Nancy Pelosi is being held responsible for the actions of Republican men — and not just by the GOP

·4-min read
Nancy Pelosi (AFP via Getty Images)
Nancy Pelosi (AFP via Getty Images)

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Wednesday that she was vetoing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s suggestions of Jim Jordan and Jim Banks for the commission investigating the events leading to the insurrection on 6 January, everyone acted pretty much exactly as one would expect them to act. That is, everyone blamed Pelosi. Republicans called her partisan. Moderate and center left pundits accused her of playing into Republicans’ hands. But none of this is based on any kind of rational assessment.

When assembling the bipartisan commission, Pelosi asked McCarthy to nominate five Republican representatives for the committee. Of those five, she vetoed only Jordan and Banks, saying in her statement that recent statements and actions from the two indicated that they would compromise the integrity of the investigation. In response, McCarthy withdrew all five of the Republicans nominated to the commission, loudly decrying Pelosi as a radical authoritarian and declaring the Republican Party’s intention to start a commission of their own.

It was clear from the get-go that McCarthy’s decision here was just so much political theater. McCarthy, who voted against a bipartisan commission into the events of 6 January, must have known that Pelosi would never allow Jordan and Banks onto the committee – n his purpose in nominating them in the first place, it would appear, was to create an excuse to call Pelosi a hack and undermine the validity of the commission altogether. Which he of course did.

As soon as Pelosi announced her extremely rational veto, Republicans took up the rallying cry, calling the investigation itself nothing more than a partisan sham and all part of Pelosi’s bid to force through radical leftist policies. “The Pelosi partisan Jan 6th commission was never about investigating facts, was only ever about Pelosi’s radical politics and the Left’s endless obsession with crushing any discussion or debate,” Elise Stefanik stated. Later that night on Fox News, Laura Ingraham aired a segment in which McCarthy and Banks “stand up to Pelosi’s partisan stunt”. Banks even went so far as to insinuate that Pelosi was at fault for the insurrection for failing to deploy adequate security (this has been fact-checked and is false). On Thursday morning Newt Gingrich took to Twitter to call Pelosi a “dictator”.

Meanwhile, McCarthy and the Republicans were the ones who voted against the bipartisan commission in the first place as well as the ones who refused to participate when invited to do so. Second perhaps only to Hillary Clinton, Pelosi has long been a favorite Republican boogeyman, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise to see the party attempt to blame her once again for their own behavior.

But they weren’t alone. Pundits and commentators also immediately began saying that by vetoing Jordan and Banks, the speaker was making the conservatives’ argument for them, that she was allowing the investigation to become one sided, which would eventually undermine the result in the eyes of the public. Headlines inThe Washington Post: *(“Bipartisan House probe of Jan. 6 insurrection falls apart after Pelosi blocks two GOP members”), The New York Times (“Pelosi Bars Trump Loyalists From Jan. 6 Inquiry, Prompting a G.O.P. Boycott”) and others further blame the speaker for the Minority Leader and the GOP’s behavior.

In a CNN opinion piece, Chris Cillizza declared “Nancy Pelosi just doomed the already tiny chances of the 1/6 committee actually mattering.” Politico’s Rachael Bade claimed on Twitter: “Pelosi’s move to reject GOP picks for the 1/6 panel is going to be a gift to Kevin McCarthy in the long run. He wanted this panel to look partisan and political. Now it’s definitely going to look partisan and political.”

One thing all of these takes have in common is that they assume Pelosi is responsible for McCarthy’s actions. And there are several issues with that assessment.

In the first place, the idea that the commission is no longer bipartisan is factually incorrect, and blaming Pelosi for falling victim to McCarthy’s political machinations underestimates her own considerable skill as a political operator. After McCarthy pulled the Republicans from the commission in a fit of pique, Liz Cheney (who is, lest we forget, an extremely staunch conservative) announced that she would be joining the commission, emphasizing her support for the speaker’s decision and true disdain for the minority leader. This means Pelosi actually got the bipartisan commission she wanted to begin with, sans insurrectionists, which she accomplished by calling McCarthy’s bluff.

I’m not saying commentators wouldn’t have blamed Pelosi this way had she been a man, but I am saying that it’s an impossible position all women are intimately familiar with. Sexual assault victims are blamed for putting themselves in danger. Mothers are blamed for the crimes of their adult sons. Boys will be boys, as the saying goes, and it is a woman’s responsibility to manage them.

In terms of politics on a larger scale, it is high time to stop blaming Democrats for not abiding by Republican rules. But a deeper, societal level, we must examine our tendency to assume women should take the blame for everyone else’s bad behavior. Starting with Nancy Pelosi.

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