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The Demonization of Nancy Pelosi

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President-elect Barack Obama, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. meets with Congressional Republican and Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Excellent point from Krugman here:

So this seems like a good time to remind everyone that Pelosi is by far the greatest speaker of modern times and surely ranks among the most impressive people ever to hold that position. And it’s interesting to ask why she gets so little credit with the news media, and hence with the general public, for her accomplishments.

What has Pelosi achieved?

First, as House minority leader, she played a crucial role in turning back George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.

Then she was the key figure, arguably even more crucial than President Barack Obama, in passing the Affordable Care Act, which produced a spectacular fall in the number of uninsured Americans and has proved surprisingly robust even in the face of Trumpian sabotage. She helped enact financial reform, which has turned out to be more vulnerable to being undermined, but still helped stabilize the economy and protected many Americans from fraud.

Pelosi also helped pass the Obama stimulus plan, which economists overwhelmingly agree mitigated job losses from the financial crisis, as well as playing a role in laying the foundation for a green energy revolution.

It’s quite a record. Oh, and whenever you hear Republicans claim that Pelosi is some kind of wild-eyed leftist, ask yourself, what’s so radical about protecting retirement income, expanding health care and reining in runaway bankers?

It’s probably also worth noting that Pelosi has been untouched by allegations of personal scandal, which is amazing given the right’s ability to manufacture such allegations out of thin air.

Newt Gingrich was a blowhard who shut down the government in a failed attempt to blackmail Bill Clinton into cutting Medicare, then led the impeachment of Clinton over an affair even as he himself was cheating on his wife.

Dennis Hastert, we now know, had a history of molesting teenage boys. Personal behavior aside, the “Hastert rule,” under which Republicans could support only legislation approved by a majority of their own party, empowered extremists and made America less governable.

John Boehner didn’t do much except oppose everything Obama proposed, including measures that were crucial to dealing with the aftermath of the financial crisis.

And Paul Ryan, the current but departing speaker, is a flimflam man: a fake deficit hawk whose one legislative achievement is a budget-busting tax cut, a fake policy wonk whose budget proposals were always obvious smoke and mirrors, pretending to address the budget deficit but actually just redistributing income from the poor to the rich. In the final act of his political career he has also shown himself to be a coward, utterly unwilling to stand up to Trump’s malfeasance.

The contrast with Paul Ryan, who got years and years of fawning coverage based on the premise that he was a policy wonk and deficit hawk who really cared about poverty (wrong, wronger, and wrongest) is particularly striking.

As for the question of whether the Democrats should ditch Pelosi as leader after the midterms, well:

  • Pelosi is an extremely effective legislative leader.
  • Claims that getting rid of her as leader will bring political benefits are not very plausible speculation. (Particularly given that she doesn’t need to hold any particular job for Republicans to run ads about “Nancy Pelosi Democrats” anyway.
  • Who’s taking the job if she leaves?
  • So this doesn’t seem like a very good idea.
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