The alliance of Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha, perhaps the last archetypal old-style pol in the House, who died this afternoon of complications from gall-bladder surgery, always struck some observers as more than a bit bewildering. Pelosi, after all, hailed from the most post-industrial metropolis in the nation, while Murtha represented an old steel-and-mining district near Pittsburgh. Pelosi was ever proper; Murtha was a gruff old bull who would have fit right into a hard-drinking, spittoon-spraying meeting of the Tammany chiefs. Pelosi came from anti-war, culturally vanguardish San Francico; Murtha was a hawkish Viet vet who reveled in doling out defense dollars from his post on the House Appropriations Committee.
But when the Democrats retook the House in 2006, Pelosi backed Murtha in his challenge to Steny Hoyer for the post of majority leader, just as Murtha had provided key support to Pelosi all throughout her rise to the party’s top leadership position in the House. He was one of several no-nonsense senior members -- Appropriations Chair David Obey was another -- who’d been impressed by the speaker-to-be’s performance while a member of the Appropriations Committee -- more specifically, by her ability to deal with the boys and to understand who needed what to get a bill passed. Beyond that, she clearly had an affinity for the old pols in the House, which likely stemmed from her childhood as the daughter of Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, who, like The Last Hurrah’s Frank Skeffington, met with constituents at his home, as Nancy and her brothers scurried around.
Not all of Pelosi’s fellow liberals took a shine to Murtha, and a number of her closest allies -- Henry Waxman, for one – stuck with Hoyer during Murtha’s challenge. But it’s a mark of Pelosi’s skills that she could almost always count on having both Waxman and Murtha in her column. No intra-party relationship better symbolized the link between old and new politics than that between Murtha and Pelosi, in which the party of Harry Truman met the party of Gavin Newsom. And just now, as Pelosi surely realizes, the party could use an in to the Truman Democrats who still inhabit districts such as that represented by John Murtha.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
You need to be logged in to comment.
(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)