- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 14, 2007

I don’t know where they stand on apple pie, but the Democrats have come out for motherhood in a big way. In fact, who needs apple pie when you’ve got the extra-sugary content of The Washington Post?

Last Wednesday the capital’s newspaper of record (now available in print, online and in granulated form) published a column headlined “Grandma with a gavel.”

Can you guess which grandma it was, boys and girls? Yes, it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has single-handedly, as she put it, “shattered the marble ceiling.” And she’s right: From CNN to the New York Times, the entire press corps has lost its marbles. Grandma Smith Goes To Washington is the hit of the planet. At a time when most grandmothers are reduced to eating dog food because the Bush administration refuses to let them bulk order prescription drugs from Saskatchewan or, even more horrifying, reduced to watching Robert Goulet in dinner theater night after night in Florida, Granma Pelosi has single-handedly shattered the dinner-theater ceiling and/or dog-kennel ceiling.

“Grandma With A Gavel” was written by hard-headed reporter Ruth Marcus, scourge of Republican Justice Departments for many years, and this column reflected her notoriously sharp forensic skills:

“The images as California Democrat Nancy Pelosi took office last week were striking — and stirring — in their unfamiliarity. Pelosi, holding her infant grandson swaddled in a white receiving blanket, as she sat in the well of the House, awaiting her election. Pelosi, with the assurance of a mother experienced at dispensing cookies to impatient toddlers, giving each child his — and her — turn with the gavel. Pelosi raising her hand to take the oath as her grandson, at her side, fiddled with grandma’s papers.”

Golly. One only hopes the wee ones understand that, post-coronation, Queen Nancy’s ascension to the throne might cut into all this quality time. “Granma Got Run Over By Her Reign, Dears,” as the old song so shrewdly warns.

But don’t Republicans have families, too? Yes, but let’s face it: They creep you out, don’t they? If you have the misfortune to be nominated by the Bush administration, your kids get headlines like “An image a little too carefully coordinated.” That was The Post’s Style Section on Chief Justice John Roberts’ moppets: They didn’t care for “the 1950s-style tableaux vivant,” or the “freshly scrubbed and adorable” look from “a Currier & Ives landscape”; they sniffed at the “seersucker suit with short pants” of “towheaded Jack” and his sister’s “blond pageboy”; they didn’t even like the name “Jack.”

But these Pelosi kids are in a whole other league. You have to pity those losers in Hollywood: instead of wasting their time with that lousy Geena Davis “Commander-In-Chief” strong-career-woman thing, why didn’t they do “The Pelosi Bunch”?

Here’s the story of a lovely lady

Who was raising 30 grandkids on her own

All of them had hair of black like their gran’ma

And swaddling cloths hand-sewn

Here’s the story of a man named Hastert

Who was never photographed with any kids

‘Cept in stories on Mark Foley’s pages

And so he hit the skids … .

Oh, come on. OK, Dennis Hastert doesn’t bake cookies, but I can’t be the only one who thinks he’s a little like that cute Cookie Bear on “The Andy Williams Show.” I am? Oh, well.

“Having five children in six years is the best training in the world for Speaker of the House,” Speaker Grandma said. “It made me the ultimate multitasker and the master of focus, routine and scheduling.”

“How different is this?” cooed Ruth Marcus. “Imagine Margaret Thatcher threatening to deploy her ‘mother-of-five voice.’ ”

Boy, did Mrs. Thatcher get it wrong. That old Iron Lady shtick, talking about communism and inflation and boring old “issues,” when every feminist reporter in town was dying to hear her favorite cookie recipes.

Alas, not every Democrat has the lioness-with-cubs routine down quite so pat. On Thursday, Sen. Barbara Boxer advanced the notion that Condoleezza Rice can’t understand “the price of war” because she is childless. “You’re not going to pay a particular price,” she told the secretary of state, “with an immediate family.” In other words, her childlessness means she will never have to experience any personal loss for the decisions she makes. “You can’t begin to imagine how you celebrate any holiday or birthday,” Sen. Boxer continued, accusingly.

Hmm. What I can’t begin to imagine is a Republican senator getting away with hammering, say, Gloria Steinem for her childlessness. But, after 12 years in the barren wilderness, the left is overjoyed at the Fecund Coming. Over at Ms magazine, I expect they’re rolling their eyes while admiring the cynicism. But the internal contradictions of the new Democrats are striking.

At the “Women’s Tea” inaugural festivities, the Dems played, inevitably, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” and the new Speaker saluted the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro honored Gov. Richards’ daughter Cecile, who’s now the president of Planned Parenthood.

I would wager that, when the young Nancy Pelosi had “five children in six years,” a hefty percentage of that parenthood wasn’t planned. She is, in that sense, philosophically at odds with her party — and, indeed, with her congressional district. San Francisco now registers more dogs than schoolchildren. Lest you think I’m being my usual homophobic self, I hasten to add that for once I’m not: It speaks well for the Bay Area that they had to embrace the gay life to match the collapsed birthrates European cities have managed to achieve heterosexually.

Nonetheless, at a time when fertility rates call into question the survival of Russia, Japan, Germany, Spain and Italy, the new Speaker certainly presents an unusual model: She appears to be a rare example of a woman who truly “has it all.” She had five kids and then became the first female Speaker in human history, an event (according to the media) women have been waiting for since Caveman Ug said “Hi, honey, I’m home” and clubbed the missus over the head for being late with the saber-toothed meatloaf.

It’s certainly not the career path feminist orthodoxy has commended these last 30 years, but it seems to have brought Mrs. Pelosi happiness, and at a time of greater life expectancy it has a certain logic: Have kids in your 20s, go into politics in your 40s, serve as two-term president in your 60s. You can have it all.

I think the GOP should give up trying to demonize Nancy Pelosi. The Botox gags and bug-eyed photos won’t work. Tonally, she seems very normal, in ways that, for example, certain presidentially inclined New York senators can never quite manage. But Mrs. Pelosi’s fellow California liberals and those gushing feminist columnists ought to ponder why “the most powerful woman in America” is quite so untypical: What does it say when it’s the exception that proves the ruler?

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Mark Steyn, 2005

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