Better late than never? Just four days ago, Nancy Pelosi called John Conyers an “icon” who deserved “due process” rather than getting pushed out of a seat he’d held for 52 years. Four days later, Pelosi has completed the backpedaling she began shortly after that disastrous Sunday talk show appearance. After being asked why she hasn’t called on Conyers to resign now that four women have gone public with allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, Pelosi decided that “zero tolerance means consequences for everyone,” and said Conyers should resign:
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi: "Congressman Conyers should resign" following "serious, disappointing, and very credible" allegations. pic.twitter.com/TN822SIXYH
— Evan McMurry (@evanmcmurry) November 30, 2017
Thus do Democrats get the worst of all worlds from the leader they insist on keeping. Had Pelosi demanded Conyers’ resignation up front, it would have been taken as a courageous stand on that zero-tolerance principle. After all, the settlement included allegations not just of sexual harassment but also misuse of public funds, ie, paying to have his paramours travel to DC for sex out of his office accounts. Instead, Pelosi dithered and then tried to distract with her endorsement of Conyers as an “icon” who deserved special consideration, a status that one suspects Pelosi would reserve for herself and her other top allies in the House.
That opened the door to the aggressive public defense of Conyers by other members, most notably that of Pelosi lieutenant James Clyburn, who suggested that all of the “white women” might be lying:
Also at this morning's House Democratic caucus: James Clyburn compared Conyers' accusers to the child murderer Susan Smith, who initially claimed a black man had abducted her kids. Clyburn said, these are all white women who've made these charges against Conyers.
— Robert Draper (@DraperRobert) November 29, 2017
Unfortunately for Clyburn and for Pelosi, the main accuser behind the settlement was Marion Brown, a woman of color who went public today despite a non-disclosure agreement still binding her to silence. The race card ended up flopping just as badly as Pelosi’s “icon” card. Pelosi now wants to play the “zero tolerance” card that she expressly discarded on Sunday. Having tossed aside all credibility, the clear motivation now is simply political survival.
Don’t expect Conyers to play along, however. His wife might not be done playing one of the cards yet:
Monica Conyers was not happy Wednesday morning when she confronted reporters outside her Detroit home. …
“Go to his office, that’s where he’s a public figure. When he’s here, we’re a family. We’re a home,” she said. Conyers said she wonders if reporters would “go and stalk white people’s houses.”
“Do you just come to the black neighborhoods and stalk our houses?” she said.
A quiet exit seems out of the question, no?
Rep. Conyers attorney to me just now re: Pelosi: Pelosi has to
"explain what the discernible difference between Congressman Conyers and Sen. Al Franken is." Says Pelosi isn't the determining factor for Conyers.
— Juana Summers Markland (@jmsummers) November 30, 2017
Er … do they really want to rest on the Franken Standard? The immediate difference is that none of Franken’s accusers come from his own office, and none of them involve testimony about the misuse of public funds. Franken may still need to resign too, but the allegations against Conyers are quite a bit more serious and directly relate to Conyers’ behavior on Capitol Hill. Other than that, great argument.
Update: I guess the Susan Smith standard is out, too:
NEWS – Rep. Jim Clyburn, highest-ranking African-American Democrat in Congress, calls for John Conyers to resign
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) November 30, 2017
That is a big deal. It at least hints at a split in the Congressional Black Caucus, if not a total abandonment of its co-founder.
Update: Just in case Conyers’ attorney wasn’t clear enough …
Conyer's attorney on Pelosi: "She sure as hell won't be the one to tell the Congressman to leave."
— Paige Lavender (@paigelav) November 30, 2017
Clyburn and other CBC colleagues might be, though. Wait to see whether there’s an all-out flight from Conyers over the next couple of hours.