All the next presidents

Tasked with introducing six Democratic presidential contenders and other honchos last Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) found her inner Oprah and ran, for one night at least, the biggest talk show in Iowa.

Pelosi was the emcee of the giant Iowa Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson dinner, and made a tactical decision at the very start — she introduced each rival as the “the next president of the United States.”


Wearing a red jacket and black pants, Pelosi’s assignment was a challenge — as it was for all the White House hopefuls — because the tradition in Des Moines for this dinner is to speak from a stage in the center of an arena.

That means no podium for notes, no place for a teleprompter, no safety net, and a need to work from memory before some 9,000 activists in the arena.

Pelosi offered her own remarks at the beginning: “All of the eyes of the world are on this dinner tonight because they know they’re going to hear from the next president of the United States.” She added, “And to those of you who ask me, What is it like to be the first woman Speaker of the House? It’s absolutely fabulous.”

One of Pelosi’s scarves was auctioned off to an Iowa Democratic Party donor who bid it up to $6,000. That’s a record for the JJ dinner. Last year, the gavel went down when bidding for former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Pelosi: Trump trying 'to suppress the vote' with attacks on mail-in ballots MORE’s tie hit about $5,000. Pelosi seemed surprised that the scarf touched off that high-end bidding war.

Along the way, Pelosi also added some personal touches. Her relationship with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) goes back to her college years, she told the audience. Pelosi said she was friends with Dodd’s sister when they were in college and teased him about being a high school kid.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) went highbrow-literary at one point when he was speaking, musing about the poetry of Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995.

Pelosi, back on the stage, took up where Biden left off. “Seamus Heaney — I recommend his newest translation of Beowulf,” she said, speaking to the people who have trouble with Old English.

Pelosi was with her husband, Paul, who accompanies her to most big events.

I caught up with Pelosi briefly after the event ended — some four hours after it began.

“I thought everybody had a good show,” she told me. As for any contender making headway in the room — packed overwhelmingly in the bleachers by thousands of supporters for Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein Obama2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Davis: My recommendation for vice president on Biden ticket Statehood for Puerto Rico and the obstruction of justice MORE (D-Ill.) (who had the most) and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Pelosi said, “I do think that most everybody in the room was spoken for.”

From Des Moines, Pelosi said she was heading home to San Francisco. On Monday, Veterans Day, she stopped at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and then toured the disastrous oil spill off the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Oakland, Calif.

Sweet is the Washington bureau chief for the Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail: