Isn't it nice to have a woman around the House? It's barely a week since Nancy Pelosi became minority leader, and there's already been a regime change of metaphors. Out with sports; in with food.
On "Meet the Press," the woman who became head of the Democratic household cheerily compared her post-election fate to holiday poultry. "You know the story. It's like the Thanksgiving turkey," she said. "You bring it out, you get this great honor, everybody oohs and ahs . . . and then they begin to carve you up."
The slice-and-dicing began with the usual suspects. The Economist called her "a disaster for the Democrats." The National Review foamed - and foam is the right word - that she was a "latte liberal." Rush Limbaugh dubbed her "Miss America" and his political-porn Web site featured her head on a beauty queen's body.
Across the media spectrum she was characterized as a "San Francisco Democrat" - wink, wink, nod. The Democratic Party chair in South Carolina basically asked her not to show her face in his state.
Meanwhile, what of the election of her Republican counterpart, Tom DeLay, a.k.a. "The Hammer," "The Exterminator," the "meanest man in Congress"? He barely got a nick in his drumstick.
In some places, DeLay's rise to majority leader was so inevitable it was deemed non-news. In other places, he was paired with Pelosi - San Francisco Left and Sugar Land Right - as if the two were symmetrical dining partners.
This is the Tom DeLay who called the EPA a "Gestapo," said the Columbine shooting was caused by birth control and day care, and that global warming is a myth. He talks about the "Nobel Appeasement Prize," and doesn't want kids to go to Texas A&M because there's sex on campus.
Shall I go on? He once described Democratic voters as a combo of "Greenpeace, Queer Nation and the National Education Association" while claiming the Republican Big Tent included "all kinds of people, from the Christian Coalition to the Eagle Forum, from Arco to Exxon."
But somehow or other Pelosi, who believes in gay rights, was put on a par of extremism with DeLay, who doesn't believe in evolution. Pass the cranberry sauce, please.
It wasn't just politics that ended up with Pelosi on the platter and DeLay unscathed. It was also gender. The mother of five was the first woman to break through what she called the "marble ceiling." No sooner had she won than people were asking, did you run as a woman?
The implication is that after 215 years of male leadership, Pelosi had some unfair and suspiciously female advantage. A model of restraint, she answered again and again, "I didn't run as a woman but as a person with 15 years of legislative experience."
So how come no one has ever asked Tom DeLay whether he ran as a man?
As the Democratic National Committee's Ann Lewis says, "I'd love to hear the Sunday morning shows earnestly discussing what does it mean that the Republicans elected a man. Do we think he used his gender to political advantage? Is it fair?"
Can you imagine George Stephanopolous interviewing DeLay: "Nancy Pelosi's first career was as the mother of five children while your first career was as a bug exterminator. Was that a deliberate ploy for the killer male vote?"
How about Tim Russert barreling in: "When your daughter was in third grade, she asked her mother if "someone had adopted daddy because he was never around.' You said, and I quote, "I was totally self-centered. It was me, me, me, me, me. It was golf or business or politics that came first.' Do you think that having a wife was an unfair male advantage?"
Ah, fantasyland. As the next Congress opens, we'll see two different images. A Democrat from the hills of a dot-com boom-and-bust country who smiles, maybe too much. A Republican from the flatlands of sprawl and oil who kept two bullwhips in his office. Both shine in that unisex venture of fund-raising. So how come only one is getting carved up?
Let us assume it is still early in this political feast. I'm told that Pelosi's specialty is dessert: Raspberry chocolate cake. I just hope we leave enough room.
Washington Post Writers Group