Politics & Policy

Stuck on ‘Speaker’

Let's keep America's daughters away from Nancy Pelosi's muddled message.

When she was first elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi announced that she was being mistreated: She deserved Air Force One-size military transport between her district in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. — and she cried sexism because the unprecedented request was denied. Having now read her new book, Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters, I completely understand her position. Who knew the entourage she has.

Allow me to let Speaker Pelosi herself explain. She is describing attending a meeting at the White House shortly after being sworn in:

It was unlike any meeting any woman had ever been to at the White House.

When the door closed behind me, I saw that it was the President and the leadership — both Democratic and Republican — at the table. Certainly, many respected women had attended cabinet meetings, but they had been there as the President’s appointees. This was different. I was there because I was an elected leader of the House Democrats, and I could speak with that independence.

She continues:

The President, always gracious, welcomed me as a new member of the leadership. As he began the discussion, I suddenly felt crowded in my chair. It was truly an astonishing experience, as if Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, and all the other suffragettes and activists who had worked hard to advance women in government and in life were right there with me. I was enthralled by their presence, and then I could clearly hear them say:

“At last we have a seat at the table.”

After a moment, they were gone.

Who knew she was traveling with so much historic baggage? (This would be a bad time to bring up that Anthony and others were pro-life, right?) Stuck on the history she’s made, Nancy Pelosi, instead of being the trailblazer of her imagination, actually has shown herself to be an uninspiring and confused leader — which may help explain Congress’s dismal approval ratings.

Pelosi declares herself a churchgoing Catholic. But we know she’s pro-abortion. She explains that her parents didn’t raise her to be Speaker, but to be “holy.” But she never explains what any of that means, outside of a nostalgia remembering JFK’s election.

Pelosi refreshingly announces that

It always made me sad when I heard women reply to the question ‘What do you do?’ by saying, ‘I’m just a housewife.” Just a housewife?

My message to women is to place a higher value on the experience of being a mother and homemaker. Raising children is saving the world, one child at a time.

Amen! But was the author Nancy Pelosi or Rick Santorum?

You won’t ask that question for long, of course. Because, instead of embracing her femininity and acknowledging that this mother of five, born of a political family, had a great opportunity to run, and win, and become the first female Speaker of the House, she has to play victim, bemoaning the relatively few women in Congress. Perhaps, Speaker Pelosi, they took your advice on the “higher value” issue? Perhaps, when given the choice, they know that nothing replaces a doting mother in the early years?

But we need women in Congress, she says, because of doofus guys. Like a dumbbell dad on a TV sitcom, the men in Congress . . . are just like men, as she and her fellow congresswomen would put it. She complains that during a dinner with a regular group of member friends, the men were talking, not asking the women their opinions. This night in particular was worse than usual, though, because the topic was . . . childbirth:

Well, [W]e women were sort of elbowing each other, trying not to laugh. We were all thinking, surely now they’ll ask us.

It never happened. Eleven childbirths among us, and not once did it occur to the men that we might have something to contribute on the subject, or that perhaps we wanted to change the subject. They didn’t have a clue.

Apparently congresswomen can be stricken mute at dinner — it must be a reaction to the mendacity of men. She would later complain about the event at another dinner with some overlapping company at Pete Stark’s house and she managed to get her apologies from the men who, she announces, “didn’t have a clue that they didn’t have a clue!”

But rest assured, all ye men of the Democratic Congress (I guess not even the Democratic party is perfect), Pelosi “had decided, long before, that I didn’t come to Congress to change the attitudes of men.”

Pelosi’s book suggests that she doesn’t, in fact, know her power. Her power lies in her unique gifts, including in no small way her “feminine genius,” as one Catholic with a few things to say on the matter put it. But instead of seeing this in terms of a “complementarity” between men and women, both inside and outside Congress, she chooses to dwell on victimization and oppression. Instead of giving up her self-absorbed focus on her place in history — and moving on to be a good, solid leader — she keeps herself busy complaining about how much more scrutiny women candidates get. If Nancy Pelosi truly knew her power, she’d stop whining and speak as an American woman blessed with a great opportunity.

Pelosi makes much of her Catholicism. She might want to consider this:

Woman has a genius all her own, which is vitally essential to both society and the Church. It is certainly not a question of comparing woman to man, since it is obvious that they have fundamental dimensions and values in common. However, in man and in woman these acquire different strengths, interests and emphases and it is this very diversity which becomes a source of enrichment.

Just another clueless guy? Not quite. He may not have worn fashionable stilettos and he may not have been elected Speaker of the U.S. House, but John Paul II was an optimistic, clear-thinking, inspiring feminist leader. I wish we could say the same about Nancy Pelosi.

– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.

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