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By DALE McFEATTERS
New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is nothing if not combative.
Even as she was being elected speaker, she unsuccessfully tried to oust her No. 2, the current House Democratic leader, Steny Hoyer, in favor of her own candidate. She forced her fellow Californian, Jane Harman, off the House Intelligence Committee, where Harman was in line to become chairman. Then she got into a fight with the powerful and senior-most House Democrat, John Dingell, by trying to carve out a chunk of his turf from his Energy and Commerce Committee.
These fights could perhaps be excused as necessary for Pelosi to exert control over her unruly charges and, as one of her predecessors as speaker, Tip O’Neill, once said, politics ain’t bean bag.
But now Pelosi has picked a fight that can only embarrass her and gladden the hearts of House Republicans.
She is demanding — and, given her style, “demand” is the correct verb — that the Pentagon supply her with an airliner-size jet, the military version of a Boeing 757, to fly her to and from her San Francisco district. Gleeful Republican critics are calling it “Pelosi One.”
For security reasons, the Pentagon provides the speaker, the third in line to the presidency, secure transportation to and from the home district. It did so for then-Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert.
But the Pentagon, as with Hastert, is offering commuter jets with space for no more than 10 passengers. Republicans charge that Pelosi wants the larger aircraft so she can load it up with family members and political donors, but the speaker’s office says it’s a matter of security because a smaller jet has to stop to refuel en route.
One Republican-allied group weighed in, decrying the “42 leather business-class seats, a fully enclosed stateroom for Nancy Pelosi, stewards who serve meals and tend an open bar, and other such luxuries aboard.”
Maybe that’s a little overwrought, but Pelosi should know from what happened to the House Republicans last November that voters resent what they saw as the GOP’s overweening sense of entitlement and privilege. Indeed, one of her first acts as speaker was to push through a ban on the cherished perk of lawmakers accepting rides on corporate jets.
Fly the commuter jet, Madame Speaker, and just be glad that you don’t have to stand in long lines, endure long delays and get crammed in coach like, well, like the voters.