Budowsky: Pelosi, a historically great Speaker

Budowsky: Pelosi, a historically great Speaker
© Greg Nash

As great events unfold in American and world politics, I suggest that future historians will write that House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiUSMCA is nice but no model Anti-impeachment Democrat poised to switch parties Grassley urges White House to help farmers in year-end tax talks MORE (D-Calif.) is the most important, consequential and effective Speaker since Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), one of the greatest Speakers who ever served in the House of Representatives.

In one of the most profound and powerful victories in modern times, Pelosi masterminded the earthshaking House Democratic victory in the 2018 midterm elections. Like Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo, the polls aren't wrong — but you have to know what to look for How to shut down fake Republican outrage over 'spying' on Trump More than 200,000 Wisconsin voters will be removed from the rolls MORE, Pelosi was long the target of the kind of vindictive personal attacks that Republicans often launch against high-level Democratic women. But she forged ahead without fear, enhanced Democratic strengths, exploited Republican weaknesses, and won big.

From the moment she began developing her midterm strategy shortly after the 2016 election of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE as president, until the huge Democratic victory on Election Day 2018, Pelosi mastered Trump with devastating effectiveness and game-changing, history-making impact.

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Since the Democratic midterm victory, Pelosi has been the effective leader of the opposition to Trump.  

Pelosi knows, and Trump knows, that she and House Democrats have the legislative power to block every Trump attempt to obtain any authorized or appropriated money or make any changes to the tax code. Pelosi knows, and Trump knows, that she and House Democrats have the power to initiate penetrating investigations of wrongdoing. Pelosi knows, and Trump knows, that on a wide range of important issues when she says no, she will prevail.

It drives Trump crazy, as a man who has problems dealing with powerful women, that on countless issues he needs permission from Pelosi and House Democrats before moving on critical fronts. Pelosi knows this and plays this card brilliantly.

Ernest Hemingway advised young writers to write one true sentence. One true sentence regarding Nancy Pelosi is that after besting Trump decisively in the midterm elections she has bested him, far more often than not, when the powerful Speaker went head to head with the powerful president.    

When Trump forced a government shutdown over his obsession to build a border wall, Pelosi moved boldly to brand that travesty as the “Trump shutdown.” When she and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTurf war derails bipartisan push on surprise medical bills Senate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave MORE (D-N.Y.) confronted Trump face to face in the White House with this charge, Trump fell right into their trap and claimed credit for the widely reviled shutdown.

Trump caved. Pelosi won. More funding to defend our borders was enacted. Money for the border wall was denied. Pelosi said no. The result was no, and in a clever and effective move, she said his obsession with the border wall is “a manhood thing.” Ouch!

With Trump’s immigration policy failing, he panics by threatening Mexico and making America’s neighbor and democratic ally a target in his tariff wars that pose grave danger to the American economy. Trump’s tariff attack against Mexico creates so much danger to the economy that many Fortune 500 CEOs join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in warning against them while consumers, blue-collar workers and farmers have much to fear from Trump’s tariff wars.

By contrast, Pelosi and House Democrats this week passed one of the most noble bills of the year to grant a path to citizenship for immigrant Dreamers, and will continue to pass bills that define what Democrats stand for on the big issues voters care about while they continue aggressive oversight and investigations of wrongdoing.

What makes this Democratic Speaker great is the ability to protect her members and ensure their reelection, raise prodigious amounts of money for them without sacrificing her progressive values, balance the interests of members elected from strong Democratic districts and districts that backed Trump in 2016, escalate and if necessary litigate major investigations that will bear fruit over time, and pass legislation in the House that will help Democratic candidates win and would be implemented by the next Democratic president, Senate and House.

By these standards and more Pelosi is a historically great Speaker at a critical moment in history.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.