William F. Buckley

Everybody is predicting big gains for the Democrats in November. If they succeed in taking the House of Representatives, that means that Nancy Pelosi is in our future. There is a lot about her that is distinctive, notably that she would be the first woman serving as speaker of the House, which incidentally would put her second, after the vice president, in line for the presidency. Exit Bush and Cheney simultaneously, enter President Nancy Pelosi, oh my God.

It's true, as she has said several times, that "people" don't know a great deal about her. Among other things, she serves the San Francisco constituency, which is happily unique. But her background is thoroughly political. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, was for many years the mayor of Baltimore, and one of her brothers also, though more briefly, served as mayor. The brief glimpses of Pelosi given on television recently show us one tough lady, but it pays for critics to remind themselves that she was overwhelmingly chosen as minority leader only four years ago. It is good fun to think that colleagues who'd have preferred someone else chose her for fear that otherwise she would train her unsparing eyes on them and hound them to death.

Her directness of speech was a subject Lesley Stahl of CBS' "60 Minutes" elected last week to emphasize, asking just how did she intend to achieve her goal of bringing civility back to Washington given the language she tends to use about Republicans. Pelosi, viewers were reminded, has called her Republican colleagues "immoral" and "corrupt," suggesting that they were backing a criminal enterprise. Stahl said: "I mean, you're one of the reasons we have to restore civility in the first place."

Pelosi raised her eyes in unconcern. "Well, actually, when I called them those names I was being gentle. There are much worse things I could have said about them."

Now that is a cute forensic technique. It has two effects. The first is to diminish the seriousness of the charges already leveled. The second is to awaken interest in the charges being held back in deference to civility. What are the Republicans actually conspiring to accomplish that is more grievous than the immorality and corruption they are already, according to Ms. Pelosi, bringing in through their criminal enterprise?

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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