Pelosi's "Rocky Start": The Conventional Wisdom is Dead Wrong Once Again

The only thing surprising about the current mainstream media narrative regarding Nancy Pelosi is its relentless predictability. Practically since the day the Iraq war started to go bad, Democrats have been derided in the press for not having a plan, and choosing pragmatism over principle.

Cut to '06. Hot on the heels of an electoral triumph, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi endorses as Majority Leader the member of the House most identified with speaking out against the war -- the man whose courage in doing so fueled the nationalized campaign that gave Democrats the majority in the first place. I'm speaking, of course, about Jack Murtha.

Murtha then loses the Leadership race to Steny Hoyer. As Pelosi no
doubt knew, it was an uphill battle from the beginning -- Hoyer had
been tirelessly campaigning for the job among Democratic caucus
members for months. But Pelosi gave her support to Murtha because, as she put it in title of her blog this week on HuffPost: "Bringing the War to an End is my Highest Priority as Speaker."

It doesn't get much clearer or more principled than that.

So what's been the reaction in the media?

According to the Los Angeles Times, Pelosi is off to a "rocky start,"
while the New York Times says she's "tempting disaster."

Disaster? If wanting to give a high-profile platform to the
man most responsible for his party finally locating its spine
regarding Iraq (and who, for his troubles, received the full brunt of
the Bush/Rove/Mehlman slime machine) is a "disaster," what word do you
use to describe the war itself? Disast-orrfic? Catastro-bacle-aster?

Maureen Dowd joined the bash-Pelosi-bash with a column entitled
"Squeaker of the House," writing:

"Nancy Pelosi's first move, after the Democratic triumph, was to throw
like a girl. Women get criticized in the office for acting on
relationships and past slights rather than strategy, so Madame Speaker
wasted no time making her first move based on relationships and past
slights rather than strategy... Ms. Pelosi offered an argument along the
lines of: John Murtha's my friend. He's been nice to me. I don't like
Steny. He did something a long time ago that was really, really bad
that I'm never, ever going to tell you. And I'm the boss of you. So
vote for John."

Really? I don't recall Pelosi ever saying -- or even implying -- anything of the kind. Again, how much clearer
could Pelosi be than "Bringing the War to an End is my Highest
Priority as Speaker"? If ending this disastrous war (and I'm using the
term in its true sense and not its New-York-Times-editorial
sense) doesn't qualify as "strategy" then what does?

In their editorials this week, both the LA Times and the New York Times
chided Pelosi for even considering not installing California
Congresswoman Jane Harman as the chair of the House Intelligence
Committee, a point also raised by Dowd:

"Everyone in Washington was perplexed at Ms. Pelosi's ham-handed
effort to sabotage not only Mr. Hoyer but her former friend and fellow
Californian, Jane Harman."

Wait, so first Pelosi is criticized for "making her first move based
on relationships," and then she's criticized for not giving a
chairmanship to a "former friend and fellow Californian?"

So damned if you do, damned if you don't.

As for the wisdom of "everyone in Washington," well, a walk around
Baghdad should suffice as rebuttal.

I'm surprised that seniority as the be-all qualification for leadership still has so many ardent backers in Washington. Pelosi has made it clear that the highest priorities of the new Congress will be changing course in Iraq and the restoration of oversight. It is by these two yardsticks that she needs to decide who the Chair of the Intelligence Committee should be. And by nothing else.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to have a Democratic leader who would rather listen to the American people than to "everyone in Washington"?