If anyone doubted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s ability to challenge and crush Donald Trump, the wall debate should leave little question. Pelosi dominated the debate and it ended with Trump folding after holding government employees hostage for a record 35 days.
She repeatedly demonstrated her leadership by vanquishing Trump as few other politicians of either party has been able to accomplish. Pelosi confirmed her reputation in Washington as an unparalleled negotiator. Throughout the wall debate, Pelosi out-maneuvered and beat Trump at his own game as the supposed master of the “art of the deal.”
Pelosi began the first White House meeting in December by goading Trump into taking full responsibility for the shutdown. Trump admitting he would take responsibility for the shutdown gave the Democrats a significant advantage. Traditionally, no political party wants to be take the blame for a government shutdown. Trump foolishly ignored that common knowledge and bragged about taking the credit/blame before the shutdown began.
“You know what I’ll say? ‘Yes, if we don’t get what we want one way or the other… I will shut down the government.’” Trump bragged, “And I am proud to shut down the government for border security… So I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.”
Pelosi then deftly denied Trump his greatest forum by disinviting him to the House to deliver his State of the Union address. By preventing Trump the opportunity to dominate the news cycles with a State of the Union, she diminished his stature as President and significantly weakened his leadership. Trump didn’t believe Pelosi would boldly exercise her leadership over the House and she called his bluff. Her refusal to allow him to speak was a risky gamble that she won.
Throughout this debate, Pelosi kept a finger on the pulse of public opinion and in the end, public pressure forced Trump to fold and open the government. Pelosi and Trump went eyeball to eyeball and Trump blinked. Pelosi isn’t afraid to use the raw power of her office as House leader to stop Trump.
It is obvious that Trump does respect Pelosi. He has belittled nearly every one of his political opponents with name calling. Both Republicans and Democrats have been stung by his demeaning labels. Note a few of the Republicans and Democrats that have suffered Trump’s put downs. “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz; “low energy” Jeb Bush; “little Marco”, Rubio; “crooked Hillary”, Clinton; “Pocahontas”, Elizabeth Warren. It is important to note Trump has avoided mocking Nancy Pelosi. That speaks volumes about his respect for her or his fear of her power.
This wall debate should provide a teachable moment for Democrats as well. Recall after the House flipped in 2018 a raging debate among Democrats suggested Pelosi’s time had ended and it was time for new younger leadership. But Pelosi easily won election as speaker and her recent defeat of Trump proves her professional governance. The fact that she kept Democrats united until Trump yielded demonstrates her unique leadership abilities.
She is held in high regard in Washington among the veterans of many political battles. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said Pelosi cannot ever be underestimated: “I think Nancy Pelosi is one of the smartest people in Congress. I think she’s almost like a shark; I don’t think she sleeps. She is as tough as they come.”
by Rick Smith
Photo via Gage Skidmore