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Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
by Susan Page
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power provides an inside look at one of the most prominent and pivotal figures in American government in the last half century. Her tenure as Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives puts her in the first rank aside Henry Clay, Joe Cannon, and Sam Rayburn. In telling the story of her Congressional career, biographer Susan Page -- Washington bureau chief for USA Today -- also provides details of how she got there and was prepared to tackle some of the major crises of our time.
Born Nancy D'Alesandro in 1940, she learned about politics and government at an age when most children were learning colors and days of the week. Her father, Tommy D'Alesandro was a big name in Baltimore politics, having served in city and state government and then a member of Congress when Nancy was born. He would later become mayor of Baltimore. Her mother, also named Nancy, was a grass roots activist, but as a mother of six children could not pursue her dream of law school. A political career was not an obvious option for a young woman in the early 1960s but young Nancy had a name to reckon with, getting a job as a receptionist for Maryland Senator Daniel Brewster. Sitting across from her was someone who would be a future rival and ally, Steny Hoyer, who now serves as Democratic Majority Leader in the House.
As a married mother of four (soon to be five) children, she and her family relocated to San Francisco. She would later compare raising a family to being Speaker: "Nothing prepared me for being Speaker of the House than the values, discipline, diplomacy, interpersonal skills, the logistics, the quartermastering -- all you have to do to raise a family while never taking your eyes off the children."
Her entry into California politics was gradual. She became president of her neighborhood association and her neighbor, San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, appointed her to the city's Library Commission. With no intention of running for office, she soon found herself taking leadership roles in the state Democratic Party. In 1986, at the age of 46, Pelosi was finally ready to run for elective office, getting elected to Congress.
Working her way through the ranks, she became the first woman Speaker in 2007 and, with Barack Obama's election as president in 2008, would be instrumental in the passage of Affordable Care Act. When the Democrats resumed minority status after the 2010 midterm elections, it might have seemed that her glory days were behind her. However, eight years later, in the middle of the tempestuous Trump presidency, the Democrats regained the House even as several members had publicly said they would oppose her resuming the speakership. Nonetheless, she won in spite of criticism from the right for being too liberal and from newly elected left-leaning members who thought she wasn't liberal enough.
It was in her showdowns with Trump that she showed she could unite her party. It started at their first meeting where she corrected his false claim that he had won the popular vote and wouldn't improve. Two years later, at a public meeting, Trump threatened to shut down the government if he didn't get funding for his border wall. She and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stood firm, and the image of her leaving the White House in a distinctive red coat became an iconic image of opposition to Trump. It reached a high -- or low -- point when she publicly ripped up his 2020 State of the Union address just moments after he finished delivering it.
The book ends with the January 6, 2021 insurrection that attempted to stop the certification of the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. When order was restored and the process was completed, Pelosi said, "To those who strove to deter us from our responsibility, you have failed."
-- Daniel M. Kimmel, editor, OnTheIssues.org, May 2021
Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
by Susan Page .
Page last edited: Oct 09, 2021