Nancy Pelosi turns 70 today, and it is as fitting an occasion as any to consider perhaps the most influential Speaker of the House since Henry Clay in the early years of the 19th century, writes Harold Meyerson. Her health care victory means “Pelosi is without peer,” and has played a “key role in enacting major reforms” like “no speaker in the past century.” She ain’t a great talker, as all will admit, but she’s a stellar speaker.
Pelosi’s savvy and tenacity are exemplified by two risky moves in the last months, Meyerson writes in the Los Angeles Times. First, as Democrats from Harry Reid to President Obama backed away from health reform after losing the Senate supermajority, “Pelosi argued that major reform and major victory were still possible.” And then, amazingly, she wrangled the votes personally, balancing politics with conviction. “Not a bad couple of weeks' work, Madame Speaker. Happy birthday.”