Pelosi's Four-Day 'Coronation' Draws Conservative Criticism

Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT
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( - The swearing-in of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives next week will be the focus of four days of concerts, church services and fund-raising events that conservative analysts called a "coronation" that will emphasize partying over policy.

"It'll be 'all Nancy, all the time,'" Dani Doane, director of House relations for the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Cybercast News Service. "It's almost as though she views this as a coronation as opposed to doing the people's business."

Doane noted that the goal of the events will be to try to recast Pelosi's image. "What Democratic Party leaders are trying to do is make her personable, make her likable and flesh out her public persona," Doane said.

"During the midterm election campaign, a southern Democrat was asked how he could align himself with a 'San Francisco liberal,'" Doane recalled. "He shot right back, 'Well, Nancy Pelosi is not really from San Francisco. She's from Baltimore. She's a down home kind of girl.'

"Everything has been carefully planned, and I'm sure they realize at this point they've got to try and make sure she doesn't get tagged a 'San Francisco liberal,' because the Democrats are going to have to make some tough choices" after the new session of Congress gets underway, she said.

The four days of events culminating in the Jan. 4 swearing-in will begin two days earlier, when Pelosi travels to the Little Italy neighborhood in Baltimore, where she grew up as the mayor's daughter.

To emphasize the speaker's Italian-American roots, the current mayor, Maryland Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley will rename Albermarle Street as "Via Nancy D'Alesandro Pelosi Street." The speaker-designate will then visit St. Leo the Great Roman Catholic Church and have dinner with her extended family at an Italian restaurant.

On Wednesday, Jan. 3, Pelosi will attend morning mass at Trinity University, her alma mater in Washington, D.C., and then attend a gathering for about 400 female politicians, supporters and activists. That night, she will be honored at a dinner at the Italian Embassy, where performer Tony Bennett will sing "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

The following day, the House will convene to elect her as speaker. Before that happens, Pelosi will take part in a nondenominational service at St. Peter's Catholic Church on Capitol Hill and then eat brunch with hundreds of supporters at the Cannon House Office Building and the Library of Congress.

In the evening, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will hold a fundraiser at which 1,200 people will pay $1,000 each to meet Pelosi and take in performances by singers Jimmy Buffett, Carole King and Mickey Hart.

The events will conclude on Friday, Jan. 5, when the new speaker will host what is being called an "open house" - though attendance is by invitation only - at the Cannon House Office Building.

"What? No fireworks?" the Washington Post Friday quoted Mike Murphy, a Republican political consultant, as saying. "I'm glad they canceled the tickertape parade. They probably couldn't find biodegradable tickertape and a hybrid convertible."

"This is a big deal," Pelosi's spokesman Brendan Daly responded. "We've never had a woman speaker before."

"Actually, this is all about Nancy," Doane told Cybercast News Service. Going back to her home town has nothing to do her being speaker, and it has nothing to do with policy."

Instead, it may be an attempt to boost Pelosi after a series of missteps following the Democrats' capture of both houses of Congress during the midterm election on Nov. 7.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer was overwhelmingly voted in as the new majority leader on Nov. 16 despite Pelosi's efforts supporting Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, whose war hero status and Abscam involvement came under scrutiny earlier.

Then on Nov. 28, Pelosi announced she would not elevate Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) - her original choice for chairman of the House Intelligence Committee - because of concerns over his impeachment while serving as a federal judge in 1989.

Instead, she filled the post with Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes, whose lack of basic facts during a Dec. 8 interview was called "alarming" by political analysts.

Brian Darling, director of Senate relations at the Heritage Foundation, told Cybercast News Service Pelosi's "coronation" might present new ethical problems for the speaker-designate.

"One of the interesting aspects of the four days of parties honoring Nancy Pelosi is that this is being paid for out of her campaign committee, and presumably, much of that is lobbyist money that was given to her," Darling said.

"It is ironic that there will be 96 hours [four days] of lobbyist-, PAC- and Big Labor-funded celebrations, followed by 100 hours of spending the taxpayer's money, regulating business and reforming lobbying laws."

Doane said Pelosi's planned celebrations were dramatically different from Newt Gingrich's two days of speeches on the "Contract With America" when he became speaker in 1995.

"While Newt was Newt, he also gave a lot of credit to the people around him," Doane said. "I don't think you've heard her say the word 'Hoyer' since she had to announce the fact that he won the majority leader spot."

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