If political reporters think their job is to lay out the facts, then why would anyone try to claim Nancy Pelosi is not a liberal? In Tuesday's Baltimore Sun, reporter Matthew Hay Brown is the latest Pelosi profiler to suggest liberal is just a "brand" Republicans have tried to burn on her. He began: "As she introduces herself next month to a national audience, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be stressing her roots in working-class, Catholic Baltimore as a way of recasting the liberal image with which Republicans have tried to brand her." Brown extensively used liberal professor Kathleen Hall Jamieson, often used by network reporters over the years to debunk political ads, to attempt to make plausible the bunk that Pelosi is firmly in the mainstream because, forget the voting record, she's a Catholic grandmother. In 19 years in the House, Pelosi has a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of three out of 100.
Brown reported "An unusual four-day schedule of festivities to celebrate her swearing-in is tentatively scheduled to begin in Baltimore on Jan. 2 at the Church of St. Leo the Great in Little Italy," where she attended Mass as a child. Later in the article, the priest at St. Leo’s is surprised, saying "he hadn't heard about an event there."
The reporter continued: "After a bruising midterm election in which Republicans portrayed her as out of touch with mainstream values, Pelosi will be using the appearance in Baltimore -- as well as a Mass at her alma mater, a reception at the Italian Embassy and other events -- to present a very different image: that of a Roman Catholic mother and grandmother who worked her way up from working-class roots to become the first Italian-American and first woman speaker." Jamieson helpfully explained the strategy is to "Feature those facets of biography that make it harder for people to say 'San Francisco liberal.'"
Here’s one sign Brown is too busy acting like a publicist to play reporter: how does Pelosi reconcile this Catholic upbringing with her ardent San Francisco liberal positions on social issues, in favor of abortion on demand and gay marriage? Don’t these positions represent a rebuke to Catholic teachings? Will she have trouble with bishops like John Kerry did in the 2004 campaign? Those issues never appear. The whole article is designed to roll out a public relations strategy, not test its accuracy.
Speaking of inaccuracy, the article gets downright put-your-beverage-down hilarious when Jamieson claimed that Pelosi needs twice as many days of ceremony as incoming Newt Gingrich in 1995 because "Speaker Gingrich wasn't trying to overcome a lot of stereotypes. He hadn't been regularly vilified by the other side."
Forget the "other side." How much was Gingrich vilified by the "objective" media? At article's end, Jamieson really draws out the Pelosi appeal to Catholics:
"She's mentioned 'grandmother' at appropriate times in the past as a way of telegraphing, 'I'm not who you think I am,'" Jamieson said. "The Catholic Mass also signals something very important. The Democratic Party wants those defecting Catholics who have voted for Republicans for a long time but came back to the Democratic Party in 2006 to see the Democratic Party as home. And there is a real advantage to stressing long-lived marriage to one person, mother of five, grandmother."
Why do liberals (like Bill Moyers, too) suggest that being married for a long time somehow makes you a political moderate? Pelosi has even tried to twist Catholic teaching like taffy, claiming “I believe that my position on choice is one that is consistent with my Catholic upbringing, which said that every person has a free will and has the responsibility to live their own lives in a way that they would have to account for in the end.” But the Baltimore Sun didn't want a debate on Pelosi's political or religious beliefs. They presented instead a rebuttal to those nasty Republicans who would insist on actually assessing her public record as a politician.
(Hat tip: Dan Gainor)