House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) does exactly that each Thursday morning as she puts on her master-class news conferences. She routinely skewers Republicans (quoting President Ronald Reagan back to them), touts “her” freshmen Congress members, exhorts us to remember our history and displays her utter disdain for a White House with no respect for the Constitution.
This Thursday, Pelosi was in tiptop form. She began by recalling the congressional visit to the commemoration last year of the Battle of the Bulge. (President Trump didn’t bother to go.) She swelled with admiration as she extolled the bravery of our troops who were mere teenagers in December 1944. She recounted that an about 90-year-old veteran ended his speech at the event by telling the crowd, “Pray for peace.” Pelosi repeated the phrase, savoring each syllable. That was her wind up to her denunciation of Trump’s reckless and unauthorized use of force against Iran.
Pelosi was there to announce the vote on war powers but also to lay into the White House for the “worst” security briefing, as Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) described it (although she recognized “there’s stiff competition”), and the White House’s unconstitutional insistence that it could not brief Congress on the information because they had “held it in closely.” Pelosi repeated incredulously, “Held it in closely?!” She argued, “The administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate airstrike against Iran, which endangered Americans, and did so without consulting Congress.” That’s unacceptable, she made clear, and she intends to enforce the House’s prerogatives. Asked if there was any imminent threat, she answered carefully (so as not to disclose classified information) that there was nothing in the public record to support that contention.
She rebutted Republicans’ insulting suggestion that Democrats were sympathetic toward Iran or its killed Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani. She patiently explained, “It’s not about how bad they are. It’s about how good we are.” She said flatly, “Here we are to protect American lives and values. We are passing today a war powers resolution to limit the president’s military actions. The administration must deescalate.”
From there, she moved to impeachment. She used the time, as she has since the articles of impeachment were passed, to taunt Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). She argued that all the House wanted to know was what the rules would be before sending the articles over. “No, I’m not holding them indefinitely. I’ll send them over when I’m ready,” she said. “And that will probably be soon.” Mainly, she was there to do what she has been up to for nearly a month: castigate McConnell for running from the facts.
Noting that there was talk of a motion in the Senate to dismiss the articles, Pelosi declared, “Dismiss equals coverup. Dismiss equals admission that you’re afraid of the facts, the truth, the witnesses and the documentation.” She argued, “We need to see the arena in which we are sending our managers. Is that too much to ask?” She also used the opportunity to remind Americans that her tactic had already worked in a sense, citing the evidence that had come out after impeachment and the offer from former national security adviser John Bolton to testify.
Finally, she reminded the media and public that the administration was still trying to eradicate the Affordable Care Act both in court and in Congress. She stressed that if the administration wins, there would be no more protections for preexisting conditions and no prohibition on annual and lifetime expenditures. She slapped the president for refusing to uphold the law but instead trying to run it down.
After some friendly banter with the media, she joked she had “responsibilities to save our country from peril this weekend” so she might not be able to attend the San Francisco 49ers game. And then she was done, exiting the stage with a smile.
It was another bravura performance by a wily politician, another reminder that as low as the intellectual wattage and as contemptuous of the Constitution the White House has become, there’s a bright light on in the speaker’s office keeping up the fight to protect an equal branch of government. Along with peace, we should all be praying for her success.