Nancy Pelosi is an able tactician, but a poor strategist. She will not save the Republic

Nancy Pelosi is an able tactician, but a poor strategist. She will not save the Republic

A couple of years ago I read Andrew Roberts’ tome on Napoleon. As a schoolboy, Napoleon voraciously inhaled everything he could read about military conflict, including several then-recent books suggesting novel tactics. As a young general, he implemented those tactics to brilliant effect, winning almost every big battle he fought.

But if he was a masterful tactician, he was a so-so strategist. His strategy essentially consisted of:

1. Invade neighbor’s country.
2. Win all the big battles.
3. Occupy his capital.
4. Accept large indemnities, and territorial and political concessions, in return for going home.

By the time he got to the last big continental power, Russia, Tsar Alexander and his generals had thoroughly analyzed Napoleon’s style. So they employed a colossal, masterful rope-a-dope strategy in which they retreated after every battle was started, denying him his decisive big victories while drawing him ever deeper into Russia’s heartland – ultimately 1000 miles. The tsar even allowed him to occupy Russia’s “old capital” of Moscow, and set it afire so that Napoleon could not use it to provision him during the winter. Then he simply ignored Napoleon’s entreaties to negotiate step #4. By the time Napoleon realized the tsar was simply going to refuse to capitulate, it was too late, and Napoleon lost over half a million men in the ensuing retreat through the brutal winter back to his nearest supply lines in Poland. Napoleon was fatally wounded, and Tsar Alexander’s men harried his retreat all the way back across Europe. Three years later, Russian troops occupied Paris.

Okay, so I’m not tarring Nancy Pelosi as making Napoleonic mistakes. But there is a comparison, because while Pelosi is a very able tactician, her excessive caution makes her a poor strategist.

Take the government shutdown. Common wisdom is, Pelosi won that battle. But look what was “accomplished:” in return for a government shutdown for about 45 days, with 800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay, causing an actual downturn in economic activity I’ve called a “mini-recession”:


Here’s what Pelosi got. Instead of giving Trump $7 billion for his “wall,” she gave him $2 billion. Which by the way hasn’t been spent, and which caused him to declare a “state of emergency” which hasn’t even been passed on by a US District level Court yet. In other words, all of that for about 0.5% of the federal budget. In return for which, the President has so far gotten away with usurping a core area of Congressional responsibility.

Or, even more bluntly, a tactical victory but a strategic defeat.

Pelosi is playing the same tactical game when it comes to impeachment. According to the Chicago Tribune,

Pelosi has repeatedly warned that pursuing impeachment could hurt Democrats’ electoral chances in 2020.

 Instead, Democrats should focus on building their majority in the House and winning back the White House and a Senate majority in the 2020 election, Pelosi said. And where they can, Democrats should work with the Trump administration on policies, such as lowering prescription drug prices and investing in infrastructure, that will benefit the American people, she said….

“The urgency to protect the integrity of our democracy is there,” Pelosi said.The answer? “Just win big, baby,” the speaker said.

In other words, the answer to Donald Trump is a democratic victory in 2020 which will enable democrats to pass their agenda (how to deal with the Senate filibuster, assuming the democrats pick up 3 Senate seats, she doesn’t say).

Throughout her career, Pelosi has always accepted polls as gospel, and refused to see that action might *move* the polls. If the House were to impeach Trump, the publicity surrounding the hearings might create a bigger groundswell for conviction. And even if the Senate refused to convict, the groundwork would have been laid that actions such as Trump’s were unacceptable.

Instead, if Pelosi’s path is followed, in the meantime here’s what will have happened:

So, if Pelosi prevails, we will simply accept permanent damage to the US’s Constitutional fabric in return for the temporary ability to maybe get some things done in 2021. As someone else has pointed out, without Congressional action Mueller’s report reads like a blueprint for how to establish corrupt autocratic rule by, say, a President Tom Cotton. And, make no mistake, it will be followed.