- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2006

As expected, Rep. Nancy Pelosi won her election yesterday to become the first woman Speaker of the House. So why is she looking like such a loser?

Maybe it’s because Mrs. Pelosi’s first decision as presumptive Speaker completely failed. Her endorsement earlier this week of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader over his rival — and better qualified candidate — Rep. Steny Hoyer left many scratching their heads. Why would Mrs. Pelosi put so much on the line for what surely would have been a long-shot victory, especially since everyone would have seen it as a case of cronyism?

As we speculated on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi was likely trying to consolidate power and assert her dominance. It didn’t work. Not only that, but, as columnist Robert Novak said yesterday, no matter which way the vote went, it was a “no-win” situation for Mrs. Pelosi. We could have envisioned a case where Mrs. Pelosi’s gamble might have paid off, were the vote overwhelmingly in favor of Mr. Murtha. That outcome would have sent a clear signal to her incoming committee chairman that she was a force not to be trifled with, as well as perhaps telling Republicans that Mrs. Pelosi is a vote-getter of the first order — only that outcome was exceedingly unlikely.

In fact, to make matters worse for Mrs. Pelosi, the vote overwhelmingly favored Mr. Hoyer, who won 149-86 in the Democratic caucus. So instead of asserting any sort of dominance in the new Congress, Mrs. Pelosi’s political judgement as Speaker is being called into question. The new committee chairmen may feel a little less need to defer to their Speaker should their interests lie elsewhere.

And that isn’t necessarily a good thing for Republicans or conservatives. Despite her liberal San Francisco roots, Mrs. Pelosi was at least striking some of the right chords during the campaign. She promised to clean up the pork-barrel mess, with all it’s earmark shenanigans, and she also said that impeachment of President Bush — something incoming House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has seriously contemplated — was off the table. We hope that she meant it, and that she will have enough sway to pass needed reforms.

As for the new majority leader, Mr. Hoyer is hardly a conservative’s dream. The liberal group Americans for Democratic Action gives Mr. Hoyer a much higher lifetime liberal rating than Mr. Murtha. But the issue for Republicans and conservatives here was Iraq, and whether Democrats were going to give the nod to the far-left’s antiwar hero.

Mrs. Pelosi will doubtlessly have several good weeks in the next two years, but this week wasn’t one of them.

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