The talking heads today are all talking about what a big mistake Nancy Pelosi has made in backing Jack Murtha in his failed bid for majority leader, how she has divided her party and weakened her position as the incoming Speaker of the House.
What they are missing is the disarming effect this is going to have on a standard Republican weapon in any upcoming smear campaign. By going to the mat for a positon she has declared, even though the politics were against her, she has shown that she is willing to stand on principle (however misguided that may be perceived to be) without regard to political calculation. She is establishing a character trait for herself as the new Iron Lady, someone with enough backbone to stand toe-to-toe with George W. Bush. She’s no flip-flopper.
Since in the Republican lexicon, Democrat equals Liberal equals Wishy-washy with no spine, this early political move adroitly takes a lot of those talking points off the table. And it was done with little to no real political risk for the party, as the moderate candidate, Steny Hoyer (my Congressman, by the way), had almost no chance of losing and is experienced in working alongside Pelosi. Looking at his demeanor before and after the vote, one wonders if he was maybe in on this thing himself.
It will be interesting to see whether her decision to display a match for what some on the Left consider to be one of Bush’s worst character traits — his refusal to change position or admit he is wrong — ends up working in the Dem’s favor. But it’s a fascinating political move, the import of which has been missed by most observers.