Nancy Pelosi Hair Salon Controversy: The 'Master Strategist' Stumbles

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds a weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters, July 26, 2019. (Erin Scott/Reuters)

I keep getting reassured that House speaker Nancy Pelosi is a master strategist who earns all of that glowing press coverage.

Today Pelosi insisted she had been “set up” by the hair salon where she had her hair done this week, and that the salon owes her an apology.

Pelosi’s on a roll. Last week she publicly called for Joe Biden to skip the presidential debates. A few days before that, she called Congressional Republicans and members of the Trump Administration “enemies of the state.” A little before that, she accused Dr. Deborah Birx of spreading disinformation about the coronavirus, but declined to give any examples.

So far this year, Pelosi has denounced the drone strike against Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani as a “provocative and disproportionate action,” torn up the State of the Union Address behind Trump, tried to put abortion funding in a coronavirus relief bill and then tried to put state and local tax deductions for high earners in a relief bill, called for a police reform bill that is “worthy of George Kirby’s name,” and made an embarrassingly patronizing photo-op wearing a kente cloth. Admit it, you forgot about half of these.

She toured Chinatown in San Francisco on February 24 to demonstrate the threat of catching the coronavirus was overstated, and declared, “It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s not just Asian-owned now. You see in Italy where the shows — the fashion shows and all of that were done without an audience because people — they just didn’t — because people were not coming. So, again, this fear is — I think — unwarranted in light of the precautions that are being taken here in the United States.” By that date, Milan was the epicenter of cases in Europe.)

The year began with Pelosi delaying the transfer of the articles of impeachment, believing she had some nonexistent leverage over Mitch McConnell. (Remember impeachment? It went entirely unmentioned at the Democratic Naitonal Convention.)

No doubt some of Pelosi’s fans in the Washington press corps are convinced that all of these statements and decisions are all part of an elaborate twelve-level chess strategy. Let me float a crazy alternate theory: By virtue of spending her entire career in a district where she usually wins with at least 80 percent of the vote and minimal consequences for mistakes, Nancy Pelosi doesn’t really have good political instincts. Her position of power means few want to tell her she’s wrong, and she’s operated in a bubble of reassuring praise for many years, making her utterly tone-deaf; she has no idea how ridiculous she sounds to those who aren’t already on her side. Finally, her 80 years are catching up with her.

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