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Friday, July 18, 2008

We Read Nancy Pelosi’s Book So You Don’t Have To

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2008 at 12:16 PM

click to enlarge pelosi_book.jpg

Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters

By Nancy Pelosi (with Amy Hill Hearth)

Doubleday, $23.95

Release Date: July 29

By Will Harper

As the subtitle suggests, this 174-page memoir is more chick lit than a blow-by-blow account of Pelosi’s rise to Speaker of the House . While Know Your Power does contain plenty of passages about being a woman in a man’s world, it is ultimately a paean to the importance of family.

“I consider my involvement in politics as an extension of my role as a mom,” Pelosi writes. “More than anything else, I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. If I had never done anything in addition to being a mother to our five children, and now a grandmother, I would consider my life a happy success.”

I bet that line will sound great to the girls on The View or to Oprah, two TV appearances I’m sure Pelosi will make during her book tour.

Don’t get me wrong: Know Your Power does have touching moments like when Pelosi cancels a trip to the Middle East and flies out to Phoenix when her granddaughter is born. “Going there was not a hard decision. Not even close,” Pelosi writes. “Having been a young mother to five little ones, I know that you don’t want to miss the big moments. You can’t get them back.” She’s right, and I’m sure career women with kids will sympathize with the Speaker having to balance the demands of work and family in her life.

But the timing of this family-values book--three months before the November elections--makes me think it’s more about balancing the Speaker’s image as a liberal San Franciscan with a more wholesome one appealing to folks in the flyover states.

Political junkies will be disappointed by the book’s lack of war stories. Anyone who has risen to become Speaker has thrown lots of elbows to get there; yet, Pelosi doesn’t treat us to those tales. Describing such carnage probably would mess up Pelosi’s image makeover.

Among the things you won’t find out from Pelosi’s memoir: The names of her opponents in her 1987 election to the House (she just tells us that her consultant, Clint Reilly, believed she’d lose to a gay supervisor who ran); her feelings about the Democratic presidential candidates (Barack Obama’s name doesn’t even appear in the book); or any elaboration about why she didn’t object to the CIA’s use of waterboarding after being briefed in 2002.

Here are some of the things you will learn from reading Know Your Power:

• Pelosi calls her parents “Mommy” and “Daddy.”

• Pelosi’s grandchildren call her “Mimi.”

• She loves chocolate

Still, Know Your Power does capture the amazing arc of Pelosi’s life. After all, here was a woman back in 1987 on the verge of becoming an empty-nester. Instead of, say, taking a pottery class to fill her time when the kids all left for college, she went on to become the most powerful female politician of our time.

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Will Harper


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