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Why Is Nancy Pelosi Always Smiling?

Monday, November 02, 2009



Like Obama, she is more pragmatist than liberal ideologue. Unlike Obama, she doesn’t care what you think of her. In fact, she may not even know.

By Vanessa Grigoriadis
New York Magazine
Photo: Marco Grob


A few weeks ago, on a Thursday around noon, Nancy Pelosi whirls through the second floor of the Capitol in a sea-foam pantsuit with lots of gold jangling on her arms. The Speaker of the House, the highest-ranking woman in government and third in line to the president, is about to walk the pink-painted halls of her private chambers to another series of closed-door meetings with the Democratic caucus about the health-care bill. Today, she’s set up a powwow of progressives in one of her conference rooms, and another for the Blue Dogs down the hall, but first she has some smiling to do. The Nancy Pelosi smile, as you may have noticed, is a thing to behold, mostly released in conjunction with serial spasms of eye-widening, an odd tic that is likely meant to connote sincerity and optimism (wide-eyedness and all that). Her smile, too, is very big and very quick, coming out of almost nowhere like the Cheshire Cat’s, then disappearing without a trace, often replaced by a wholly unnecessary grimace, a look of vast disappointment at some slight, threat, or sign of disrespect—either real or imagined.

Smiling, then, is what she does as she whips into the Capitol’s 180-foot Rotunda dome that abuts her office, where a hundred or so nervous high-school pages in ill-fitting blue blazers and gray slacks shuffle their feet under a painting of the surrender of General Burgoyne, waiting for her to catapult into the center of a ceremonial photo. Next, she beelines for her office balcony, the one with a killer view straight down the National Mall to the Washington Monument, where she joins her college interns for another portrait, chatting with each about his hometown: “Puerto Rico? My college roommate was from there! My husband and I went on our honeymoon there!” For the most part, they’re from California, where Pelosi, 69, began to make her home 40 years ago, after a stint in Manhattan and a childhood in Baltimore as the daughter of the mayor. “You’re the one who lives next to Phil,” she squeals, talking to a skinny blonde. “Oh my God, is his houseboat something! I’ve been there—both before and after it sank.”...(Remainder.)

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