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Perspective | Nancy Pelosi kept it together

During the second impeachment trial against former President Donald Trump, we learned through video footage exactly who many of the January 6, 2021 rioters were looking for as they looted the US Capitol. “Oh Naaancy,” some of them exclaimed in a threatening, singing voice. The mob demanded that Capitol Police “take her out,” as one rioter demanded. Or else, they warned, they would go in themselves and fetch the Speaker of the House.

At Thursday afternoon’s House hearing—probably the last public hearing held by the select committee—we learned for the first time what Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was doing as American democracy and her own life struggled. stake were: she reigned.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to keep in touch,” Pelosi politely asked Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on the phone as they discussed his state sending law enforcement officers to suppress the mob.

The behind-the-scenes footage, shot by Pelosi’s daughter, Alexandra, is a striking study of professional composure under outrageous circumstances. As the speaker rushed through magnetometers and presumably evacuated to a safer location, she again held her phone to her ear and explained to the person at the other end that the process to certify the election must be completed,” or else [the rioters] will achieve a complete victory.”

At one point, she said gravely to a room full of her colleagues, “It will take time to clean up the poop they make, literally and figuratively, at the Capitol.”

Pause for a moment on this quote and all that it entails.

If ever there was a time to let go with a four letter word, this was it. Pelosi did not give a televised campaign speech behind a lectern; she sat talking to confidants about how to continue their work amid the largest domestic attack on the Capitol in the country’s history. But Pelosi would not allow the horror of the situation to affect the decorum with which she would approach it. “Poop-poo” is a word used by parents who know their role means staying steady despite an abundance of messes. Pelosi’s language was that of a janitor who assured the land it would be wiped out after it pooped on itself.

Also note the use of “cleaned up”. When rioters called out her name in tones normally reserved only for horror movies, the speaker was not seen ranting about ways the rioters could be captured and punished; she talked about ways to put the Capitol and the democratic process back in order.

She knew it would “take time.” She didn’t ask an empty, naughty question about: justice now. Rather, it was a bleak admission that the invasion was a crushing event with implications that members of Congress were only beginning to understand. She spoke of wanting to instill “security” and “trust” in the American people.

The fact that Pelosi did not appear to be frightened by the presence of a mob she was sure was hunting her is a testament to her statesmanship. And frankly, this display of reticent statesmanship should baffle or annoy the supporters of the insurgency. Throughout her tenure as House Speaker, Pelosi has been portrayed by Trump supporters as an unhinged harridan: mad, conspiracy, and hungry for power. But there is a difference between being power hungry and being powerful.

One is about having the will to win at all costs. The other is about having what it takes to maintain enough control to prevent the country from losing itself.

As the afternoon of January 6 wore on, video footage showed Pelosi moving from location to location, meeting with Senate Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.), talking on the phone with Vice President Mike Pence, receiving security briefings and, above all, devising a strategy to stop all of this. How to deal with the poo so Congress can do its duty.

“They break windows and go in. Obviously they’re looting our offices and stuff,” she told Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen over the phone. “That’s nothing. The concern we have about personal injury … it transcends everything.”

Was she aware that she was being filmed? Could be. But watching the footage, I didn’t get the sense that Nancy Pelosi was brushing for her daughter’s camera. There was too much to do, too much to clean up. Everything she saw that day was an illustration of calm, dignified government. As pro-Trump rioters tried to derail the government, they tried to keep it on track. As the President of the United States stepped down, she rose. It was exactly what the rioters hated her and exactly what the country needed.

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