If House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gets the support of her caucus, she’ll be the first speaker since Sam Rayburn to hold the office twice. Her prodigious fundraising, singular focus on health care and determination to avoid impeachment talk were instrumental in winning suburban seats needed for a Democratic majority. She treated attacks on her with aplomb and graciously shrugged off the decision by some Democrats to distance themselves from her. Whatever it takes to win.
In contrast to President Trump’s multiday temper tantrum, Pelosi was the picture of calm, focused leadership this week, saying, “In terms of working with the president, I just would say that I worked very productively with President [George W.] Bush when we had the majority and he had the presidency.” (And boy, would she prefer Bush to Trump, she has said previously.)
Describing a call with Trump, she got in a zinger or two: “Well, I don’t know if he said ‘deals’ — it was very noisy in the room. There was a jubilant, jubilant crowd in that room celebrating our taking back the House. … I heard the word ‘infrastructure’ — that came through clearly. But he said that, you know, let’s talk how we — I’m sure we can come to agreement on some things and we have an obligation to try to find common ground.”
She demurred on impeachment. “I don’t think we should impeach a president for political reasons. But I don’t think we should not impeach him because we think it’s politically… impeding for us to do so. We have to see what the facts are.” She coyly noted that the left never forgave her for declining to seek Bush’s impeachment.
She used her platform to state her opposition to the appointment of the conflicted and unfit acting attorney general: “I don’t say it’s a constitutional crisis quite yet, but it’s a perilous time and we will see tonight people in the streets because of this firing [of Jeff Sessions].” She warned that if Trump goes after special counsel Robert S. Mueller, “it would be even worse.” She added, “This is a very important moment, and I hope the president is not frivolous about it. This person does not, should not be there because of the statements he’s made already. The fact that it is constitutionally on weak ground is another reason. … There are plenty of qualified people he could name, who could be confirmed.”
The country should be relieved and grateful that she and her fellow Democrats will be there to exercise proper oversight after two years of utterly irresponsible docility by Trump GOP lapdogs. Given that she’s the most skilled speaker in recent memory when it comes to legislating (e.g., passing Obamacare, providing votes for the Troubled Asset Relief Program), she may yet get an infrastructure bill through and/or a bill to shore up the Affordable Care Act. Don’t sell her short on immigration reform, either. (“Now we can talk about how we can come together and put together bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform,” she said. “It passed the Senate, in a bipartisan way, a few years ago — but again, the speaker would not bring it up in the House. That was really a very sad thing for our country.”)
Whether you like her progressive policy positions or not, few knowledgeable observers or politicians would deny her political acumen. No less than Newt Gingrich recently told my colleague Karen Tumulty: “Nancy Pelosi is a very smart, very tough person who has earned her position by just brute hard work, by applying her intelligence and by applying a network that has sustained her for a long time. Anybody who thinks they’re going to outmaneuver her is up against somebody who has spent literally her lifetime … she’s been in this business forever.”
For all that we can say, well done, Ms. Pelosi.