Pelosi is risking the loss of both presidential and legislative elections next fall | Michael Jansen - GulfToday

Pelosi is risking the loss of both presidential and legislative elections next fall

Michael Jansen

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Nancy-Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi gestures during a press conference in Washington. File/ AFP

During his fight to remain in the White House, it is just and fitting that Donald Trump, a political neophyte, should battle Nancy Pelosi, a woman long-versed in the ways of Washington. Now in her 17th year in the lower house of the US Congress, Pelosi is more than a match for Trump, who, 33 months into his first term, still does not understand how the US government works and behaves like a king rather than a president answerable to the legislature, US courts and voters.

To quote the English poet William Cowper, Trump seems to say, “I am the monarch of all I survey / My right there is none to dispute.” As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi is the legislator who has every right to dispute his words and actions. While sharply critical of Trump as soon as he assumed office, Pelosi only agreed to take up the impeachment option after the release of a partial transcript of a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president. This revealed that Trump had asked him to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in exchange for releasing arms Congress had cleared for delivery to that country which is battling rebels backed by Russia.

Although other grounds for impeachment had emerged well before the Ukraine affair and younger House members had clamoured for investigations to begin, Pelosi held off. She was — and is — well aware that although impeachment could be approved by the House, where the majority belongs to her Democratic party, the Republican-controlled Senate could be expected to refuse to support Trump’s removal unless dramatic grounds are discovered. When pressed by Democratic party members in June to shift her stance, Pelosi stated, “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.” She called for an all-out effort to defeat Trump in the 2020 election. She argued that an impeachment investigation would be “divisive” and could boost Trump’s chances of re-election. She was right to wait; by opting for impeachment the Democrats risk a rebuff by the Senate that could strengthen Trump.

On Sep.23, The Washington Post published an opinion piece calling for impeachment submitted by seven Democratic legislators with national security backgrounds. They argued Trump’s antics have endangered the US and its global interests. Trump has, in the words of the initial whistleblower, used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 US election.”

Pelosi took up the impeachment challenge on a point of principle: that Trump’s Ukraine gambit has exceeded ethical limits, broken the law and violated the sacrosanct US Constitution. Since the information on Trump’s call was released, documents have appeared showing that the conversation was but one phase of a months-long campaign to enlist Ukraine in Trump’s efforts to smear Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a businessman who accepted a legal but improper position on the board of directors of a Ukrainian gas company under investigation for corruption. The Trump camp has dismissed the testimony of the first whistleblower as hearsay since his information came from second and third-hand sources. A second whistleblower has now come forward with first-hand knowledge of what Trump has done. There are said to be more whistleblowers.

Pelosi is the highest ranking politician in the US, second in line for succession to the presidency after the vice president. If Trump and his deputy Mike Pence, who has been involved in the Ukranian affair, are impeached, Pelosi would become the first woman president of the US.

She is the first woman to become speaker of the House and the first woman to lead one of the two major parties in Congress. On regional affairs, she was an opponent of the two US wars on Iraq and supports diplomatic resolution of US differences with Iran. Although pro-Israeli as almost all US legislators are, she backs the land-for-peace solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland into the D’Alesandro family of Italian background. She had a political upbringing as her father served as a Democratic Congressman from Maryland and as mayor of Baltimore, and her mother was a Democratic party organiser. She attended President John Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and graduated from Trinity College in Washington with a BA in political science. She interned with Democratic Congressmen before moving to San Francisco, which she now represents in the House. She won a seat in 1987 in a traditional Democratic district. Her initial term as speaker of the house was between 2007-2011, most of this period during the presidency of Barack Obama. Her second term as speaker began in January this year after eight years as minority leader.

Having finally opted for Trump’s impeachment, it is significant that Pelosi opposed the impeachment in 2004 of George W Bush for lying to Congress by falsely claiming Iraq had violated UN resolutions by obtaining weapons of mass destruction, thereby justifying US military intervention. This would have been a futile exercise at that time because rival Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

The difference this time is that the Democrats hold the House which decides on impeachment, while the trial takes place in the Senate now controlled by the Republicans. So far, there has been no decision to impeach but a commitment to investigate grounds for impeachment. Since Trump has already provided serious reasons he should be forced from office and continues to do so, the investigations are likely to be fruitful. When deciding to go ahead with this phase of the process, Pelosi had to determine the impact impeachment would have on his chances to be re-elected next year. Since his “base” consisting of white Christian Evangelicals, rural folk, suburban middle class whites and multimillionaires has, so far, remained loyal, cautious Pelosi is risking the loss of both the presidential and legislative elections next fall. Despite the risk, she seems to have determined that Trump has to be tackled before he does more damage to the US and the world than he already has.