Friday, January 05, 2007

Why Nancy Pelosi Is Effective

Leaders don't just happen. Nancy Pelosi has combined years of experience, skills and good sense to become Speaker of the House. She doesn't hide behind anyone (Dennis Hastert preferred Tom DeLay in the spotlight; when DeLay left, Hastert looked slow and oafish. Republicans argue that Hastert was a Republican loyalist; true, but he became a rubber stamper to an incompetent president). Obviously, Bush and his fellow Republicans will do everything they can to throw a money wrench into the Democratic Congress. But I think we have a good crew.

Here's Harold Meyeyrson of American Prospect who has a long article on Pelosi and her recent rise in Congress:
Brilliant rhetoric isn't part of Pelosi's repertoire (few legislative leaders have been notable public speakers); neither is anger. In her speeches, she regularly precedes her recitals of Republican outrages with words like "sadly" and "tragically." The tone is one of almost motherly disappointment, and that's hardly the only aspect of Pelosi's leadership that seems shaped by a maternal sensibility. As is clear from the morning's two press conferences, Pelosi more regularly showcases her members -- including freshmen utterly unknown to the media -- than any party leader in modern memory.

"More than anyone else I know, she involves many members of the caucus on bills," says one congressional staff director. "Everybody has a role to play." Pelosi also has a crucial instinct for striking a political balance. Perhaps the most liberal Democrat ever to lead the caucus, she has cultivated a very close relationship with the more moderate party whip, Steny Hoyer of Maryland (her onetime rival in the three-year contest for the whip's position that she won in 2001), and appointed centrist budget and military-affairs expert Spratt to the newly created post of assistant to the leader.

"She is willing to lead in a way that is comfortable to me," says Stenholm. "The [fiscally conservative] Blue Dogs are listened to." On the alternative budget that the Democrats present each year, he adds, "Nancy said ... we'll find a middle ground. ... Had it been a moderate Democrat who said that, [the caucus] would have blown up. But because she had the respect of the liberals, we produced a consensus budget."

Has Pelosi moved to the right to hold the Democrats together? In fact, Pelosi has evolved much as Democratic voters evolved during the presidential primaries: toward a politics that combines populist economics with deficit hawkishness and a heavily armed multilateralism. Nearly a year before Democratic voters figured it out, Pelosi decided that the party needed unity and electability above all else.

It's probably true that Pelosi doesn't ordinarily give the best speeches but I thought she did an excellent job yesterday.

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats, of course, still have to deal with the other side of the aisle and a Republican president. Republicans and their wealthy campaign donors have little to offer average Americans since veering to the right in recent years but they're good at bamboozlement. For example, after allowing unchecked six years of reckless deficit spending for Republican earmarks and even his own campaign contributors, Bush is now, suddenly, a deficit hawk. One could call Bush a hypocrite. Democrats are serious about bringing change to Washington. We'll see if the unseriousness of the Republican Party continues or whether they're ready to confront the growing problems of our nation.

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Blogger Terrell said...

Thanks for pointing us to thsi article.

I agree that the Speaker's speech yesterday was excellent.

8:58 AM  

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