Even though she hasn't yet taken office, media already questioning Pelosi's suitability as House speaker

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Though Nancy Pelosi will not actually assume the office of House speaker until January, some members of the media, including Wolf Blitzer and Timothy Noah, have questioned her suitability for that position, asserting that she has committed "blunders" that have "underscored her inability to get the job done."

Several media outlets have already begun questioning incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) suitability for that position, despite the fact that Pelosi will not actually assume the office of speaker until the new Congress convenes on January 3, 2007. Citing her role in the race for House majority leader between Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and John Murtha (D-PA), and her reported intention not to install Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) as House intelligence committee chairwoman, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Slate.com's Timothy Noah, and others have reported that Pelosi's "blunders" have "underscored her inability to get the job done," and that she is about to have "two strikes" against her.

Pelosi supported Murtha's bid for House majority leader, a race Murtha lost to Hoyer by a vote of 149-86. She has also reportedly decided not to appoint Harman, currently the ranking Democratic member on the House intelligence committee, to head that committee and is reportedly choosing between Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) for that position.

On the November 19 edition of CNN's Late Edition, Blitzer said to Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), the incoming majority whip:

BLITZER: But don't you think if she was going to -- if she was going to support Congressman Murtha and make a big fight out of this, instead of quietly asking him to step aside, she should have had a better count and know that she was going to win. Because by losing, and losing decisively, it sort of underscored her inability to get the job done, as one of her first major missions.

Clyburn responded to Blitzer: "I don't think so. Once again, this is intra-party stuff. When we start acting as Democrats, trying to push our agenda, come January, I think that that's when Nancy Pelosi will demonstrate her real mettle. And I look forward to being very successful with her." As Media Matters for America noted, Blitzer, on the November 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, asked "how badly is Nancy Pelosi damaged politically?" while the question "Damaged Goods?" was displayed on screen.

In a November 16 Slate column, Noah wrote of Pelosi: "I think her party should give serious thought to dumping her." Noah concluded:

Here's what I propose. Let Pelosi remain speaker for now. But let her know that, before the new Congress even begins, she has placed herself on probation. If she chooses Hastings to chair House intelligence, that's two strikes. One more strike -- even a minor misstep -- and House Democrats will demonstrate that they, unlike Speaker-elect Pelosi and President Bush, know how to correct their mistakes.

Noah appeared on the November 17 edition of MSNBC's Tucker and claimed Pelosi has "set a very bad pattern":

TUCKER CARLSON (host): To start at the end, can Democrats actually do anything about the fact that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker? Could they dump her?

NOAH: Absolutely they could dump her. They could do it informally, they could do it formally through a meeting of the caucus. You know, I don't think they're going to do it tomorrow, but she set a very bad pattern with this first decision to support Murtha even in the face of pretty strong evidence that he was not going to be an acceptable choice and he was not going to be a successful choice.

An article in the November 27 edition of Time, titled "Did Nancy Pelosi Get the Message?" reported that there are "a lot of new questions about Pelosi herself -- about her judgment, her political instincts and her real ideology." According to Time:

Was her endorsement of longtime ally John Murtha over Hoyer a testament to her loyalty or proof that she is incapable of letting go of old grudges? Was putting her muscle behind the hero of the party's antiwar wing a sign that she would steer her fractious and fragile coalition over the guardrails on the left? Did her support for a man who is notorious for slipping special-interest earmarks into spending bills prove that she didn't really mean all that talk about cleaning up Congress? In other words, was Nancy Pelosi really up to the job?

Time also went through the entirety of Pelosi's political career -- going back to 1953, when her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., was mayor of Baltimore, and Pelosi was only 13 years old -- to examine "the qualities and impulses that fueled her rise -- making bold moves, keeping and settling scores, trusting only a small circle of loyalists." According to Time, these "qualities" of Pelosi's "could be disastrous in a new role that is all about building alliances that can get you to 218 votes."

By contrast, the November 27 edition of Time also featured an article on Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) election as minority whip after resigning his position as Senate majority leader in 2002 following comments he made in praise of then-Sen. Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign. The article, titled "The Revival of Trent Lott," noted Lott's 2002 comments, but otherwise ignored Lott's pro-segregation, anti-civil rights past, and concluded: "The Democrats are the ones who should fear Lott the most: they are desperate to pass bills that will show voters they can govern. That might explain why some of them are already trying to reach across the aisle to him."

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, CNN, Time Magazine, Slate Magazine
Person
Wolf Blitzer, Tim Noah
Show/Publication
Late Edition, Tucker
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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