Beneath her well-tailored suits and ever-present smile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, it seems, is the Lady Macbeth of politics.
In a Wednesday session with Washington Post reporters and editors here, the California Democrat laid out her decidedly hardheaded (and hardhearted) philosophy for recruiting and funding candidates in the drive to regain the House majority this fall.
"We have to have the resources and then target them -- this is going to sound a little harsh -- in the most cold-blooded possible way," Pelosi said. "This is about winning the 11 -- and I want 22 -- seats that we need to win the House back. So it's not about being nice."
Recounting how she campaigned for the party's leadership post after the disappointing 2002 election results, Pelosi said: "I didn't come into this to win any popularity contests. I came in to win the election. So I have been brutally cold-blooded. When we make these decisions [about which candidates to support], no four-chambered creatures need come to the table. We want reptilian, cold-blooded creatures."
Pelosi sharply critiqued her party's 2002 congressional strategy (when Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri was minority leader). "There was a decision not have a message nationally," she said. "You can't mobilize without a message." The party lost at least three winnable House races "because we had absolutely the wrong candidates," she said.
Under Pelosi's regime, potential candidates who can't raise money or armies of volunteers need not seek help from her or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I wouldn't give 2 cents to a campaign if a person can't assemble 1,000 volunteers," she said.
Who knew Boston could be so cold in July?
Historian Robert Caro is most widely known for sharp critiques of politicians, especially President Lyndon B. Johnson.
So it was a little surprising when Caro appeared on the podium of the Democratic convention on Tuesday evening to give a gracious introduction of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).
"His brother President John F. Kennedy wrote a famous book, 'Profiles in Courage.' Edward Kennedy's decades in the United States Senate -- his four decades in the Senate -- have been a profile in courage," Caro said. "If you're a historian, you realize as you look back over the long sweep of American history, how few individuals have left a mark on that history that will endure."
Caro's appearance was a sharp departure from the usual procession of politicians and interest group officials who have addressed the delegates. The speaking slots are usually doled out in accordance with the political calculus of the day: what message the party wants to send, which constituency groups it wants to woo, which party honchos simply must be allowed to speak.
An aide to Kennedy said that the senator had grown fond of Caro's work on the history of the Senate and wanted to highlight that story at the convention. Caro rejected suggestions that his speech was partisan, noting that it focused on the history of the chamber and Kennedy's role and made no mention of either Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) or President Bush.
Caro said he wrote the speech with only minimal changes from Kennedy's office and that he would not have given a partisan speech if he had been asked. "No way," he said in an interview.