In Financial Crisis, Pelosi Chose Politics Over Statesmanship, Killing Bailout

The Democrats and their hyperpartisan leader deserve the lion's share of the credit for failure.

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My colleague Rob Schlesinger takes exception to my earlier post criticizing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's speech ahead of yesterday's bailout vote. Against expectations, the vote failed, and the California Democrat's unnecessary partisanship appears to have played a role in that. Rob chides late-switching Republicans for sacrificing the nation's interest to playground retaliation for Pelosi's remarks.

As I noted, a good many House members on both the right and the left had already noted their opposition to the bill prior to Pelosi's speech. Even with those "no" votes, the bill was ready to pass. One way or another, the speaker—whose job is to lead the House—managed to tip the balance the other way.

Now, I'm hardly defending those GOPers who might have changed their minds simply because Pelosi was being mean. But the bottom line is that this was a delicate vote, and her decision to use that important moment on the House floor for, as David Brooks' described it, a campaign fundraiser speech, showed extraordinarily poor judgment. She chose politics over statesmanship; is it any wonder that choice prompted the same in others?

Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank has managed to whitewash his full-throated defense of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier in the decade by claiming that, because the Republicans were then in charge of Congress, ultimately any failure to reform these housing giants was theirs. Well, yesterday, more than 40 percent of House Democrats voted against the bailout (although Frank still manages to entirely blame Republicans). Perhaps the attention should be on why the party in charge of Congress failed to secure a margin large enough to withstand its leader's childish impulses.