The ongoing spat between the CIA and Nancy Pelosi over whether she was briefed by the Bush administration on waterboarding has left the speaker of the US house of representatives stuck in the firing line of conservatives.
Pelosi, the highest ranking female politician in American history and bete noire of the GOP, has accused the CIA of lying about its use of waterboarding, an allegation the CIA rejects. The dispute has galvanised Republicans, who are struggling to take on Obama, and are demanding that Pelosi either produces evidence that congress was misled by the CIA or apologizes.
It is an apt moment to revisit James Crabtree’s profile of Pelosi from Prospect December 2006, a watermark moment in US politics when it became clear that power was slipping away from the Republican party. Crabtree describes how Pelosi’s rise to prominence was indicative of this seachange in Washington and within the Democrat party:
She could hardly be more different from Bill Clinton, the last Democrat to turn back the conservative tide. Clinton, a southern centrist, was a natural communicator who enjoyed reaching across party lines. Pelosi is a partisan west-coast liberal, uneasy on television and unwilling to work with Republicans on principle. Indeed, the only similarity between the two is a mutual talent for raising vast quantities of money.
In other ways, however, Pelosi is a sign of the times. Clinton’s “New Democrat” movement is in retreat. The party’s liberal wing is ascendant, from loud-mouthed bloggers to angry antiwar protestors. And Pelosi represents a new breed of tough, partisan Democrat. A senior Democrat in the House once described her as “our Maggie Thatcher.” And if being disliked by your opponents is a mark of success, Pelosi scores big. Sean Hannity, a prominent Fox News commentator, went so far as to say that “there are things in life worth fighting and dying for and one of ’em is making sure Nancy Pelosi doesn’t become the speaker.” No wonder Democrats like her.
It remains to see whether Pelosi will emerge from the latest controversy with her reputation as the liberal’s liberal intact. As ever, let us know your thoughts below.