WASHINGTON (KPIX 5) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said she wants Democrats to shift the focus away from President Trump to concentrate on the party’s election agenda.
“We’re not having him set our agenda. We’re setting our own agenda,” Pelosi announced at a Wednesday press conference where she seemed determined to end the fight with the President over his tweets about four progressive congresswomen.
Pelosi rescheduled her usual Thursday press conference to 10 a.m. Wednesday morning. She did not have much to announce, although she did offer some kind words about the late Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. She also said that, in the coming weeks, the House would take up three bills dedicated to raising the minimum wage.
When it came time for the press to ask questions, she said the House resolution condemning President Trump that was passed Tuesday did not call the President a racist.
“We weren’t saying that he was racist,” she explained. “We were saying that the words that he used were racist, so that was a gentle as it could be considering the inappropriateness and the disgusting nature of what the President said.”
She added, “You have no idea the provisions that some people wanted to have in that resolution.”
When asked whether she believed the fight about the four progressive congresswomen referred to as “the Squad” was an effort by the President to goad the Democrats into a reaction, the Speaker said her party it unified and wants to focus on their agenda.
“With all due respect, let’s not waste our time on that,” she told the reporter. “We’re talking about what we’re going to do to help the American people. Our caucus is unified on all of that.”
When asked about Rep. Al Green (D-TX) and his impeachment proposal that was set for a vote Wednesday, she said, “I think will get rid of all this right now.” The House later rejected the effort easily.
Alluding to the party’s 2018 successes, Pelosi said, “Throughout the whole campaign I said to them, ‘Candidates, don’t even mention his name. Everybody knows who he is. You don’t have to describe him to anybody. Let’s just talk about what we are going to do.'”
Pelosi then laid out the “For the People” agenda of raising wages, bringing down the cost of healthcare and regaining trust in government.
“You have to give him credit; he’s a great distractor. And that’s what this is about,” she said later of the clash with the President. “You cannot and we cannot buy into this fog that he wants to create over everything. Because he knows, we all know the argument that can be made against us in terms of our philosophy, in terms of our priorities and the rest. And the president knows the argument that could be made against him, and therefore he wants to distract from them.”
San Francisco State politics professor Jason McDaniel said he was not surprised by what Pelosi said at the press conference.
“I think the Speaker understood that they were dangerously close to this becoming about her,” after Tuesday’s kerfuffle on the floor of the House during consideration of the resolution condemning the President’s statements.
However, he said her parsing of the difference between calling the President a “racist” and saying his “words were racist” was not particularly effective.
“But I do think she was trying to move the conversation past that situation and focus it on what the goals were for this resolution, which was to unite this caucus and condemn the President’s words, which are racist,” said McDaniel
Passing the resolution condemning Trump, and then holding Wednesday’s press conference may also be attempts to assuage the activist parts of the party.
“There’s a lot of pressure on her to either let her party move directly to impeachment or at least conduct harder investigations, stronger investigations,” said McDaniel. “And I believe she thought of this as an opportunity to show that they are standing up to Trump while then moving on to focus on their agenda.”
Professor McDaniel agrees that the President’s fight — with the Democrats in general and “the Squad” in particular — is an effort to take the focus off of the real issue in the 2020 election: President Trump.
“The 2020 election is going to be about Trump,” said McDaniel. And while it may not be successful and in a few weeks no one may remember this whole issue, “we’re seeing a glimpse of his playbook.”