Sunday, December 11, 2005

More on Pelosi and Filson

Babaloo posted a fabulous piece raising interesting questions about why Pelosi would give any money (especially in the primary) to Steve Filson when Filson is being backed by Ellen Tauscher and Steny Hoyer. Babaloo’s main post concerned the bad blood between Pelosi on one side and Tauscher and Hoyer on the other side. In the comments, Babaloo linked to a piece by David Sirota suggesting that Hoyer is actively working to undermine Pelosi’s leadership in the House. This seems to show that the history between Pelosi and Tauscher et al is not simply water under the bridge.

But Sirota also links to a Washington Post article that brings up another big point of contention between Pelosi and Tauscher, Hoyer, and (wait for it) Filson’s friend Rahm Emanuel. The issue is the war in Iraq. The fact that Pelosi would support a candidate who’s the golden boy of her ideological rivals on this issue, especially since she’s in the midst of currying support for her own position on Iraq, simply boggles my mind. I’m not sure I’m going to solve this issue in the post, and by the end of it you might be left with a big, fat question mark on the subject like I am. Still, I think this is something worth exploring.

So to begin, let’s establish that Pelosi is supporting Filson to some significant (although not overwhelming) extent. The clearest proof is the fact that Pelosi gave Filson at least $2,000 from her re-election account. I say at least because it’s unclear whether Pelosi has given Filson any additional money since the last reporting date at the end of September. Furthermore, I know that Pelosi co-hosted a fundraiser for Filson along with Ellen Tauscher and some other Reps (including Lofgren I believe) last week on December 6.

If Filson were less wholly a Tauscher devotee (or in fact, less indebted to Tauscher for giving life to his campaign) I might see Pelosi’s actions as a way of counterbalancing Tauscher’s influence with Filson. But Filson’s in so deep with Tauscher it’s hard for me to believe he’d be anything but an extremely loyal Tauscher supporter. So by helping Filson, Pelosi is helping someone who might not be loyal to her, and in fact might actually work with those trying to undercut Pelosi’s status in her caucus. And since this has been happening while there’s been a primary on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine that Pelosi is doing this out of some sense of self-sacrifice for the party.

This conundrum is compounded when we realize how vulnerable Pelosi has made herself by endorsing John Murtha’s call for withdrawal of troops within six months. The Washington Post lays this out pretty clearly (emphasis mine):

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi's recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.

These sources said the two leaders have expressed worry that Pelosi is playing into Bush's hands by suggesting Democrats are the party of a quick pullout -- an unpopular position in many of the most competitive House races.
"What I want Democrats to be discussing is what the president's policies have led to," Emanuel said. He added that once discussion turns to a formal timeline for troop withdrawals, "the how and when gets buried" and many voters take away only an impression that Democrats favor retreat.


Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) embodies this cautious approach. He has resisted adopting a concrete Iraq policy and persuaded most Democratic senators to vote for a recent Senate resolution calling 2006 "a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" and to compel the administration "to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq." While Republicans introduced the resolution, it was prompted by a Democratic plan.

Democratic Reps. Jane Harman and Ellen Tauscher, both of California, plan to push House Democrats to adopt a similar position during a closed-door meeting today that is to include debate on the Pelosi position.

(Parenthetically, this shows the hollowness of Emanuel and the DCCC’s effort to run “macho Democrats” in 2006. If there was ever a macho Democrat, John Murtha was one. So it’s clear that Emanuel wants to run military vets to cobble together some sort of appearance of machismo to give people the impression that Dems are “strong on defense”, even while the Emanuel-backed candidates support a rather milquetoast policy on Iraq. So much for fighting for Democratic values….)

Maybe I’m just reading too much into this Washington Post article or maybe I’m giving Sirota too much credence. But it really looks like Pelosi’s support of Filson is somewhat masochistic. I’m not sure that Ensign or McNerney would endorse (either privately or publicly) Pelosi’s position on the race. But they each are certainly light years closer to Pelosi’s position than Filson, who please remember, has characterized calling for any timetable for withdrawal (much less a six month timetable) “irresponsible.”

Looking back over the Washington Post article I have more sympathy for Democrats who want to avoid the issue because they feel it’s bad politics than for the Democrats who are just reflectively hawkish. Tauscher, for example, wet-blanketed a move to pass an anti-war resolution at the Contra Costa Democratic Central Committee because, according to my source, Tauscher said it would embarrass her. This, despite widespread opposition in her district to the war.

Looked at this way, the Tauscher-Pelosi conflict looks both real and ideological as well as personal. These are not simply a case of people disagreeing on strategy. Again, what can explain Pelosi’s support for Tauscher’s chosen candidate? I’m really at a loss on this one.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pelosi accused Hoyer and others of selling out to corporate interests in a private meeting leaked to roll-call a while back, regarding the bankruptcy bill. I know I've written Pelosi and expressed discontent with her usual walking of the political line between the establishment and the progressive caucus to which she belongs, in supporting filson, ahead of the primaries, ahead of the progressives. It seems like typical beltway cronyism though.

