Nancy Pelosi “will be a hard act to follow,” said Jackie Calmes in the Los Angeles Times. The House speaker, 82, announced last week that she will step down from leadership and serve her next term among Democrats’ rank and file, after eight years as speaker and 12 as minority leader.
The GOP has “demonized her for years, raising untold millions” by stoking “hatred” of the wealthy San Francisco liberal. “Yet only Republicans blinded by partisan hate won’t concede how effective Pelosi has been” in herding the cats of “a diverse and restive Democratic caucus” divided by ideology and geography.
She ranks with Sam Rayburn and Henry Clay as one of the greatest speakers in U.S. history, with such legislative highlights as the unpopular but necessary $700 billion bailout of Wall Street in 2008, passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and last year’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
What does the first woman speaker say about her “guts and toughness?”
The first woman speaker is famous for her “toughness,” said Amy Davidson Sorkin in The New Yorker.
When the ACA was “in dire trouble” because many House progressives objected to how the Senate had weakened it, she whipped the necessary 219 Democrats into a “yes” and succeeded in sending President Obama’s signature legislation to his desk.
Her guts and toughness were on display again last week, when she addressed speculation that a right-wing lunatic’s brutal attack on her husband, Paul, had forced her to step back. “If anything, it made me think again about staying,” Pelosi said. “I couldn’t give them that satisfaction.”
“Good riddance,” said Andrew Ferguson in The Washington Free Beacon. Pelosi was indeed a “master” of Washington politics, going to shameless lengths to have her way while spending trillions in taxpayer dollars. Responding to concerns in 2010 that the ACA draft had grown bloated and overcomplicated, Pelosi infamously responded, “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.
Pelosi’s Time as Speaker Marked by ‘Broken System’
”That quip captured the “broken system” that Pelosi thrived in, marked by “endless longueurs that lulled the public to sleep, followed by blind, frenetic fits of legislative activity before the public’s attention could be roused.
“Her record is not “especially impressive” considering the “massive majorities” she presided over, said Charles Cooke in National Review. House Democrats had a 40-plus seat majority in 2010. After Obamacare passed, angry voters delivered a 63-seat red wave, stripping Pelosi of the speakership.
“Pelosi’s strongest moments were actually during her two terms with Republicans in the White House,” said Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg. In 2007, she resisted “Democratic calls for a revenge impeachment of President George W. Bush” over the Iraq War, which she believed would divide and damage the nation.
When liberals pushed to impeach President Trump, Pelosi waited “until the facts absolutely demanded action” and then successfully impeached him twice.
What package is Pelosi seeking to pass in 2020?
In 2020, Pelosi marshaled the votes to pass the first package of about $5 billion in Covid relief funds that saved millions of Americans from poverty. Pelosi “was a total badass,” said Michelle Cottle in The New York Times.
“Brutally pragmatic,” she worked around the clock to wheedle or pressure legislators for their votes, turning the temperature in her office up or down to uncomfortable levels during negotiations, or withholding serving food until lawmakers came to an agreement.
Even Trump “was clearly in awe of her and had no idea how to deal with her treating him like a petulant man-child.” The daughter of a former Baltimore mayor, Pelosi also excelled at politics’ dirty work, raising $1.3 billion for Democratic campaigns over the past 20 years.
State of the Union address “while he was standing in front of her.” But Republicans, including the likely next House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, “can still learn from her.”
Pelosi: A Brilliant Tactician Who Gets Things Done
Pelosi managed to keep the factions of her party, especially the far-left “Squad” of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and company, “in line when it mattered.”
Pelosi did not succeed only because she’s a brilliant tactician, said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. “She made a difference because she had an overarching purpose.”
Progressives called her “too willing to compromise,” while conservatives vilified her as “some wild-eyed leftist.” The truth is that she was both a dedicated progressive and a realist who believed most of all in incremental progress—in getting things done. “Know your why,” Pelosi liked to tell younger women starting political careers. It’s good advice for anyone, in or out of politics.