Grandma, ap­ple pie and the lib­eral next door

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - MARK STEYN

Idon’t know where they stand on ap­ple pie, but the Democrats have come out for moth­er­hood in a big way. In fact, who needs ap­ple pie when you’ve got the ex­tra-sug­ary con­tent of The Wash­ing­ton Post?

On Jan. 10 the cap­i­tal’s news­pa­per of record (now avail­able in print, on­line and in gran­u­lated form) pub­lished a col­umn head­lined “Grandma with a gavel.”

Can you guess which grandma it was, boys and girls? Yes, it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has sin­gle-hand­edly, as she put it, “shat­tered the mar­ble ceil­ing.” And she’s right: From CNN to the New York Times, the en­tire press corps has lost its mar­bles. Grandma Smith Goes To Wash­ing­ton is the hit of the planet. At a time when most grand­moth­ers are re­duced to eat­ing dog food be­cause the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion re­fuses to let them bulk or­der pre­scrip­tion drugs from Saskatchewan or, even more hor­ri­fy­ing, re­duced to watch­ing Robert Goulet in din­ner theater night af­ter night in Florida, Granma Pelosi has sin­gle-hand­edly shat­tered the din­ner-theater ceil­ing and/or dog-ken­nel ceil­ing.

“Grandma With A Gavel” was writ­ten by hard-headed re­porter Ruth Mar­cus, scourge of Repub­li­can Jus­tice De­part­ments for many years, and this col­umn re­flected her no­to­ri­ously sharp foren­sic skills:

“The images as Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat Nancy Pelosi took of­fice last week were strik­ing — and stir­ring — in their un­fa­mil­iar­ity. Pelosi, hold­ing her in­fant grand­son swad­dled in a white re­ceiv­ing blan­ket, as she sat in the well of the House, await­ing her elec­tion. Pelosi, with the as­sur­ance of a mother ex­pe­ri­enced at dis­pens­ing cook­ies to im­pa­tient tod­dlers, giv­ing each child his — and her — turn with the gavel. Pelosi rais­ing her hand to take the oath as her grand­son, at her side, fid­dled with grandma’s pa­pers.”

Golly. One only hopes the wee ones un­der­stand that, post-coro­na­tion, Queen Nancy’s as­cen­sion to the throne might cut into all this qual­ity time. “Granma Got Run Over By Her Reign, Dears,” as the old song so shrewdly warns.

But don’t Repub­li­cans have fam­i­lies, too? Yes, but let’s face it: They creep you out, don’t they? If you have the mis­for­tune to be nom­i­nated by the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, your kids get head­lines like “An im­age a lit­tle too care­fully co­or­di­nated.” That was The Post’s Style Sec­tion on Chief Jus­tice John Roberts’ mop­pets: They didn’t care for “the 1950s-style tableaux vi­vant,” or the “freshly scrubbed and adorable” look from “a Cur­rier & Ives land­scape”; they sniffed at the “seer­sucker suit with short pants” of “tow­headed Jack” and his sis­ter’s “blond page­boy”; they didn’t even like the name “Jack.”

But th­ese Pelosi kids are in a whole other league. You have to pity those losers in Hol­ly­wood: in­stead of wast­ing their time with that lousy Geena Davis “Com­man­der-InChief” strong-ca­reer-wo­man thing, why didn’t they do “The Pelosi Bunch”?

Here’s the story of a lovely lady Who was rais­ing 30 grand­kids on her own

All of them had hair of black like their gran’ma And swad­dling cloths hand-sewn Here’s the story of a man named Hastert

Who was never pho­tographed with any kids

‘Cept in sto­ries on Mark Fo­ley’s pages

And so he hit the skids

... Oh, come on. OK, Den­nis Hastert doesn’t bake cook­ies, but I can’t be the only one who thinks he’s a lit­tle like that cute Cookie Bear on “The Andy Wil­liams Show.” I am? Oh, well.

“Hav­ing five chil­dren in six years is the best train­ing in the world for Speaker of the House,” Speaker Grandma said. “It made me the ul­ti­mate mul­ti­tasker and the mas­ter of fo­cus, rou­tine and sched­ul­ing.”

