The cowering leadership of Nancy Pelosi

Published 11:23 am Monday, July 22, 2019


Contributing columnist

Trump’s racist tweets against representatives Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley and Tlaib and his subsequent MAGA rally with its chants of  “send her back” make me wonder: how much more can he get away with? The daily splatter of messages from this loud-mouthed narcissist blurs people’s vision and distracts from the harm he is doing.

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The Resistance needs a prophetic voice for a national audience, something like what we heard from the four congresswomen at their press conference responding to Trump. A voice that shames his Republican enablers and galvanizes a listless Democratic Party.

Instead, we have Nancy Pelosi. Her overall strategy is to do nothing that would alienate moderates in swing districts, and to avoid unnecessarily inflaming his MAGA throng.

  1. Impeachment

Pelosi’s strategy was behind the disgraceful scene in the House on July 17, when Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) introduced his resolution to impeach Trump. It referred to the July 16 House vote of censure against Trump for his racist remarks about the Squad. It concluded that Trump “has, by his statements, brought the high office of the President of the United States in contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute, has sown seeds of discord among the people of the United States, has demonstrated that he is unfit to be President. …”

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) moved to table Green’s resolution. His motion passed on a bipartisan vote that included 137 of the 235 House Democrats. The Democrats could have voted down the motion to table and instead voted to refer the resolution to the Judiciary Committee. This would have kept the impeachment resolution alive, while postponing discussion until the committee decided whether or not to send it to the full House. Thanks to pressure from Pelosi, a majority of Democrats simply refused to consider the resolution.

On June 20, Trump said his military had been “Cocked and Loaded” to strike Iran, but he called them off at the last minute when it occurred to him that killing 150 Iranians in retaliation for their shooting down a drone was excessive. His attack could have started a regional or even world war. Failure to impeach this childish and impetuous commander-in-chief leaves us and the rest of the world in constant danger of military conflagration. Pelosi is willing to take this chance for partisan reasons.

As the title of a recent HuffPost article puts it, “Democrats Continue Search For The Smoking Gun They Already Have.” Over a thousand former federal prosecutors, Republicans and Democrats from all over the nation, have signed an open letter saying: Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.” Pelosi’s flexible conscience is OK with letting a criminal President stay in office.

As Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of Lawfare, has explained, Trump has committed many impeachable offenses beyond those mentioned in the Mueller report. For instance, there are “his repeated — and arguably libelous — abuse of private citizens as having committed treason; his lies — which, by The Washington Post’s count, now number more than 10,000,” his repeated attacks on freedom of the press, and his refusals to comply with congressional subpoenas.

  1. The climate emergency

One of Pelosi’s most reckless moments was her contemptuous dismissal of the Green New Deal, a comprehensive plan to combat the devastation threatened by climate change. It was introduced last February in Congress by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.). When Pelosi was asked about this plan, she responded this way: “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?” This was an early example of her pique at the public attention Ocasio-Cortez has received for bold proposals that threaten Pelosi’s status and her timid election strategy.

Yet, as the New York Times reported, “despite [Pelosi’s] disdain, the goals of the far-reaching plan to tackle climate change and economic inequality are within the realm of technological possibility, several energy experts and economists said in recent interviews.” Pelosi’s attitude may have been fueled by the memory of AOC joining the 200 youth activists from the Sunrise Movement who occupied her office last November to demand action on the Green New Deal.

The Sunrise Movement is part of a global youth movement that includes SS4C — School strike for climate — that has over 1.6 million students around the world boycotting Friday classes to demonstrate. These young people realize that if the older generation doesn’t act fast, their future will be grim. The time for gradualism and “aspirational goals” has passed.

As Heather McGhee, a distinguished Demos Fellow, said in an interview last February, “When my infant son was just one month old, in October of last year, I read the UN climate report that said that we have 12 years to act in order to prevent climate change’s worst effects: pandemics, mass extinctions, mass food shortages and millions of refugees coming from lands that are no longer arable.”

It’s hard to describe our current political condition and the catastrophic dangers we face without using what I would once have called extreme language. The Republican Party with its climate denialism is not a party in the usual sense. I’ll let Noam Chomsky say it for me: “It is impossible to overlook the fact that the most powerful state in human history is under the leadership of what can only be accurately described as a gang of arch-criminals who are dedicated to racing to the cliff with abandon.”

What will history say about how a somewhat less corrupt party — the Democrats — dealt with the danger posed by Trump and the GOP? It’s hard to be optimistic with the current Democratic leadership.