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Speaker Pelosi’s Big Mouth

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Global economic markets went awry again after the $700 billion bailout bill failed in the House of Representatives by a narrow 208-225 margin. Some of the blame lies with the stubborn House Republicans, yes, but a lot of the blame can be put straight on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s shoulders (D-CA).

Trying to round up the required amount of votes needed to pass the bill, Speaker Pelosi delivered a sharply partisan speech on the House floor. Here are some excerpts, from the Guardian

“[W]hen was the last time someone asked you for $700 billion? It is a number that is staggering, but tells us only the costs of the Bush administration’s failed economic policies — policies built on budgetary recklessness, on an anything-goes mentality, with no regulation, no supervision, and no discipline in the system.”

“Democrats believe in the free market, which can and does create jobs, wealth, and capital, but left to its own devices it has created chaos.”

“Democrats insisted that legislation responding to this crisis must protect the American people and Main Street from the meltdown on Wall Street. The American people did not decide to dangerously weaken our regulatory and oversight policies. They did not make unwise and risky financial deals. They did not jeopardise the economic security of the nation. And they must not pay the cost of this emergency recovery and stabilisation bill.”

“Today we will act to avert this crisis, but informed by our experience of the past eight years with the failed economic leadership … We choose a different path. In the new year, with a new Congress and a new president, we will break free with a failed past and take America in a new direction to a better future.”

Even I, a mere first-year political science student, can see what an incredible misstep this speech was. To throw this partisan bile into the faces of the Republican representatives who were swallowing their partisan views to do what the country needs is inexcusable. To have risen to the level of Speaker of the House, Mrs. Pelosi must be a skilled politician, which makes this foot-in-mouth moment all the more confusing. She was supposed to pat the House Republicans on the head; instead, she kicked them right in the nether-regions.

After the failure of the bill, the Republican House leadership denounced the speech and blamed it for the failure of the bill. According to them, about a dozen Republican reps. had been so put off by Pelosi’s speech that they decided to vote “nay” rather than “yes.” With those dozen Republicans, the bill would have passed 220-213.

Of course, changing your vote and potentially destroying the American and global economy because of a petty reason such as a divisive speech is silly. Then again, these Republican representatives are human after all, aren’t they? They may be educated and the leaders of the nation, but they’re still susceptible to human stubbornness.

The fault lies with Pelosi then, for giving those Republicans an out like this. Instead of acting like a leader and lauding this historic effort that involved bi-partisan support in both houses of Congress and even from the Bush White House, Pelosi used her floor time to mouth off the same old Democratic partisan line. (Perhaps she hoped the dramatics would captivate the couple dozen potential voters watching her on CSPAN to vote Democrat!) According to ABC News, the ensuing disaster on Wall Street cost stockholders $1.1 billion in stock value today – more than double the amount of the bailout plan itself.

Egos have the dangerous capacity to destroy. Whose ego will take the blame for this debacle?