I don’t think it is too much to ask for the Speaker of the House to comprehend the limits of her power and position, do you?
Yesterday, as Nancy Pelosi officially seized the gavel from Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, she declared that she is equal to the President:
Asked if she considers herself Mr. Trump’s equal, she replied, “The Constitution does.”
The mainstream media, invested in defending and bolstering Pelosi, are already spinning the exchange to mean merely that Pelosi considers women the equal of men, and that the Constitution obviously (now) embodies that principle. However, that would have been a question and answer neither worth asking or answering. The question was whether Pelosi, as Speaker, felt that she was the equal of the President in power and Constitutional authority, and she replied in the affirmative to cheers from the “resistance.” Here’s Scott Dworkin, for example, frequent MSNBC contributor and co-founder of the Democratic Coalition on Twitter:
“The Constitution considers me equal to Trump.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Damn straight. Trump is not the boss of Congress, no matter what Trump’s lapdogs Ryan & McConnell made it look like. Speaker Pelosi reminds us how the pathetic GOP is owned by Trump. Weak & useless pushovers.
Down, boy! Someone get Scott some Prozac. As for Nancy, someone get her a high school civics textbook.
No, the Speaker is not “equal” to the President in any way. It is not a position elected by the national electorate, so it has no national mandate. It is a political position, determined by a partisan vote of other Representatives. The U.S. does not have a parliamentary system like Great Britain, where the elected leader of the legislature becomes the leader of the government itself. The Speaker of the House is the leader of one-half of the legislative branch, and the Presidency is the entire Executive Branch (though he may delegate his powers to subordinates, departments and agencies) as described by the Constitution in explaining three branch system in which all three branches are co-equal. Chief Justice John Roberts, the leader of the judicial branch, would never be so foolish as to announce that he is “the equal” of the President. No, that kind of fantastic over-statement is just the kind of think Pelosi is saying these days. Now, if she said Congress is the “equal” of the President, she would be on solid ground. Congress, however, is made up of 435 House members and 100 Senators. Those 535 elected members of the legislature, working in concert (sorry, I broke into giggles there), are indeed approximately equal in power to the President…not just one, you. 535, one—it’s an easy mistake to make.
Maybe Nancy is confused because of the Constitutional succession batting order, where the Speaker is third in line for the Presidency if both the President and Vice-President die or otherwise can’t serve. But nobody claims that #2, the Vice-President, is “equal” to the President. And #4, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, has no special power at all. (Pop quiz: who is the President Pro Tem now? I had to look it up.)
This kind of factually false and ignorant statement—or perhaps it is puffery—is exactly the kind of statement that, when the President makes one, end up on a list of Presidential “lies.” When Pelosi says things equally dumb and wrong, she should be held to the same standard. Moreover, this kind of misstatement from a trusted source–yes, some members of the public are foolish enough to assume that elected officials understand their own jobs—makes the public even more civically illiterate than they already are, as well as, and I am sure this is the objective, more tolerant of Democratic efforts to pretend the President doesn’t have the power he was elected to exercise.