October 2, 2008
Nancy Pelosi: The worst Speaker in HistoryBy J.R. Dunn
The House's failure to pass the first bailout bill was historic in more ways than one. Along with endangering the world's economy and pushing the U.S. to the edge of a financial abyss, it also served to balance a historical equation over a century old.
Thomas Reed, or Czar Reed, as he was known, is considered to be one of the greatest Speakers of the House of Representatives. He served as speaker for two terms in the 1890s, and was noted both for his successful efforts at reform and for running a notoriously fractious chamber with an iron hand.
One of Reed's major goals was the reform of House procedures. A particular tradition he wished to see the end of involved the quorum call preceding votes.
Minority party members were in the habit of defying votes they didn't care for (but couldn't vote down) through the simple means of not answering when the roll call was taken. (Barack Obama must let out a deep sigh when he looks back on that epoch.)
The stratagem deeply irked Reed, not the least because it made him, the speaker, look like eight kinds of fool.
One fine day, a vote came up that Reed was well aware would trigger the quorum effect.
So just before the roll call, he had the sergeant-at-arms lock all the doors and then disappear.
As the roll call began, a certain congressman chose to remain silent. Reed called out the name once. He called it out twice. He called it out three times. Then turning to the House clerk, Reed said, "Mark that man as ‘present'."
Dead silence, followed by absolute pandemonium. A mob of congressmen attempted to flee the chamber only to discover the doors were locked. They then turned on Reed himself, raging as one toward the Speaker's platform, cursing at the top of their lungs, shaking their fists, and as criminal justice jargon might put it, "uttering terroristic threats". One Southern representative went so far as to grab a chair and menace Reed with it.
Reed was over six feet tall and, in the masculine style of the era, weighed close to three hundred pounds, and was not easily cowed. He continued reading off the names and directing that those who refused to answer be marked down as present.
And he broke them. Reed buried that practice six feet deep. Nobody ever dared try the like again. (Again, a sigh of regret from the Messiah.)
And oh -- did I mention that Reed was a Republican?
Contrast our current Speaker. Here is how she handled the most crucial vote of her term, one that will definitely go into the books and one that may well serve as a benchmark for her speakership:
Now let's take a closer look at what today would be called the " management styles" of the two speakers.
Czar Reed knew exactly what he was doing.
Nancy Pelosi, not quite.
Reed kept things quiet as the grave until the deed was done.
Nancy Pelosi -- inconceivable.
Reed made certain that he had the complete backing of his own party.
Nancy Pelosi - uhh, let's move on.
Reed acted totally impartially to get his reform through.
Nancy does not know the meaning of the term.
Reed was certain of success when he started out.
Nancy Pelosi... say no more.
So even without a deal, with the world's financiers quivering like so many deprived druggies and the economy as a whole still teetering, one thing has been accomplished. A historical circle has been closed. We have discovered the bookend for the Speaker conundrum, the pure reflection of Thomas Reed's mastery. If Czar Reed stands as the greatest of Speakers, then who is Nancy Pelosi but the worst? Not only is Pelosi unmatched for incompetence, inability, arrogance, and sheer flakiness, but she has actually put the entire world's financial health at risk in order to demonstrate the fact.
Imagine the situation next year if the Anointed One does squeak in.
Obama, Reid, and Pelosi running the country? Forget about a swing to socialism, the next Great Depression, a new lease on life for the Jihadis. Clearly, it's back to the caves for us all.
Czar Reed's story can be found treated in detail in Barbara Tuchman's The Proud Tower.