There is no politician in Washington so insulated from criticism as Nancy Pelosi. Still surrounded by all the good wishes of sycophantic journalists in awe of her previous tenure as Speaker, in DC Pelosi gets away with saying a wide variety of crazy things, committing herself to extreme positions, and engaging in pointless and occasionally self-damaging battles. Any outside perspective would see her as flailing and ineffectual. But in Washington, she is the Grand Dame of Capitol Hill who can do no wrong.
In the past year, Pelosi let the most aggressive wing of her conference take over, and embarked on the least politically beneficial impeachment ever. She insisted on a larded up coronavirus aid measure, then responded to suggestions she asked for too much by accusing others of using GOP talking points. She promised that Trump’s acceptance speech at the White House “won’t happen,” and then lo and behold, it happened. She weighed into the Massachusetts Senate Primary against AOC’s endorsement, and her favored Kennedy candidate lost by more than 10 points. A Speaker who exists solely to tear up State of the Union speeches isn’t one driving the agenda any more.
If you want to see what even the most mild questioning of Pelosi looks like, check out her interviews a month ago with CNN’s Brianna Keilar and PBS’s Judy Woodruff. Pelosi treats any doubting of her approach to strategy as rank partisanship, and she has plenty of backup from the press corp. Politico’s Playbook morning newsletter might as well add Pelosi as a co-author – every move she makes is savvy, every little comment or “joke” she makes in negotiations is held up as a delicious bon mot. Today’s edition buries her current scandal, the talk of Capitol Hill and something even arbiter of lefty journo conventional wisdom Chris Cillizza calls a “campaign gift” to Trump, almost a thousand words down.
The scandal in question is kind of perfect for anti-lockdown Republicans. Pelosi has approached the lockdown with an insistence on staying glammed up – her “masks” are Hermes scarves, her upkeep is well-attended, and her hair is regularly blown out. It was one of these blowouts – not even a cut and color – that got her in trouble. The footage of a maskless Pelosi inside a salon, getting the pampered treatment no normal California citizen can get without risk of getting fined, is the most hypocritical image yet in a long litany of them from Democratic officials. But what makes even less sense is Pelosi’s response to this, perhaps an indication of how much she exists in a permanent bubble where the press does not criticize her.
Rather than just say “sorry, I screwed up, won’t happen again” and moving on, Pelosi instead leaned into the whole thing, with a legal threat ensuring this story continues beyond a day’s news cycle. She called the salon escapade a “setup”, and demanded an apology from the salon owner. And her daughter took to Twitter to criticize the fake news right wing smear merchants at… the San Francisco Chronicle.
Just read Pelosi’s comments: “I take responsibility for trusting the word of a neighborhood salon that I’ve been to over the years many times, and that when they said that we’re able to accommodate people one person at a time and that we could set up that time, I trusted that… As it turns out, it was a set up. So I take responsibility for falling for the set up,” Pelosi said at a press conference in San Francisco. “This salon owes me an apology,” she added.
But the request for a blowout was made by her and her office – it wasn’t an invitation extended by the salon. The salon owner reportedly griped when Pelosi’s hairstylist called at the hypocrisy of the situation before assenting to let it happen – then only shared the footage from the long installed security camera after Pelosi removed her mask. Did the salon owner make Pelosi do that? Of course not.
The true extent of her hubris in knowing sycophants in the media will dutifully repeat her line is in this bit: “I have been inundated by people who are in the hair service industry saying ‘thank you for calling attention to this. We need to get back to work,’” Pelosi said. “Many of them annoyed at the setup that was there for a purpose that has nothing to do with ending the [COVID-19] crisis.”
Ah yes, Nancy, that’s the ticket. You weren’t living high while others suffered, you were just selflessly working to bring attention to the horrible problems impacting the hair service industry, exposing the truth about how much they’ve been treated horribly thanks to what you call the “Trump Virus”. Stunning, and brave.