“I don’t want to be disrespectful, until the people speak. They are the boss and … they make the decision and I’m respectful of that,” Pelosi told me. “But I do have confidence that Hillary Clinton will be the president.” And the leader’s sights are set not just on holding the Oval Office for Democrats. She is looking down-ballot, as well. “We want her to win big,” Pelosi said. “I think we come close to taking the House. But if she wins by like five, six points, I think everything, Democrats win everything.”
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While Pelosi had cordial things to say about her Republican counterpart, House Speaker Paul Ryan (Wis.), and lauded his accessibility, she was unsparing about members of his party elected to Congress since 2010. “This group comes in and they’re anti-governance. They’re off the cliff,” she said. “They’re not anywhere on the spectrum. They’re not conservative. That’s a legitimate place to be. They are just anti-governance.” This is one mind-set she says will change if “Democrats win everything” in November.
But in the here-and-now, it’s all about emergency funding to fight Zika. “The money is running out. The cupboard is bare. And we must pass legislation now,” Pelosi told me. She slammed the insistence that they “cannibalize other public health investments,” such as Ebola. And she had no patience for efforts to tie fighting Zika, which can be transmitted sexually, to the defunding of Planned Parenthood. “We’re talking about mosquitoes. Perhaps we have to talk about “birds and bees,’” Pelosi said. “If you have sexually transmitted infection … then you should stop the transmission of it sexually.”
As the Zika discussion showed, Pelosi is as comfortable talking about policy as she is about the strategy and tactics needed to advance that policy. She is a force at the Capitol and within her conference. And after all the times I’ve had the chance to interview her over the years, I finally got the chance to ask her the one question that has always fascinated me about her. How did such a powerful woman reach such heights at a time when her abilities were discounted because of her gender?
“Oh, I totally ignored them as having their own problem,” Pelosi said without a moment’s hesitation when I asked her how she dealt with low expectations. “I’ve told people don’t let yourself ever be bogged down by other people’s limitations, in terms of what they see in other people.” But where did she get the strength to do that? “Well, I’m a mother of five children,” she told me with a smile. “One of the most rigorous training experiences anyone will have is to raise a family.”
There was more, including the skills a good politician or a good leader must have. I asked for three; Pelosi gave me four. Listen to the podcast to find out what they are, and subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.