Monday, November 27, 2006

Covering Pelosi

The San Francisco Chronicle has so far been dong a more decent job covering Nancy Pelosi in her new leadership role as incoming Speaker of the House than most of the Establishment press I've seen. For instance, How Pelosi propelled Democrats to power by Marc Sandalow 11/10/06:

So how did the San Francisco congresswoman, who even some Democrats said was too partisan, liberal and shrill to lead the party, take them to the majority?

The answer has as much to do with the tactical skills Pelosi developed as chairwoman of the California Democratic Party in the early 1980s as her positions on policy matters such as the war, which now are regarded well within the mainstream of American politics.

Sandalow notes that she has had some real successs the last two years in getting the notoriously fractuous Democrats to act like a real opposition party on some critical issues:

After Democrats lost three House seats in the 2004 election, Pelosi and other Democratic leaders made a series of strategic decisions -- to recruit conservative Democratic candidates, refuse to compromise on Social Security, threaten to punish House Democrats who don't vote with the party, aggressively go after President Bush on Iraq - that contributed to the largest Democratic gains since the post-Watergate election of 1974.

And it paid off this year, as he reports:

Anger at Bush, at the war in Iraq and at the conduct of Republicans running Congress were critical components of the Democratic victory. Nevertheless, players from both parties credit Pelosi, along with Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, her choice to run the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for shrewdly harnessing those sentiments for Democratic gain.

"What Pelosi has been successful doing is channeling that anger and creating the environment in districts around the country to take advantage - to have surfers poised on their surfboard to take advantage of the wave," said Jenny Backus, a Democratic Party strategist and former campaign committee official.

Many Republicans grudgingly admit that Pelosi has been far more pragmaticthan they first imagined, keeping her liberalism from becoming a central issue and staying away from conservative districts where her presence might have been used against Democratic candidates.

The Chron's Edward Epstein at least give a "he said/she said" alternative view to the bizarre Republican meme that the 2006 election was a "conservative" victory in Pelosi must corral 3 Dem factions to unite on agenda 11/17/06.

This article by Epstein makes me wonder if the ubiquitously-quoted Larry Sabato may have fallen into ritually reciting the current press script: Win, loss for Pelosi in House 11/17/06. The issue in this case being Steny Hoyer's election as House Majority Whip over Pelosi's preferred candidate, Jack Murtha:

But Larry Sabato, political analyst at the University of Virginia, said the whole episode was a self-inflicted disaster for Pelosi, especially since it came just nine days after Democrats triumphed at the polls, moving from a 15-seat minority to at least a 15-seat majority, with a few races still undecided.

"If you're going to kill the prince, make sure you have the votes. She didn't even come close,'' said Sabato. "That's what I call a disaster.

"This is going to cause everyone to question her judgment.''

Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution said Pelosi can use the defeat to her advantage as she moves forward.

"Murtha as leader would have been a continuing problem for her and the Democrats. Now she can work to regain the trust of Democratic members who were bewildered by her intervention and came to question her judgment," he said.

"I think she and Hoyer can work effectively together and that she can eventually profit from this experience."

I do think Joe Conason offers good advice to her about picking the chair of the House Intelligence Committee in Pelosi's compulsion Salon 11/24/06.

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