“How dif­fer­ent is this?” cooed Ruth Mar­cus. “Imag­ine Mar­garet Thatcher threat­en­ing to de­ploy her ‘mother-of-five voice.’ “

Boy, did Mrs. Thatcher get it wrong. That old Iron Lady shtick, talk­ing about com­mu­nism and in­fla­tion and bor­ing old “is­sues,” when ev­ery fem­i­nist re­porter in town was dy­ing to hear her fa­vorite cookie recipes.

Alas, not ev­ery Demo­crat has the li­on­ess-with-cubs rou­tine down quite so pat. On Jan. 11, Sen. Bar­bara Boxer ad­vanced the no­tion that Con­doleezza Rice can’t un­der­stand “the price of war” be­cause she is child­less. “You’re not go­ing to pay a par­tic­u­lar price,” she told the sec­re­tary of state, “with an im­me­di­ate fam­ily.” In other words, her child­less­ness means she will never have to ex­pe­ri­ence any per­sonal loss for the de­ci­sions she makes. “You can’t be­gin to imag­ine how you cel­e­brate any hol­i­day or birth­day,” Sen. Boxer con­tin­ued, ac­cus­ingly.

Hmm. What I can’t be­gin to imag­ine is a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor get­ting away with ham­mer­ing, say, Glo­ria Steinem for her child­less­ness. But, af­ter 12 years in the bar­ren wilder­ness, the left is over­joyed at the Fe­cund Com­ing. Over at Ms mag­a­zine, I ex­pect they’re rolling their eyes while ad­mir­ing the cyn­i­cism. But the in­ter­nal con­tra­dic­tions of the new Democrats are strik­ing.

At the “Women’s Tea” in­au­gu­ral fes­tiv­i­ties, the Dems played, in­evitably, “I Am Wo­man, Hear Me Roar,” and the new Speaker saluted the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro hon­ored Gov. Richards’ daugh­ter Ce­cile, who’s now the pres­i­dent of Planned Par­ent­hood.

I would wa­ger that, when the young Nancy Pelosi had “five chil­dren in six years,” a hefty per­cent­age of that par­ent­hood wasn’t planned. She is, in that sense, philo­soph­i­cally at odds with her party — and, in­deed, with her con­gres­sional dis­trict. San Fran­cisco now reg­is­ters more dogs than school­child­ren. Lest you think I’m be­ing my usual ho­mo­pho­bic self, I has­ten to add that for once I’m not: It speaks well for the Bay Area that they had to em­brace the gay life to match the col­lapsed birthrates Euro­pean cities have man­aged to achieve het­ero­sex­u­ally.

None­the­less, at a time when fer­til­ity rates call into ques­tion the sur­vival of Rus­sia, Ja­pan, Ger­many, Spain and Italy, the new Speaker cer­tainly presents an un­usual model: She ap­pears to be a rare ex­am­ple of a wo­man who truly “has it all.” She had five kids and then be­came the first fe­male Speaker in hu­man his­tory, an event (ac­cord­ing to the me­dia) women have been wait­ing for since Cave­man Ug said “Hi, honey, I’m home” and clubbed the mis­sus over the head for be­ing late with the saber-toothed meat­loaf.

It’s cer­tainly not the ca­reer path fem­i­nist or­tho­doxy has com­mended th­ese last 30 years, but it seems to have brought Mrs. Pelosi hap­pi­ness, and at a time of greater life ex­pectancy it has a cer­tain logic: Have kids in your 20s, go into pol­i­tics in your 40s, serve as two-term pres­i­dent in your 60s. You can have it

I think the GOP should give up try­ing to de­mo­nize Nancy Pelosi. The Bo­tox gags and bug-eyed pho­tos won’t work. Tonally, she seems very nor­mal, in ways that, for ex­am­ple, cer­tain pres­i­den­tially in­clined New York sen­a­tors can never quite man­age. But Mrs. Pelosi’s fel­low Cal­i­for­nia lib­er­als and those gush­ing fem­i­nist colum­nists ought to ponder why “the most pow­er­ful wo­man in Amer­ica” is quite so un­typ­i­cal: What does it say when it’s the ex­cep­tion that proves the ruler?


Mark Steyn is the se­nior con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for Hollinger Inc. Publi­ca­tions, se­nior North Amer­i­can colum­nist for Bri­tain’s Tele­graph Group, North Amer­i­can ed­i­tor for the Spec­ta­tor, and a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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