Trmp delights in inventing nicknames for political adversaries but he refers to the House speaker as ‘Nancy’, a sign he may have met his match
He has come up with “Crooked Hillary”, “Little Marco”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crazy Bernie”, “Sloppy Steve” and “Cryin’ Chuck”. Donald Trump is the master of branding his opponents with crude names that somehow paint them into a corner. But so far one has eluded him: the woman he calls only “Nancy”.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has emerged as his nemesis, the face of opposition to the president. As a partial government shutdown enters a record fifth week, the Democrat has been implacable in denying him $5.7bn to help build a border wall. This week she out-Trumped Trump, by effectively rescinding his invitation to deliver the State of the Union address.
Then, on Saturday, she released a sharply worded statement rejecting Trump’s proposed deal to end the closure – shortly before the president announced it from the Diplomatic Room of the White House. “She’s not only outmanoeuvring him, she’s outraging him,” said Michael Cornfield, associate professor of political management at George Washington University in Washington. “She’s taunting him. She’s the matador, he’s the bull. He has no idea what he’s doing. He’s a genius of the publicity arts, not the political arts. In this he’s an absolute novice.”
Now 78, Pelosi’s life and career have prepared her for this battle of wills. She was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of six children and the only girl. Her father was a US congressman turned city mayor, a political education she has never forgotten. Her own daughter, Alexandra Pelosi, said recently: “She’ll cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.”
Pelosi became a California fundraiser and party activist and was elected to Congress in 1987, the year New York wheeler-dealer Trump published The Art of the Deal. She was the first woman to become House speaker, from 2007 to 2011, and recently regained that position, putting her second in line to the presidency.
Thrice-married Trump, who once boasted about grabbing women by the private parts, relished the chance to run against a female rival, Hillary Clinton, in 2016. Then he had a two-year honeymoon in the White House as Republicans controlled the House and Senate. But now the House is in Democratic hands and Pelosi – disciplined, shrewd, unflappable and steel-spined – threatens to expose his lack of political experience.
The new balance of power became evident on 11 December when Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader in the Senate, met Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence in the Oval Office.
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