"Holy legislators, Batman! Who is that woman?" You can just imagine Robin's response, to last week's swearing-in ceremony where Nancy Pelosi, young grandchildren in tow, assumed House leadership, thanking her family for their support in her move "from the kitchen to the Congress."
For as ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson simpered,
"It seemed the ultimate in multitasking: taking care of the children and the country."
Columnist Ben Shapiro noted,
"The media would hammer any Republican congresswoman who dragged her grandchildren with her to work; it would rightly be considered a political ploy with children as props. Nancy Pelosi, however, could breastfeed on the speaker's podium and receive the plaudits of the mainstream media."
I would add that the media would hammer any Republican man who dragged his children, or any children, with him to work. Former Republican senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania tried that very same thing a couple of years ago when he asked that a 5-year-old child, who had been a candidate for late-term abortion, be allowed in the visitor's gallery of the Senate during a debate on the subject. Senator Barbara Boxer lodged an objection, saying it would be "rather exploitative to have a child present in the gallery" at that time.
Apparently only Democrats are allowed to use children as public relations tools.When Nancy Pelosi broke through the "marble ceiling" and became that role model for other women, was her experience in changing diapers and attending Mother's Day Teas at her children's elementary school really instrumental in her rise through the rank and file of politics?
Hillary Clinton, whom Pelosi has (temporarily?) eclipsed as the Democratic Party's standard bearer, didn't think being a full-time mom was anything to brag about. In the 1990s, Clinton famously said
"I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life."
And for years, Clinton has been the woman that Democrats held up as their example: strong, competent, and not afraid to leave daughter Chelsea in the care of nannies while she took care of more pressing business.
No woman with any self-respect would boast about sleeping her way to the top in business, as that would cast doubt on her competence. Why then use one's ability to fix boo boos with Band-Aids® and referee sleepovers in politics, a cutthroat atmosphere that has no reputation for tender loving care?
Suddenly, however, Pelosi is top dog, and she's waving the banner of her past role as stay-at-home mom proudly. Her "mother-of-five" voice has come up frequently, as in this interview with Barbara Walters, when Pelosi was chosen as Walters' "Most Fascinating Person of 2006:
Walters: "You've talked about sometimes using your mother-of-five voice. Now I sit here, and you're very gentle. Talk to me in the mother-of-five voice."
Pelosi: "Well, the mother-of-five voice is a little louder and it has a tone of ‘I'm only going to say this once.'"
Walters: "And if they don't listen, then what does the mother-of-five do?"
Pelosi: "I won't repeat it."
Any male politician who tried to use a similar "I'm a dad and what I say goes" bluster would not only be laughed at by the media (and other politicians), but downright scorned. As he should be. Being a parent is a fine and noble thing, but it does not automatically render one capable of being a competent world leader. If that were true, then Jimmy Carter, father of two, would have been re-elected in 1980 and bachelor James Buchanan would not have been elected at all.
One wonders what Nancy Hopkins, professor at MIT, thinks of all this celebration of traditional womanhood. Hopkins, as you remember, was the woman who might have "either blacked out or thrown up" when she heard (former) Harvard president Larry Summers theorize that the reason there are fewer women in the hard sciences might be because their brains are wired differently from men's.
Yet Pelosi may be shrewdly capitalizing on a trend. As more and more young women are deciding early on to end (or suspend) their careers so they can stay home with their children, Pelosi's grandstanding about her soccer mom past may help cement her popularity with this group. The traditional feminism that took root in the late 1960s and on into the 1970s seems to be slipping in popularity, with many women realizing that they really can't have it all: a dazzling high-profile career and a well-adjusted family. By tapping into that trend, Pelosi shows us that her political acumen is right on target.
It's too bad that she can't admit that it's her brains, not her cookies, that got her where she is today.
Pamela Meister writes about politics and world events at her blog. She also welcomes feedback.