Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to have to be dynamited out of the leadership of her party.
The Speaker has begun to remind me of nobody so much as the aristocratic Lady Leone, the English ambassador’s wife, who refuses to vacate the embassy in Paris after a new ambassador is appointed, in Nancy Mitford’s novel Don’t Tell Alfred. Lady Leone holes up in a wing of the embassy, throwing glittering parties for Parisian society, carrying on as if nothing had happened to alter her status, feeding the glitterati on food smuggled in by a sympathetic American socialite.
Nancy Pelosi is Washington’s new Lady Leone. She just won’t leave. As I write, Matt Drudge, gallantly stepping into the part of Amyas Mockbar, the gossip columnist who chronicled — I was about to say comings and goings, but I guess I really mean the stay puttings — of Lady Leone, reveals that Washington’s Lady Leone, like her English role model, is having a party. It is a Capitol Hill fete “honoring the accomplishments of the 111th Congress.” Those would be the accomplishments that handed Nancy’s famous gavel to John Boehner.
This is truly Never Never Land. It is unspeakably odd that our hard-charging Speaker — with her roots in the rough and tumble of Baltimore politics — should have adopted as her role model a narcissistic aristocrat. Or is it? One could argue that the last Congress — over which Ms. Pelosi presided with such palpable disdain for the peasants — had aristocratic pretentions. After all, it was this Congress that bestowed the boon of health insurance on an ungrateful public. Here is how they performed this legerdemain: They simply ordered us to buy it or face a fine. Ain’t it always the case that Lady Bountiful expects you to pick up the tab?
Like the president, Pelosi has seemed weirdly disconnected from events in recent days, her interview with Diane Sawyer (I was about to say valedictory interview) being the sort of thing one looks at several times, unable to avert one’s eyes. Pelosi seemed not to have heard that her party had suffered the most drastic defeat at the polls in more than 60 years under her leadership. Hot Air captured Pelosi’s demeanor in the headline “Captain Queeg Speaks,” after the captain who provoked a mutiny. A clinician somewhere is surely studying that video. I can’t get enough of it.
Pelosi’s announcement that she would not only remain in Congress — something speakers who have led their parties to lesser defeats often don’t do — but would also run for Minority Leader caught many by surprise. Rep. Heath Shuler, a moderate Democrat from North Carolina, has been making noises about challenging her for the job. But don’t count on his winning. The so-called Blue Dogs, now very blue indeed, are mostly gone, leaving a more left-leaning caucus that is even more sympathetic to the San Francisco speaker. Pelosi is a fundraiser par excellence. And then there is the fear factor: Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, a long-time Pelosi rival, doesn’t dare challenge her for the post, daring instead to wade into the pond of racial politics by challenging Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina for the number two slot.
Republicans are giddy at the prospect of once again having Pelosi as the Democrats’ leader. A “Hire Pelosi” sign appeared at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C. Michael Steele had just returned from a “Fire Pelosi” bus ride across the country.
For once, I think Republicans are right. Pelosi will be an enormous help to them because she simply refuses to listen to voters. Susan Estrich and others are claiming that Pelosi didn’t cause the Democratic defeat and praising her effectiveness in getting the health care bill passed — but it was a bill that 58 percent want repealed, according to one Rasmussen poll. Pelosi is not tone deaf — she is deaf. Instead of wanting to hear what people had to say at the raucous town hall meetings of last summer, she insulted voters. The iconic image of last year is a preening Pelosi carrying a giant gavel through the crowds begging her not to pass health care and then claiming to speak for the American people.
Something tells me that the coming Nancy Pelosi farce is going to be a lot funnier than the other Nancy’s farcical novel. Lady Leone was ultimately defeated by a ruse: a butler was stationed at the door, recording the names of her guests so that they could be crossed off the embassy’s official list. In a sense, the American people did something similar on Nov. 2 to Ms. Pelosi. Unlike Lady Leone, however, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t seem to notice that fewer and fewer people are coming to her parties. She doesn’t really care. I can see her presiding over a Democratic rump in the House a few years from now, happily proclaiming victory with each loss.
She just won’t leave. Nor do we want her to.
Charlotte Hays is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Independent Women’s Forum.