Breakfast (?) with Nancy Pelosi

April 28, 2004|JOHN NELSON

As a gathering of newspaper editors listened to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in Washington, D.C., last week, our eggs got cold. Not that her message ruined our appetites, not all of them anyway, but they refused to bring the food until she finished, and this lady has no idea how to end a conversation.

Oddly enough, the most excitement she exhibited came with a Kentucky flavor. Asked how her party might gain the 12 votes she needs to become the Speaker of the House - a position for which she openly yearns - she began her optimistic prognosis of the coming election with an example: Ben Chandler.

She gleefully bragged about how the Democrats in our district had pulled a coup, how the post had been held for so long by a Republican, how unusual it was to win in a special election by such a wide margin (12 points), and how her party had engineered a turnout of 35 percent that had been predicted to be as low as 10 or 15 percent.


While she somehow managed to acknowledge that the incumbent opened the way for Chandler by getting elected governor, she conveniently failed to mention Ernie Fletcher's name or that Chandler had been his opponent, and certainly not that Chandler had been clobbered in the statewide election just weeks before. Nor did she note that the winner of the governor's race was the first Republican elected to that seat in over 20 years.

Besides the exposure Chandler was still riding from his failed gubernatorial campaign, she also left out the significance of his name recognition, which as we all know was in place well before the gubernatorial election, and which in effect put his relatively unknown Republican opponent at an immediate disadvantage in a very short-lived bid for the House seat.

All of those omissions were interesting, since she was making the argument that the tide must be turning toward the Democrats in a state that traditionally elects Republicans to Congress.

But then, most of those in the room, perhaps even Pelosi herself (though I doubt it), didn't know the rest of the story.

That's the kind of presentation, an incomplete one, that people in politics seem to be relying on these days to influence public opinion.

Pelosi was disingenuous from the start, telling us that she wanted to speak about two things - the deficit and the war - and would save the "politics" until the question and answer session.

She then proceeded to blast President Bush on the war and the deficit for what seemed like an eternity. I was really hungry.

I guess it was a good thing, because she was now ready to serve up the politics. Another speech followed each of three questions.

The sad part is that I'm certain the tone would have been the same had there been a Democrat in the White House and a Republican minority leader at the lectern.

The same approach accompanied Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, the next morning, after breakfast, thankfully, as he and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, discussed the downfalls and benefits, respectively, of the Patriot Act. Leahy, it seemed, couldn't make a point without taking a shot at "this administration."

Not surprisingly, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., had taken the same tack in her visit earlier in the week.

That our country is so philosophically divided has been much discussed, and those philosophies should be debated. But somewhere along the way the philosophical differences have become personal, and reason is clouded by half-truths offered up in sound bites that the parties hope are enough to influence or maintain the positions of an evenly divided electorate.

Problem is, those who might be influenced can't tell who or what to believe. Those who have their positions don't want to be influenced. And so we remain as polarized as we were in November 2000.

Will we have another close race? Undoubtedly, short another history-making event between now and then.

That seems to be all that can unite us; and temporarily, even then.

Central Kentucky News Articles