With Democrats continuing their efforts to pillory House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Republicans in recent weeks have stepped up their individual attacks on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with an eye toward painting her as liberal, unethical and a poor spokeswoman for her party.
Pelosi has endured a steady and predictable stream of criticism from the right since she first became Minority Leader in 2003. But while Republicans in the past expended their energy trying to portray her as out of touch with the country, GOP lawmakers and strategists have recently shifted their tactics toward highlighting the alleged distance between Pelosi and Members of her own party.
Republicans have sought to emphasize apparent divisions within the Democratic Caucus by highlighting GOP bills that have drawn significant Democratic support and excoriating Pelosi for her alleged inability to craft a coherent party agenda beyond complaining about the ethics process.
“You have to have a plan in order to be a leader,” said Ron Bonjean, spokesman for Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). “She doesn’t have one, and that’s what we’re trying to point out.”
For her part, Pelosi said Wednesday that the latest round of attacks against her were “par for the course for the Republicans.” She said she’s not concerned that the GOP can hurt her politically, or her standing as the Democratic leader.
“This is a diversionary tactic,” she said. “Republicans are trying to divert attention away from their own problems. They are trying to change the subject.”
Pelosi acknowledged that, given her position, she will inevitably be subject to these attacks by the other side of the aisle.
“I understand how it works around here,” she said. “We have to always be ready to take the punches.”
In order to highlight internal Democratic divisions, Republicans have been touting several bills, including bankruptcy reform, class-action reform and the estate tax repeal, that each attracted more than 40 Democratic votes despite Pelosi’s opposition.
Republicans began employing this tactic in earnest following passage of the bankruptcy bill, when Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) pointed out to his fellow leaders that several recent measures seemed to be attracting Democratic support.
“We have had several strategy discussions in recent days to step up our criticism of her,” a Republican leadership aide said. “It’s only recently that her policy missteps have allowed us to paint her as out of touch.”
At an event Wednesday touting Republicans’ accomplishments in the first 100 days of the 109th Congress, Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio) took a clear shot at Pelosi and other Democratic leaders.
“This pattern, where rank-and-file Democrats abandon leadership to support marquee legislation that shows their constituents they’re working to help improve Americans’ quality of life, by the other party has been set, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon,” Pryce said.
At his pen-and-pad briefing later Wednesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) made a similar point, reciting the litany of GOP bills that have drawn some Democratic support while making sure to add, “although Leader Pelosi voted against almost everything.”