Nancy Pelosi: Shrewd tactician who confronted Donald Trump


WASHINGTON: Nancy Pelosi, the longtime leader of Democrats in Washington, was a master strategist as US House speaker — chastening an unbridled president and shepherding historic legislation as she navigated America’s bitter partisan divide.
As she announced Thursday she will stand down from the Democratic Party leadership, her allies hailed her many achievements during her tenure as the first — and so far only — female speaker of the House, while her foes cheered her exit.
But there is little doubt that the 82-year-old Californian made an extraordinary mark on politics over a career that established her as the most powerful woman in US history.
By most accounts, November’s midterm elections marked a better-than-expected showing for the Democrats, given that they lost far fewer seats in the House of Representatives than predicted.
But with Republicans clawing out a razor-thin majority, Pelosi opted to bow out at last.
In January she will give a younger generation the opportunity to take the party’s reins in the lower chamber of Congress.
A San Francisco liberal and multimillionaire, Pelosi has long been a hate figure for the right — a line of attack that appeared to reach a horrifying new level with the recent violent assault on her husband by an intruder who was looking for her.
During the deadly 2021 assault on the US Capitol, supporters of then-president Donald Trump ransacked her office, and a crowd baying for blood chanted “Where’s Nancy?” as they desecrated the halls of Congress.
The violence came after Trump refused to recognize his defeat and urged a rally to march on the Capitol to stop the ceremonial certification of Joe Biden‘s win.
Pelosi then moved quickly to try to oust the man she called the “deranged, unhinged, dangerous president of the United States.”
The challenge of uniting her House caucus on impeaching Trump would have been beyond lesser leaders, but Pelosi had maintained a tight grip on Democrats for nearly two decades for a reason — she was indisputably effective.
She was instrumental in passing then-president Barack Obama’s key health care reforms as well as massive economic packages after both the 2008 financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pelosi may be partisan in her goals but she has succeeded thanks to cold-eyed realism, including working when needed with then-president George W Bush even while fiercely opposing his invasion of Iraq.
Supporters believe she was vindicated on her anti-war stance and she was rewarded in 2007 when Democrats reclaimed the House and elected her speaker, making her the highest-ranking woman in US history until the inauguration of Vice President Kamala Harris in 2021.
“I want women to see that you do not get pushed around. You don’t run away from the fight,” Pelosi told CNN in 2018.
“If you’re effective as a woman, then they have to undermine you, because that’s a real threat.”
The one congressional job mentioned in the Constitution, the prestigious speaker position brings almost unfettered control over the day-to-day legislative process.
Pelosi initially resisted Democratic calls to impeach Trump, fearing the effects of overreach.
But she felt she had no choice after he was caught holding up US aid to Ukraine as he pressed a conspiracy theory on Biden.
That impeachment in 2019 poisoned her relationship with Trump, and when he delivered his State of the Union address later in the House chamber, Pelosi coolly tore up his speech, instantly changing the night’s narrative.
Pelosi has often hit back at Trump rhetorically, and was captured on video reacting furiously to suggestions he might join his supporters during the Capitol insurrection.
“If he comes, I’m going to punch him out. I’ve been waiting for this,” she seethed.
“For trespassing on the Capitol grounds, I’m going to punch him out. And I’m going to go to jail, and I’m going to be happy.”
The granddaughter of Italian immigrants, Pelosi was born in Baltimore where her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, was a mayor and congressman who schooled her in “retail politics” from a young age and staunchly backed Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Pelosi has said her family taught her two political lessons. “One is to know how to count — count your votes to win the election. The other is listen to your constituents.”
Pelosi attended her first Democratic National Convention before hitting her teens and was pictured with John F. Kennedy at his inaugural ball when she was 20.
She moved to San Francisco and raised five children with businessman Paul Pelosi while delving into Democratic politics before being elected to Congress at age 47.
Taking up causes important to a city with major LGBTQ and Asian-American communities, she fought to fund AIDS research and pressed human rights in China.
She remains a vocal ally of Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and won eternal antipathy from China’s communist leaders when, on a 1991 visit, she defiantly unfurled a banner in Tiananmen Square honoring pro-democracy students killed in a crushed uprising.
While easily reelected every two years, the self-styled “mother, grandmother, dark chocolate connoisseur” became seen as a centrist by standards of proudly left-wing San Francisco as she sought legislative compromise.
Her announcement on Thursday came at the end of a vexed congressional session in which she struggled to keep Democrats united amid infighting between moderates and progressives, and the party’s slimmest majority in a century.
This year she still managed to burnish her political legacy with a controversial trip to Taiwan amid warnings from Beijing of “serious consequences.”
Defending the visit, she asked Americans to protect democracy worldwide.
“As Russia wages its premeditated, illegal war against Ukraine, killing thousands of innocents — even children — it is essential that America and our allies make clear that we never give in to autocrats,” she wrote.





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