Nancy Pelosi, Superhero
A Commentary By Susan Estrich
Really, what did you expect?
The first woman speaker of the House, a tough, smart, rich and attractive pro, the most powerful woman in the world, helps get a Democrat elected president and then helps that Democratic president get his ambitious agenda through amid very difficult economic times and two wars. Did you think someone would send her flowers to say thank you?
Of course not. She's a witch and worse. Unprintable.
The best thing about this election cycle being over is that maybe everyone can take a break from beating up on Nancy Pelosi.
The president was right to take responsibility during his post-election news conference, but that won't stop a lot of people from blaming Pelosi. Easier than blaming the guy who is still president. I feel like making a sign: "Stop Blaming Nancy."
I don't know how much of it is sexist, and even that is unconscious and all but impossible to measure. Pelosi is one of those women people have strong reactions to. Haven't you noticed? You find people who have never met her and don't actually know all that much about her except that she personifies everything they hate.
Sorting through responses to politicians as opposed to responses to women politicians is especially difficult in a year when we saw so many different kinds of terrible -- and terrific -- women candidates that some of the stereotypes, good and bad, had to die. By any measure, though, Pelosi has been the punditry's pinata.
So let's set the record straight: She didn't single-handedly lose the Congress. She isn't the architect of destruction. She did precisely what her president asked her to do and what, dare I remind folks, he promised to do when running for president. This was not some set of moves she devised on a freelance detour. This was the plan.
Getting one bill passed is close to impossible. Ask any kid who has spent a summer in Washington, or better yet a semester, and can't understand how people tolerate its menu of constant frustration. Imagine mastering it. She did. Imagine keeping all the independent contractors marching in the same direction when their jobs are at stake. You could say she made it hard, but you have to admit the Republicans did not at any point make it easy.
Some day, when our kids or grandkids take it for granted that everybody has a card that allows them to get health care when they're sick, maybe she'll be remembered as courageous. Even today, you aren't going to convince me that Democrats would have fared better in this election if they had nothing to show for the last two years.
Between pushing his plan through and failing to get it through, you'll be hard-pressed to convince me that Pelosi should be blamed for doing the former instead of the latter.
Of course, there is a third option. Maybe she should have convinced him to do less; to divide the health care plan into stages; less money for the stimulus; fewer jobs now but more in the long run. Like her members.
Politics isn't just about doing the right thing. It's also about winning. When doing what you think is right is going to cost you an election -- as happened here -- it's likely a good indication not that politics is bad but that you're wrong. Boy, that's a tough one. Did people really expect Pelosi to put the kibosh on change? Imagine what they would have said about her if she had.
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