Did Pelosi Commit Blackmail?

House Democrat Leader Nancy Pelosi recently said that if Newt Gingrich is the Republican nominee, she will disclose what Americans do not now know about him out of confidential House Ethics Committee investigations.  Newt noted that this was an ethical violation itself, which caused Pelosi to back off her earlier threat, but there is more at issue than just House Ethics Committee rules.

The House Democrat Leader may well have committed blackmail.  Consider the common-law definition: "Blackmail is gaining or attempting to gain anything of value or compelling another to act against such person's will, by threatening to communicate accusations or statements about any person that would subject such person or any other person to public ridicule, contempt or degradation."  Is not that precisely what Pelosi did? 

We are accustomed to think of the related crimes of blackmail and extortion producing a monetary payoff, but that is not always the case.  Not only is obtaining sex by means of threats to reveal hurtful or embarrassing information considered blackmail, but the consummation of that sexual payoff may also be rape.  What must be demanded is "anything of value" or "compelling another to act against such person's will."  Those phrases encompass much more than cash.

Surely, compelling someone to drop out of a political race falls under that definition of blackmail.  Can House Democrat Leader Pelosi blackmail people with impunity because of her high federal office?  No.  Blackmail is a federal offense under 18 U.S. Code §873, and it is considered a more serious crime if committed by a federal official.   What if a House Ethics Committee staff member called Pelosi up and threatened to reveal information about her unless she decided not to run for re-election?  Is that blackmail or extortion?  Sure.

Does it matter that Gingrich himself is willing to let the matter slide?  No: blackmail, especially of a candidate for the presidency, is a crime against our entire electoral system and against the people.  If what House Democrat Leader Pelosi did was a crime, then it was a crime whether or not the person blackmailed wishes to pursue it or not.

Why did House Democrat Leader Pelosi engage in such underhanded behavior so publicly?  The answer is simple: blackmail and extortion on a grand scale make up the heart and soul of modern leftism.  In the late 1980s, House Democrat Whip Tony Coelho informed the business world that it would be wise to support Democrats because "[w]e are going to be the majority party around here a long time."

Blackmail and extortion are even easier than bribery because they do not require appropriations of tax dollars, but rather nebulous regulations, taxes, and other crippling burdens on behalf of the environment, racial minorities, labor unions, women's rights, and the punishment of whatever putative "crime" the the left can invent. 

Why are so many conservatives afraid to say what they think?  Ask Herman Cain, or ask Clarence Thomas about his ordeal 20 years ago, or ask Rush Limbaugh, who knows that anything the left can get on him, they will threaten to use against him.  Cain, Thomas, and Limbaugh, to their inestimable credit, could not be stared down by the mafia dons of leftism.  But many decent Americans are not that strong. 

Illegal threats -- blackmail or extortion -- make for some of the baser tools left to the dreary, heartless grandees of leftism.  They cannot persuade -- indeed, men like Obama do not even dare call themselves "liberal" to America -- so they use the same sort of "persuasion" that organized crime uses.  Sometimes, like with House Democrat Leader Pelosi's recent comments about Gingrich, the familiar threat of exposure or of future injury, which Pelosi has doubtless rolled out many times behind closed doors, is simply stated to the world, as if this revolting behavior were perfectly proper.

So what will happen to Pelosi now?  She has completed the felony -- backtracking does not undo the crime.  You know what will happen as well as I do: nothing at all.  The ugly blackmail and extortion racket that would make us rage against private citizens makes us yawn when leftist politicians do it.  As Hannah Arendt, the famous student of totalitarianism, might have described it, what Pelosi did to Gingrich has become to us the banality of evil.