket. Reyes is “a kindly, thoughtful man,” a five-term member of Congress, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, and the new chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Speaker Pelosi chose him — “mystifyingly” according to Maureen Dowd’s column today — after a “catfight” with the “knowledgeable and camera-eager” (Dowd again) Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA. Stein questioned him as part of his ongoing quest to reveal the degree of knowledge of Middle East issues among federal policy makers.

This is what we voted for? Nancy Pelosi handles the Democratic mandate from the November elections by giving a critical job to a loyalist scaling the learning curve instead of someone with intelligence chops? Let’s hope Reyes’ staff is preparing flash cards for his Christmas stocking.

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