He Was For The Surge...Before He Was Against It

On Dec. 5, Newsweek magazine touted an interview with then-incoming House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Silvestre Reyes as an "exclusive." And for good reason.

"In a surprise twist in the debate over Iraq," the story began, Mr. Reyes "said he wants to see an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 U.S. troops as part of a 'stepped up effort to dismantle the militias.' "

"We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq," the Texas Democrat said to the surprise of many, "I would say 20,000 to 30,000."

Then came President Bush's expected announcement last week, virtually matching Mr. Reyes' recommendation and argument word-for-word -- albeit the president proposed only 21,500 troops.

Wouldn't you know, hours after Mr. Bush announced his proposal, Mr. Reyes told the El Paso Times that such a troop buildup was unthinkable.

"We don't have the capability to escalate even to this minimum level," he said.

Unfortunately for the new House intelligence chief, this is his second (some would argue his third) major blunder in the space of one month.

When asked by Congressional Quarterly reporter Jeff Stein whether al Qaeda was a Sunni or Shi'ite organization, he answered: "Predominantly, probably Shi'ite."

As Mr. Stein wrote later: "He couldn't have been more wrong. Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shi'ite showed up at an al Qaeda clubhouse, they'd slice his head off and use it for a soccer ball."

The reporter added: "To me, it's like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who's on what side?"

In the same interview, Mr. Stein had asked Mr. Reyes about the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

His now-infamous reply: "Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah? ... Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o'clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?"

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