QUESTIONS FOR NANCY PELOSI – INTERVIEW BY DEBORAH SOLOMON

As the speaker of the House of Representatives, where Democrats just lost 60-odd seats as well as their controlling majority, you led your party into the worst electoral defeat in decades. And yet you chose to run for Democratic leader in the next Congress. Why not just step down?

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By Deborah Solomon
The New York Times

As the speaker of the House of Representatives, where Democrats just lost 60-odd seats as well as their controlling majority, you led your party into the worst electoral defeat in decades. And yet you chose to run for Democratic leader in the next Congress. Why not just step down?

Well, don’t forget that I led the party into the strong victories of ’06 and ’08. And now we are prepared to win again.

Your decision surprised many Democrats, who say you’re a poor communicator.

The thing is, I keep saying — show me all these men who are very communicative!

Ha. What about John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who is expected to succeed you as House speaker in January? Did you see him tearing up on election night as he addressed his supporters?

You know what? He is known to cry. He cries sometimes when we’re having a debate on bills. If I cry, it’s about the personal loss of a friend or something like that. But when it comes to politics — no, I don’t cry. I would never think of crying about any loss of an office, because that’s always a possibility, and if you’re professional, then you deal with it professionally.

O.K., but you could admit to having deep emotions about your setback in the House.

I have deep emotions about the American people. If I were to cry for anything, I would cry for them and the policies that they’re about to face.

Are you referring to the repeal of the health reform law, which the Republican leadership is threatening to do?

That’s why I ran. That’s one of the reasons I ran for leader — to fight any changes. Any undermining of the health care bill, of the Wall Street reform bill, of the consumer protection bill — I’ll fight that.

In what ways is politics harder for women than men?

For example, when I became the speaker, we won 30 seats. It was a victorious thing — I was the first woman speaker. It didn’t get that much play. And I’m not a publicity seeker, so it was O.K. with me. Boehner, before the election, they had him on the cover of Newsweek. Now he’s on the cover of Time, and women are coming to me and saying, “Is the job less important when a woman holds it?”

I’m sure you were on the cover of Newsweek and Time when you became Madame Speaker.

No. No.

Maybe Tina Brown, the new editor of Newsweek, can put you on the cover now, only four years too late.

My point is that when a man holds the job, the press seems to view it as more worthy of that kind of attention. But when a woman — even though it was historic — holds the job, they view it as less important. We have to dispel the notion that it’s not as big a job when a woman has it.

You celebrated your 70th birthday this year.

No, no, no.

You didn’t?

Yes, I did. I must have good genes from my parents because I feel no slowdown of energy, enthusiasm or even memory.

Do you think frequently of your father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., the former mayor of Baltimore?

My father died the year I was elected to Congress, 1987. I think about my parents all the time, especially on Sunday when I’m at Mass. My mother always said: “We do not pray to win elections. We pray for people’s health, we pray that God’s will be done, we pray that we do our best. But we do not pray to win elections.”

Are you saying you have never prayed for an electoral victory?

Never. I only pray that I do my very best.

Your home team, the San Francisco Giants, won the World Series this month. Have you ever thrown out the first pitch at a Giants game?

Let me say that one of the things as a politician I do not wish to do is to get attention at a sports event. My husband and I have season tickets to the Giants games, and we go there as fans to enjoy it.

You should try tossing out the first pitch next spring. It’s a populist gesture, and it could help improve your image.

I don’t even know how far I could throw the ball, to tell you the truth.

Interview condensed and edited.

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See Related: ELECTION DAY NOVEMBER 2010 ARCHIVE

See Related: GIANTS WORLD SERIES 2010 ARCHIVE

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