Nancy Pelosi: Baffling

What is Nancy Pelosi thinking? Compare 1994 to 2006, and Newt Gingrich comes off looking superb and disciplined by comparison. [It was much later when Gingrich self-destructed.]

1. Divide the caucus, make Pelosi look weak. In 1994, Gingrich's old friend Bob Walker ran against Tom DeLay. DeLay and Gingrich weren't exactly best friends. Gingrich was at the height of his powers, but was wise enough to not intervene in the race, though he knew the caucus would pick DeLay. Gingrich didn't want to divide the caucus, and he didn't want to diminish the perception of his power. Pelosi would've been wise to follow his example.

The ramifications of Pelosi's dividing the Dem caucus won't be immediately apparent. Winning conceals lots of fissures. But this has sent a message to the congress: it's all about Nancy Pelosi's personal power. Perhaps it will make some of them loathe to cross her...but then, if Pelosi wanted to send that message, she should've picked a fight she could win.

2. Ethics. Pelosi's decision to fight for Murtha sends a bad signal. Murtha may not have been indicted on ABSCAM, but he is on videotape sounding awfully ambivalent about declining an obvious bribe, and leaving open the possibility of later accepting the bribe.

Maybe there's some nuance there as Democrats claim, but it sure looks like Pelosi's promise to "clean House" was just a campaign promise.

Compare this to Gingrich, who acted on the ethics reforms that he promised. Though it has been forgotten, the 1994 House GOP Caucus did institute reforms then-widely seen as important, such as term limits on committee chairman, term limits on the Speaker, and ending length of tenure as the sole determinant of who got to yield the chairman's gavel. [It should be noted that Democrats haven't really done any of these things.]

3. DeLay-style Hammer-esque hardball. Pelosi's decision to back Murtha is baffling. Murtha never had a chance to win. Initially Pelosi simply sent a requested letter. Even that was surprising. Then Speaker-elect Pelosi started playing hardball, calling New York freshman Kristen Gillibrand (spelling might be wrong; I'm not double checking...maybe later) to her office to remonstrate with Gillibrand over her support for Hoyer. In the same meeting, she asks about Gillibrand's committee preferences. Why play hardball in support of a sure loser? Pelosi looks downright DeLay Hammer-esque. To follow that up, Pelosi starts making calls to support Murtha. This is no inconsequential thing for an incoming speaker.

If Pelosi's goal was to come in as some idealistic "Ms. Smith Goes to Washington," then she has hurt herself indeed. [Remember, she's the daughter of an old-school Baltimore political boss.]

4. Hoyer will do a better job. Hoyer and Pelosi may have some tension between them, but he's clearly a better political communicator than Murtha. It's unlikely Murtha would've been a good Majority Leader.

5. Trample her own news cycle. The story coming out of this cycle should have been "First Female Speaker In US History." Instead, because of Pelosi's lack of foresight, the story is "Pelosi weakened politically; her followers elect her rival."

There was also that little thing where Pelosi denied Jane Harman the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee (apparently out of personal pique), though most agree that Harman is the best choice.

On the other hand, I guess Pelosi is setting expectations low.

Posted by Evan @ 11/16/06 01:47 PM


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Laura Ingraham did a GREAT interview with Major Garrett from Fox News yesterday. He predicted that Hoyer would win in a cakewalk, that he (Garrett) had counted votes, and it wasn't going to be close.

He further noted that Pelosi had not gone to the wall for Murtha as she might have (although opinions may vary on the extent to which she did so).

So, she didn't betray a loyal friend and ally (though she also didn't hurt herself all that much supporting him). She isn't saddled with Murtha as part of the leadership. Everyone will forget about this as of... tomorrow. And I'm betting Pelosi will run a very disciplined caucus, just as she did in the minority.

Honestly, has she really lost much?

The intelligence committee thing is disappointing from my point of view, but then again, I think Pelosi is sending a signal that she's not going to tolerate dissent from the/her party line. If the Murtha decision hurt her for reason (1), doesn't the Harman call help her for reason (1)?

Posted by kevin @ 11/16/06 02:16 PM

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