In an interview with Rolling Stone, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dodged questions about her leadership, calling the questions “a little bit on the sexist side.” Pelosi also struggled to summon Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) name, forcing an aide to prompt her.
The interview, conducted by Tim Dickinson, covered everything from the Democrats’ odds of winning the House in 2018 to the possibility of impeaching President Donald Trump. But when the topic turned to Pelosi’s future, the minority leader was not happy.
Dickinson: Have you ever been tempted to step away?
Pelosi: If Hillary had won and the Affordable Care Act was protected — I feel very proprietary about the Affordable Care Act. She’d be a woman in charge, the Affordable Care Act [would be] protected. I could have happily gone home. Nobody in California gets Potomac Fever, believe me. So it’s not about wanting to be there. It’s just a question of, “Who can fight this man who’s in the White House? Who really knows the territory?” None of us is indispensable, but some of us have more experience and confidence in how to get the job done.
And I can’t even think that they [her prospective male challengers] think it’s a good idea to say, “We have the first woman speaker, and now we’re going to say, ‘We’re not going to do that’” I mean, no. No.
Dickinson: Is there a margin you need to secure that gavel? You talked about wanting to win 35 seats.
Pelosi: No, no. You only have to win [the leadership vote] in your caucus — and then you go to the floor [for the speakership vote]. People vote for the Democrat or the Republican. So I feel very comfortable about that. But I don’t feel like talking about it. My time is money, and mobilization and the rest. Part of it is messaging — and talking about me and what happens to me is the least important part of all of it.
Following this exchange, Pelosi was clearly flustered:
Pelosi: I think some of it is a little bit on the sexist side — although I wouldn’t normally say that. Except it’s like, really? Has anyone asked whatshisname, the one who’s the head of the Senate?
[Aide Jorge Aguilar, who is sitting beside Pelosi]: McConnell.
Pelosi: McConnell. I mean he’s got the lowest numbers of anybody in the world. Have you ever gone up to him and said, “How much longer do you think you’ll stay in this job?” Nobody ever went up to Harry Reid and said that. Nobody ever says that to anybody except a woman. But it’s a thing.
This was not Pelosi’s only slip-up, either. When asked about critics who say she is too liberal, Pelosi responded, “I’m [pro-] LGBTQ, I support those issues. I’m proud to. But they use that — they go into these districts and they say, ‘Too liberal.’”
Of course, these moments did not go unnoticed on Twitter:
— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) July 9, 2018
Nancy Pelosi's brain is MIA… https://t.co/kp2YFuWtqo
— Paul Sacca (@Paul_Sacca) July 9, 2018
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Nancy Pelosi can't remember Mitch McConnell's name.
— Matt Gorman (@mattsgorman) July 9, 2018
Rolling Stone interview of Nancy Pelosi
— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) July 9, 2018
There have been numerous reasons for the opposition of some to Pelosi’s continued leadership, including her age and the direction of the Democratic Party:
The Democratic Party's age issues: Current House leadership, Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, 78, 79, 77 years old respectively. Crowley, 56, would have been next generation leader. But he was defeated by 28 year old Ocasio-Cortez.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) June 27, 2018
— Thomas Kaplan (@thomaskaplan) July 9, 2018
More Pelosi on @TimRyan and @sethmoulton: "There are lots of people who have worked very hard, and are more in line for what will happen one of these times. But they’re not to be considered [among] who those people would be."
"And I’m certainly not worried about them." https://t.co/LaBvJzar0K
— Laura Barrón-López (@lbarronlopez) July 9, 2018
Either way, Pelosi faces a balancing act moving forward. Her comments minimizing record-low unemployment and tax-reform “crumbs” isolate moderates, while party newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez don’t think she is liberal enough.