We Need a Better News Media, Part 1,987,364
[UPDATE: Two commenters take issue with my characterization and interpretation of this quote, suggesting that it should be interpreted as “freed from the speaker’s ceremonial duties and from the speaker’s duties in crafting a governing agenda.” They also point out that the article does tout her legislative accomplishments (although, in my limited defense, it does so only after droning on at length about Pelosi’s role in crafting Democrats’ electoral image). They’re right on both counts. We still need a better media, but this is not a very good example of that. So consider this post retracted in all respects. I am leaving it up for posterity, and so readers can file it under “READING COMPREHENSION FAIL.” Also – this retraction should not be deemed a criticism of FLG’s post, since FLG was making an entirely different point.]
In the minority, Pelosi will be freed from the ceremonial duties of being speaker and crafting a governing agenda. Instead, lawmakers say, she is likely to more narrowly focus on defending Democratic legislative accomplishments and serving as a liberal check on President Obama‘s compromises with Republican leaders.
(My emphasis; H/T: Fear and Loathing in Georgetown).
That’s right: according to the Washington Post, the actual duties of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and specifically the duties of a Speaker who oversaw and engineered one of the most prolific Congresses in recent memory are purely ceremonial. Also note the suggestion that Pelosi’s role will be more substantive as minority leader because it will allow her to “serv[e] as a liberal check on President Obama’s compromises with Republican leaders.” The implication is clear: it is the President, not the Speaker, who is in charge of Congress, and whose legislative duties (outside of the veto, of course) are substantive rather than ceremonial. This seems pretty well at odds with the separation of powers this country is supposed to have, in which the Executive’s legislative duties are supposed to be non-existent outside of the veto power and the Vice President’s almost entirely cermonial role as President of the Senate.
To be sure, one could argue that Congress as a whole is an irrelevant anachronism in this age of the unitary executive and delegation of legislative power to executive rulemaking agencies. But I doubt that anyone at the Washington Post thinks this, and in any event I doubt anyone would say that the Affordable Care Act is meaningless. Regardless, what one absolutely cannot argue is that the President is in charge of Congress and that the role of the duly elected leader of Congress is thus purely ceremonial.
Yet that is precisely that attitude that the Washington Post – and probably countless other Beltway media insiders – seems to take. This is no small part of why we have a “Cult of the Presidency,” although it’s pretty rare that this attitude of disdain for Congress and elevation of the role of the President is made so explicit as it has been here. In this Beltway media-driven cult, the role of other players is reduced to being little more than electoral actors, with no real governing responsibilities whatsoever. In this view, Pelosi was a failure as a Speaker because she allowed the Democrats to get hammered at the polls this past November – never mind that “electing more people of your party” isn’t part of the job description of the Speaker of the House.
It’s no secret that, at least until these last several days, I’ve been far from a fan of the policies and laws that have been passed under Pelosi’s guidance. But it shouldn’t be difficult to at least acknowledge that those policies and laws passed in no small part because of Pelosi’s skill in her role as Speaker. That’s a pretty far cry from a Speaker whose role is merely “ceremonial.”