(via Washington Post)
Over the weekend, the NYTimes fashion section decided to do one of their “power luncheon” interviews with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (star of VEEP, returning for its third season) and Nancy Pelosi (House minority leader). It’s instructive to see how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go:
…[NYT interviewer] Philip Galanes: Why do you think shows about Washington politics are so popular right now? “Veep,” “Scandal,” “House of Cards” …
Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Well, politics has become more contentious than ever. Maybe people need to see that played out, comedically or dramatically, as a sort of a cultural catharsis. That sounds lofty. But there are such extreme points of view these days, and dialogue doesn’t seem to be happening.
Nancy Pelosi: Not since President Obama was elected. We [Democrats] actually worked well with President Bush. We disagreed with him on a number of issues — the Iraq War, privatizing Social Security — but we still got things done. Now the level of obstruction is stunning. But let me say something else about these shows: Women have emerged so much. The prospect of a woman president, a woman speaker, more women in Congress — still not enough, don’t get me wrong…
NP: I can remember, in the beginning, going to these huge congressional dinners, and there would be two tiny tables of women. Then as we started getting more numbers, the men were like, “What’s going on here?” And when I ran for leadership, it was worse. The men said, “Who said she could run?”
JLD: Did anybody actually say that?
NP: Yeah, “Who said she can run?” They said to me: “Why don’t you just tell us the things you want changed, and we’ll do them.” I thought: I don’t think so!
PG: Here’s something you have in common: People think they’ve got you pegged, but you exceed the peg every time. Nancy was supposed to be this ultraliberal dilettante, but you whip the votes better than anyone, and —
NP: Yeah, they said I was a dilettante, but most people didn’t know what that meant, so it didn’t matter. They said, “Does that mean you’re a debutante?” I said, “No, it doesn’t.”…
NP: You have to remember, generationally, I come to this as a confident mother of five, chairman of the [California Democratic] Party. But when I came to Congress to be sworn in, my colleagues said: “Don’t talk. Just say ‘yes’ when they say, ‘Do you solemnly swear?’ ” So after I was sworn in, the speaker said, “Does the fine lady, our newest member, wish to address the House?” Everybody said, “Don’t.” But I went to the podium, and I acknowledged my father, who had been a member of Congress, my family and constituents, and I said, “I told my constituents when I came here, I was coming to fight against H.I.V. and AIDS.” Period, end of speech. So I sit down and look over to all these people, thinking: That was short, right? They’re going: “Ugh!”
PG: That was bold in 1987.
NP: Given what was going on in our district [in San Francisco], I knew I had a big mission with H.I.V./AIDS. But what was even bigger than the scientific challenges was the attitude, the discrimination.
JLD: But when you got the response you got, was there a moment when you thought: Uh-oh?
NP: Not at all. It was the easiest thing in the world. I thought: “Good thing I’m here. We have important work to do.” So, in a way, talking about AIDS trumped being a woman…
Let’s take a moment to think about that: Twenty years from “Who said she could run?” to “Congratulations, Madame Speaker”. Nancy, in every sense of the word, smashing!
And so… What’s on the agenda for the start of another week?