6:42 PM, December 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand the source of your confusion. Pelosi's leadership role in the party means, among other things, it is her job to see that Democrats get elected. That includes backing Democrat challengers who can win or who she believes can win. This role is largely separate from her ideological or policy positions. Granted, as House Minority Leader, her positions on issues will carry a lot of influence. But it is a huge leap and simply incorrect to assume that she would therefore only back candidates who hold the same positions that she does. That's just dumb politics.

It is an even greater stretch of the imagination to suggest that Pelosi would oppose a candidate simply because he is a friend of Ellen Tauscher's. Your account of the original dispute is correct and it may be true that Hoyer is eyeing Pelosi's role. But Tauscher and Pelosi are not engaged in some sort of blood feud. Both are ultimately doing what they think is best for the party. And in the case of Filson, Pelosi evidently agrees with Tauscher that he is the best candidate.

You clearly disagree with that, and that's fine. But writing two lengthy posts expressing bafflement at Pelosi's support when the obvious and simple explanation is that she thinks he is a good candidate who can win the election suggests that you are letting your beliefs about the relative merits of the candidates cloud your common sense. You should at least consider the possibility, shocking though it may be, that some people in Washington are supporting Filson, not because Tauscher told them to, but because his candidacy has merit.

7:17 PM, December 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For what my 2/100 of a buck is worth, it could be as simple as that Pelosi wants to become the first female Speaker of the House, and the way to that crown is to get as many red seats flipped to blue as possible, and if a measly $2,000 from her PAC (if I understand it, NOT from her personal wallet) to whom she views (from her perch) as the most electable blue candidate in CA-11th will help, so be it. Sometimes a cigar IS just a cigar...

7:22 PM, December 11, 2005  
Blogger Matt said...

I see a lot of merit in what Anon #3 said. To the extent that it comports with what Anon #2 said, I agree.

Anon #2, I think you responded to things I never said or implied. I'm not sure if that's because you thought I wrote the first post, which was actually written by Babaloo, of whether there was some other mis-communication.

I'm especially sympathetic to your criticism of me in the first part of your third paragraph. It may be that I didn't separate out my analysis of the candidates from my view of how they'd look to someone like Pelosi. But I suppose it's hard for me to think that Filson is so attractive to Pelosi that she'd get involved this early and this actively in the primary.

9:32 PM, December 11, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matt --- if the big boys in Washington are rallying their troops around one candidate (Filson), it would be politically unwise for Pelosi to support anyone else. As Anon #3 pointed out, Pelosi's #1 goal is to become Speaker so she can have REAL influence on all of the policy prescriptions progressives value the most.

If that means making ideological compromises in some districts, well then so be it. She's doing it for the greater good. Being principled won't do her (or us) any good if she (we) lose the House by one seat and thus lose the opportunity to defund this war (much to Hoyer and Tauscher's chagrin).

Another angle: Has Filson supported Pelosi financially or done her any other favors (lined up the pilots to support her) in the past? Perhaps there's a quid pro quo unsaid agreement? Wouldn't be the first time... and that's why "outsider" candidates like McNerney are often left out in the cold. They haven't played the game and "paid their dues"... literally.

Anon #4 (not 1, 2, or 3)

p.s. just so you know, were the primary held today, I'd vote for McNerney over Filson. But that doesn't mean I don't think Pelosi is being tactically smart given her circumstances.

12:10 AM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Me again...

Just because Pelosi has given $2K to Filson doesn't mean she won't turn around and give the same to McNerney and the other candidates. Why? Provided she did not formally endorse a candidate, Pelosi would then be able to say that she was supporting all the Dems equally and not lose street cred with more strident progressives.

A good strategy for McNerney supporters would be to apply pressure to Pelosi to donate $2K to McNerney and actually *demonstrate her neutrality* in the race.

Anon #4

12:22 AM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous nicholas said...

nick from tracy is reporting that filson only raised $20k in DC...interesting...

8:39 AM, December 12, 2005  
Blogger Matt said...

Nicholas: $20,000 in one night is a big chunk of change. It might not be the the best fundraiser ever, but it's huge compared to what the other Democrats in the race have done.

Anon #4: To my knowlege neither Filson nor his wife have given money to Pelosi. Also, you're right that McNerney's team (and Ensign's too if she stays in the race) ought to ask Pelosi for a donation to show her even-handed support. It couldn't hurt them to ask.

9:15 AM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous nicholas said...

true dat matt...

i was simply expecting more based on your own previous blog entry.

and the dollars raised have yet to reach a level where it can impact our door to door/ mouth to mouth campaign..friends, neighbors and families becoming a community of one..our campaign is becoming more then just a race for congress. its a movement. something the folks in my hometown (stockton for those new to the discussion) have never been a part of. its awesome!!

cha know what i mean?

but you are right..its a nice chunk o change..


4:35 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous nicholas said...

mouth to

6:11 PM, December 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

on the other anon's speculation about Pelosi's speaker aspiractions, check out

3:05 AM, December 13, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3:06 AM, December 13, 2005  

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