The image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wielding what resembled an oversized mallet while leading a mob of congressmen across Capitol Hill on the day of the health-care vote is the stuff of nightmares. It is also instructive. As a metaphor for how the Democrats view their power, the Pelosi hammer-pose could not be more perfect.
Just ask Honduras.
Last year, the U.S. tried to force the reinstatement of deposed president Manuel Zelaya. When that failed and Team Obama was looking like the Keystone Cops, it sent a delegation to Tegucigalpa to negotiate a compromise.
Participants in those talks say Dan Restrepo, senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, let slip that the U.S. interest had to do with American politics. The Republicans, he said, were using the administration's support for Mr. Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan Hugo Chávez, against the Democrats. It's not going to work, Mr. Restrepo is said to have informed the other negotiators, because "we have the power" and would be keeping it for a long time.
It can't have been comforting for Hondurans to learn that while their country was living a monumental crisis, fueled by U.S. policy, Mr. Restrepo's concern was his party's power. For the record, an NSC spokesman says "Mr. Restrepo didn't say that." But my sources are more plausible considering what has transpired since.
Four months after a presidential election, reports from Honduras suggest the Obama administration remains obsessed with repairing its foreign-policy image by regaining the upper hand. The display of raw colonialist hubris is so pronounced that locals now refer to U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens as "the proconsul."
Washington's bullying is two-pronged. First is a maniacal determination to punish those involved in removing Mr. Zelaya. Second is an attempt to force Honduras to allow Mr. Zelaya, who now lives in the Dominican Republic, to return without facing any repercussions for the illegal actions that provoked his removal. Both goals are damaging the bilateral relationship, polarizing the nation and raising the risk of a resurgence of political violence.
The U.S., as represented by Mr. Llorens, has been at the center of the Zelaya crisis all along. People familiar with events leading up to Mr. Zelaya's arrest on June 28 say that had the U.S. ambassador not worked behind the scenes to block a congressional vote to remove the president a few days earlier, the dramatic deportation would never have happened.
The State Department denies this allegation. But numerous sources maintain that Mr. Llorens' interference allowed Mr. Zelaya to push ahead with an unconstitutional referendum. Fearing he would use violence—as he had before—to trample the rule of law, the Supreme Court took action. Mr. Zelaya was arrested, shipped off to San José, and removed from power by a vote of Congress the same day.
Honduras had defied Uncle Sam and the U.S., led by Mr. Llorens, decided that it had to be taught a lesson. It took out the brass knuckles and tried hard to unseat interim president Roberto Micheletti in the interest of restoring Mr. Zelaya to the office.
Honduras wouldn't budge. That's when Mr. Restrepo traveled to the capital with a U.S. delegation. The agreement reached included U.S. recognition of the November election. For a time it seemed things might return to normal.
But the Americans had scores to settle. The U.S had already yanked dozens of visas from officials and the business community as punishment for noncompliance with its pro-Zelaya policy. Then, just days before President Porfirio Lobo's inauguration in January, Hondurans estimate it pulled at least 50 more from Micheletti supporters. The visas have not been returned, and locals say Mr. Llorens continues to foster a climate of intimidation with his visa-pulling power.
He hasn't stopped there. In early March he organized a meeting of Liberal Party Zelaya supporters and the party's former presidential candidate, Elvin Santos, at the U.S. Embassy. Some 48 hours later the party'szelayistas and its Santos faction voted to remove Mr. Micheletti as party head. Rigoberto Espinal Irías, a legal adviser to the independent public prosecutor's office, complained that the "meeting generated much bad feeling in Honduran civil society" because it was "perceived to have the purpose of intervening in Honduran national politics."
Now more trouble is brewing: Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, according to press reports, has said that Mr. Lobo made a promise, in front of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mr. Funes, that Mr. Zelaya could return "without fear of political persecution." Mr. Lobo subsequently announced that Mr. Zelaya is free to enter the country. In exchange, it is expected that foreign aid flows to Honduras will resume. But the minister of security maintains that if Mr. Zelaya returns he will be arrested.
It's hard to imagine what the U.S. thinks it achieves with a policy that divides Hondurans while strengthening the hand of a chavista. Revenge and power come to mind. Whatever it is, it can't be good for U.S. national security interests.