It’s clear House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy made a mistake playing ball with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the naming of Republican members to the January 6th Commission. When Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy’s Republican nominees from serving on the committee – Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Jim Banks – McCarthy decided to remove all of his choices in an effort to brand the entire investigation as a partisan exercise. But Pelosi pressed on and appointed Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to serve as Republican representatives. The committee is now taking testimony from the disturbing, violent attack on a joint session of Congress with only anti-Trump Republicans as committee members, or “Pelosi Republicans” as McCarthy has dismissively called them.
The event is a messaging bonanza for Democrats. Pelosi’s removal of Jordan and Banks is a great fundraising tool for Democrats in the coming months, but the stench of Pelosi’s political hostility and coercion is so pungent that it forces even seasoned political junkies to hold their noses.
The “doth protest too much” aspect of Pelosi’s actions may come back to bite her, not just during the 2022 midterm elections but during the evaluation of her legacy when she leaves political office for good. Pelosi’s attacks on pro-Trump Republicans at this point can be viewed as calculated misdirection, taking attention off her own narrow, malfunctioning caucus, which can’t pass the simplest of bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
The January 6 committee will presumably meet throughout the fall and publish a partisan report in early 2022. Yet, if the tone for the report follows the current public discussions, it’s likely to repel any persuadable voters. Independent voters, in particular, will see the report as a partisan interpretation of events on January 6 since Democrats ultimately controlled the security of the Capitol grounds that day.
By contrast, the U.S. Senate published a bipartisan report on the riot in June, finding the root cause of the riot to be a breakdown in intelligence work by the federal intelligence community – led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security. Neither agency issued “a threat assessment warning of potential violence targeting the Capitol,” despite online calls for violence at the location, leaving the U.S. Capitol Police blind to threats.
The nastiness of the current moment speaks volumes about Pelosi’s core political talent, which combines tremendous fundraising ability with spiteful, even crude political rhetoric toward her political enemies. Pelosi’s political colloquy has been full of bating and instigation since the early 2000s, well before Donald Trump entered the political scene.
She called George W. Bush “a total failure” in 2008. She traveled to Syria in April 2007 to visit Bashar Hafez al-Assad just months after becoming Speaker and only months before Israeli clandestine forces destroyed an almost completed nuclear weapons facility there. She scoffed in 2010 when asked why the House was passing the mammoth Obamacare so quickly that members didn’t have time to read it, saying that the chamber had “to pass the bill so you can find out what’s in it.”
More recently, during the political unrest across the U.S. in July of 2020, Pelosi used Twitter to call federal law enforcement officials defending the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon, from attackers “stormtroopers.” This attitude may have indirectly influenced the passive Capitol Police reaction on the day of the riots in January. And last summer, when discussing a GOP’s police reform bill, she accused Republican senators of “trying to get away with murder, actually, the murder of George Floyd,” rather than placing the blame on the Minneapolis police officer later found guilty of the act.
It’s pretty easy to compare Speaker Pelosi to President Trump in their rare ability as politicians never to admit regret or say they are sorry.
Pelosi has played a key role in stoking the political gridlock and bitter division that has defined our politics. Her long tenure as leader of the lower chamber of Congress has taken place over the course of four separate presidents (2007-2011, 2019-present). During this time, the reputation of Congress stayed abysmal, and recently the political posturing has somehow worsened, even with Donald Trump exiting the White House and being banned from social media. The adage attributed to Thomas Jefferson that in a democracy, “the government you elect is the government you deserve,” has never been more accurate.
Despite all the talk of bipartisanship and compromise, Pelosi’s latest move to cut McCarthy’s commission nominees shows that she is only interested in politics, not results. It’s only a matter of time before Americans start asking themselves: has Nancy Pelosi ever risen above party?
The Jan 6 commission, along with two House impeachments of Donald Trump, could be the Speaker’s biggest legacy. If true, this statement should be viewed more in sorrow than anger by both Pelosi fans and the American public. It represents one of the greatest missed opportunities by a political leader in American history.