This one struck a nerve with Nancy Pelosi.
The “60 Minutes” interview with the octogenarian House speaker that aired Sunday revealed a little more discomfort than Democrats would like about the leadership of their party when reporter Lesley Stahl asked about making way for a new generation.
And Pelosi clearly wasn’t pleased.
Lesley Stahl: Why does AOC complain that you have not been grooming younger people for leadership?
— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) January 11, 2021
“You’re 80. Your number two, Steny Hoyer, is 81. Your number three, Jim Clyburn, is 80,” Stahl began to ask, referring to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina.
“Why haven’t you brought young people into the leadership?”
“Because we have,” Pelosi snapped. “You perhaps don’t know.”
Stahl then brought up Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the radical New York Democrat and “squad” leader who, at 31, has become the photogenic face of progressive politics in the still-young 21st century.
“Why does AOC complain that you have not been grooming younger people for leadership?”
“I don’t know. You’ll have to ask her,” Pelosi replied with obvious pique. “Because we are.”
Stahl noted that the answer sounded like Pelosi was being dismissive of Ocasio-Cortez: “That was kind of sharp, kind of dismissing her,” the journalist said.
Pelosi denied it.
“I’m not dismissing her. I respect her,” Pelosi said. “I think she’s very effective, as are other, as are many other, members of our caucus that the press doesn’t pay attention to. But they are there. And they are building support for what comes next.”
And that answer might have tipped Pelosi’s hand. It’s not that the gerontocracy at the top of the Democratic Party isn’t interested in grooming younger people, that answer suggested: it’s just that maybe AOC and her cohort aren’t the younger people Pelosi and her cohort have in mind.
There’s no question that there’s tension among congressional Democrats — and that’s likely to be on open display fairly soon. As united as they are in their loathing of President Donald Trump, with less than two weeks left in the Trump administration, that tenuous common ground is going to be giving way soon, and Democrats are going to have to face up to the real fractures in their party.
In a December interview with the website The Intercept, Ocasio-Cortez made it clear that she was ready for Pelosi and her Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, to get off the political stage.
Asked point-blank if it was time for Pelosi and Schumer to go, Ocasio-Cortez first complained that leaderhip structures limited the powers of individual members, then answered in the affirmative:
“And so, you know, the answer is yes,” she said. “The answer is we need to shift power; we need to make sure that we have a transition of power in the leadership of the Democratic Party.”
If words like that don’t worry Pelosi, they should.
Radicals like Ocasio-Cortez and her squad-mates are pushing a brand of socialism that’s counter to the American DNA — a look at how poorly the party performed in congressional contests in November should be a hint about how popular it actually is.
For old warhorses like the socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, ideas guaranteed to impoverish the country, like the Green New Deal, Medicare for all, free college and free everything else might still be attractive, but Americans living in the real world know otherwise.
And Pelosi, who lost her first gig as House speaker after revulsion over the passage of Obamacare in 2010 led to a Republican takeover of the House in that year’s midterm elections, has to know that.
“Grooming” a young woman for congressional leadership after she’s spent her two years in the public eye becoming one of the most divisive figures in American politics can’t look like a good idea for a speaker who has the gavel by only the thinnest of majorities.
That’s especially true when the party’s national leadership at the moment is personified by President-elect Joe Biden, who looks and acts every day of his 78 years.
It’s true that Biden, one way or another, secured sufficient Electoral College votes to win the presidency — there’s nothing to be done about that now.
But it’s also true that Trump got almost 75 million votes despite the overwhelming opposition of the mainstream media establishment, the entertainment elite of Hollywood, and the almost criminal decisions of Big Tech giants like Twitter and Facebook to suppress stories suggesting corruption in the Biden family that Americans deserved to know (and could well have decided the election differently if they had known).
A party with a hold on power as precarious as the Democrats’ could be committing itself to political suicide not too far down the road if it elected to keep on the radical leftist path being pushed by AOC and her supporters.
While most of the social media responses to that Stahl question focused on the question itself, rather than Pelosi’s response, there were a few who could read Pelosi’s lips.
In other words, she’s not grooming AOC for leadership.
— grumpy and crotchety.MA-Ed (@MelaKatie) January 11, 2021
She doesn’t have to. Like she says, there are others being groomed for leadership just not AOC.
— #??????? ??????????? (@bitterwtsweet) January 11, 2021
AOC does get far too much attention in the press which is not good for her or the party. She’s held up yet also picked apart and every little thing she says is scrutinized. She’s 1 out of 222. She’s a rising star but hardly the only rep.
— Juliet Jeske Wear a Mask! (@JulietJeske) January 11, 2021
There were also quite a few responses that attacked Stahl on a personal level, noting that the CBS journalist herself is no spring chicken at 79.
Now, mainstream media networks in general haven’t endeared themselves to American conservatives lately, and Stahl in particular attempted her own hammer job on Trump in an October interview.
But in this case, the question was dead on.
Assuming Pelosi was telling the truth (always a dangerous assumption) about grooming Democratic leaders who aren’t named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Ilhan Omar or Ayanna Pressley or Rashida Tlaib, it shouldn’t be such a national unknown that a question about it on “60 Minutes” kicks up a controversy.
If it is true, it means Pelosi knows the more radical elements that make up the Democratic Party won’t like the leadership she’s chosen.
No one likes being reminded of a political difficulty — and Pelosi, for all her party’s success in this year’s elections — is definitely facing that when it comes to AOC & Co.
Being reminded of one’s own mortality is even worse — and Pelosi’s advancing years can’t help but bring that to mind any time the question of age comes up.
In other words, Stahl’s question hit possibly the two most sensitive spots in Pelosi’s public and private lives right now.
No wonder it struck a nerve.
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