Pelosi could hurt Democrats

All signs point to a Democratic sweep of the midterm elections as voters prepare to punish the GOP and President Bush for everything from the war in Iraq to high gas prices. But the early polls don’t take into account the potential impact of Bush’s secret weapon: Nancy Pelosi.

Yes, that Nancy Pelosi, the boss of Democrats in the House of Representatives. She is so inept that she could single-handedly turn an expected Dem rout into a close call or even a GOP triumph.

Every time she opens her mouth, she threatens to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Pelosi’s stumble-bum habits are legendary in Congress, but she has outdone herself lately by playing games with the angry left’s calls to impeach Bush. In a recent interview, the California Democrat told The Washington Post that the first thing her party would do if it won control would be to launch a series of investigations of the White House, including the runup to the war. She said impeachment was not on the agenda, but then – wink, wink – added, “You never know where it leads to.”

Republicans promptly seized on the comment as a reason to vote GOP, telling donors “the threat” had to be taken seriously because Dems need to pick up only 15 seats to form a House majority. That would make her Speaker Pelosi – and put her just behind Dick Cheney in the presidential line of succession.

To say her remark backfired is an understatement. Yet even after some Democrats complained Pelosi was making them look extreme, she dithered for a week before switching course. Her spokesman was then quoted as saying she had met with House colleagues and told them “impeachment is off the table,” regardless of the midterm results.

The whole kerfuffle would be a nonstarter if Pelosi had merely made a slip of the tongue. In fact, her attack instincts symbolize everything that’s wrong not just with Democrats, but with Washington itself.

Impeachment aside, her investigation agenda revealed a plan to continue the rancid partisan divisions that are polarizing Congress and the nation. Politicians of both stripes love the divide-and-conquer approach, but most ordinary Americans hate it. They’d rather see public servants actually serve the public instead of engaging in endless, childish bickering. In fact, the remarkable thing about Bush’s dismal approval ratings of about 30 percent is that Congress’ approval is lower, at about 20 percent.

My guess is that’s because nobody in Congress, including party leaders, is offering real answers to the nation’s problems. Republicans have generally followed Bush over the governing cliff, and Dems have done nothing except bash him.

Meanwhile, our country is in trouble. From Iraq to Iran to energy, from health care to education to immigration, problems are piling up. Most people don’t feel the economy is as good as the statistics insist, and the ballooning debt, both personal and national, is a dark cloud on the future.

Those problems give Democrats a golden opportunity in the fall elections, which will be a referendum on Bush and the GOP Congress. A strong anti-Bush wave could even propel Dems to victory in the Senate, where they need a net gain of six seats. But middle-of-the-road, independent voters are not likely to mindlessly back change for its own sake. They’re going to want clear answers to specific problems before Election Day.

If Pelosi has any such answers, she shouldn’t keep them a secret much longer. And if she doesn’t have answers, maybe she ought to just keep quiet, lest she turn out to be the GOP’s little helper.