I am at a loss to explain how soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stumbled so completely. I understand what she did; I just have no understanding of why she did it. To make your opening move in the way she did, and have it explode into failure in such a public way, is not the way to leave a first good impression.
Most Americans do not follow politics, and have no idea who Pelosi is, and as such have no idea what the leadership battle this week in Congress was all about. If you are reading a political blog such as this, chances are you know that Pelosi endorsed Rep. Jack Murtha for Majority Leader. You also know that the Democratic Caucus, by a vote of 149-86, elected Rep. Steny Hoyer for that position.
I can understand completely why Hoyer was elected, and think it a prudent selection. He is a team player and a real reason why the Democrats are in power today. Murtha became a critic of the Iraq War, which allowed other critics to embrace a more harsh tone against the failed Bush policy. He should be applauded for that, as it too assisted in shaping the midterms that brought the Democrats to power in Congress.
While Murtha is correct on the war, Pelosi should not have used him as a way to retaliate against Hoyer, who she has had a decades long struggle with. The worse part was when she wanted to bring the entire Caucus in on the turf battle and use them in her feud. That was just plain wrong. Worse, it was stupid. She should have never endorsed in a public way her backing of Murtha. There was never a chance he was going to win. Every article for months has discussed Hoyer’s one-to-one campaign to win the spot of Majority Leader. He had worked a long time for it, and had enough friends to make it happen. How Pelosi miscalculated that large pool of support for Hoyer is baffling. When Pelosi also tried to use threats over committee assignments to get Murtha elected it only left a sour taste with the new majority.
Pelosi has now stumbled severely out of the gate. She has shown herself capable of not understanding how to use the levers of power. Pelosi must not allow herself to be in a postion where she is seen as powerless. That is the most dangerous position she could find herself if this week happens again. Though it is still way early, and she will learn and adapt to the realities of her new position, it was not the type of week she can be proud of.
Thankfully, as I mentioned, most people do not follow politics.