Calmes: Nancy Pelosi’s indelible mark

On the Capitol’s most historic man cave, as on a lot else, Nancy Pelosi has left her mark.

In her last weeks because the nation’s first feminine Home speaker, a reflective Pelosi has been internet hosting small teams in a ground-floor hideaway tucked in a slender corridor off the overwhelmed path, between two well-traveled corridors. It’s the Board of Training room — the identify is an insiders’ joke courting to Prohibition, when “Cactus Jack” Garner, the Home speaker from Texas, retreated there with favored buddies for after-hours drinks. One other Texas speaker, Sam Rayburn, renewed the observe by means of the Forties and Fifties; Vice President Harry Truman, a former senator, was within the Board of Training room when he acquired phrase that President Franklin Roosevelt had died.

It was males solely, after all, as a result of that just about described Congress in these a long time: Ladies had been 1% to three% of the membership.

“They’d say they’re going to the Education Committee, but of course it meant they were coming down here to play cards and enjoy whatever refreshments that they were enjoying,” Pelosi advised me and a number of other different feminine journalists she’d invited for an alcohol-free lunch.

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Jackie Calmes

Jackie Calmes brings a essential eye to the nationwide political scene. She has a long time of expertise overlaying the White Home and Congress.

The history-maker revelled within the historical past of the room. Pelosi pointed to the state seal of Texas painted excessive on one wall — harking to her predecessors — and to a rendering of the pre-Civil Warfare Capitol, with out its later, bigger dome, on the alternative wall. (Gone is a portrait of Robert E. Lee.) Then she turned to her additions: two fresco-like work, one among her hometown San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and the opposite a scene of white-clad suffragettes marching exterior the Capitol in 1919, when Congress handed the nineteenth Modification giving girls the best to vote.

One can solely think about what Cactus Jack and Mr. Sam would consider this lady’s contact of their outdated clubhouse. However over the 80-minute lunch, throughout which Pelosi did a lot of the speaking, she made it plain she’s been appearing all through her barrier-breaking profession with little regard for what high-ranking males suppose.

Even now she says she feels occasional sexism: “A thousand nicks a day, even though people may not realize it or intend it.” Trying again, Pelosi recalled scraps with each the male hierarchy of the Catholic Church — her church — over homosexual rights, abortion, contraception and in vitro fertilization (“Poor souls,” she mentioned), and with the lads of the Home, as soon as immune to her rise (“Poor babies”).

It was a girl, San Francisco Rep. Sala Burton, who pushed Pelosi, then a fundraiser and organizer in Democratic politics and mom of 5 grown kids, to run for the Home. Burton was dying of most cancers when she tapped Pelosi to take her seat: “A woman asking another woman, which was highly unusual,” Pelosi mentioned.

“I never intended to run for Congress. Never,” she mentioned, and added, I never intended to run for leadership.”

However as Pelosi labored to elect extra girls and raised gobs of California cash for Democrats, girls and a few males urged her to run, first for minority whip, in 2001. There was, nonetheless, a pecking order within the male-dominated establishment: “The guys said, ‘Who said she could run?’ ”

She mimicked an alternate of the time:

“Why don’t the women just make a list of the things they’d like to see done and give us the list?”

“Oh, really? Why don’t you make a list?”

“Well, it’s not the time [for a woman in the leadership].”

“No? We’ve been waiting over 200 years.”

Nonetheless, she mentioned, “I never thought that we would have a woman speaker. I thought, ‘The country is so much more ready for a woman president than these guys are ready for a woman speaker.’ ”

When Pelosi arrived in Washington in 1987, the 435-member Home included simply 23 girls, roughly cut up between the events. “I would never have been speaker if there hadn’t been many more women members,” Pelosi mentioned. Now the quantity is 122, three-fourths of them Democrats.

Amongst her most formidable challenges over 20 years as Home Democratic whip, chief and speaker: contending with the Catholic hierarchy. She counts as her “biggest disappointment, the closest I ever came to tears,” the church’s lobbying to kill the Inexpensive Care Act — the legislation Pelosi considers her most vital achievement — as a result of the bishops opposed its protection for contraception.

She mentioned she’d made her case to church emissaries “as a devout practicing Catholic,” solely to be advised, “You’re not that devout.”

“Thank God for the nuns,” Pelosi mentioned, describing them as “fabulous,” “aggressive” and “outspoken” in help of contraception protection and of the healthcare legislation.

She and the American bishops battled for years over abortion rights. “I had five children in six years and one week. That’s a lovely thing for me. That should not be the standard I set for anybody else,” Pelosi mentioned. “This is none of anybody’s business. It’s a woman’s right to make her own choices with her family, her God, her doctor.”

Requested if she had any regrets over her 35 years in Congress, she shortly replied no.

Nothing? “No. Nothing.”

However she does have tales to inform. Pelosi mentioned she would in all probability write a memoir “because I’ve got to set the record straight about certain things.”

As a backbencher within the new Congress beginning in January, she ought to have extra time to start that undertaking. Because the chief emerita, maybe she may make the Board of Training her writing room.