Answer: Come on, man. For some reason, though, rumors had apparently swirled in the Beltway that Joe Biden would pick Nancy Pelosi to be his ambassador to the Vatican. Punchbowl founder Jake Sherman noted it after Biden’s actual choice was announced:
The rumor that @SpeakerPelosi would be named ambassador to the Vatican can be put to rest.
Biden just nominated former Sen. Joe Donnelly to be his ambassador to the Holy See.
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 8, 2021
That’s the first time I’ve ever heard the idea mentioned, but then again, I’m not rubbing elbows with the DC cognoscenti either. The New York Post called the speculation “rampant”:
President Biden has passed over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be US ambassador to the Vatican — dashing rampant speculation in DC that she would take the gig as a step toward retirement.
Biden instead chose as his emissary to Pope Francis former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.).
It’s apparently not the first time that Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill has heard it, and he made it clear that he’d gotten pretty tired of being asked about it:
It’s not a rumor when you’ve been told repeatedly it’s false. https://t.co/wKJ96GWhsG
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) October 8, 2021
But wait! If Pelosi wasn’t up for the post, why was she at The Vatican today meeting with Pope Francis and other officials at the Holy See? The Vatican’s media relations unit declined to offer any details, as is normal:
Pope Francis met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday.
At the time of publication, the Vatican had released no information about what the pope and Pelosi discussed, in line with its usual custom for papal meetings with non-heads of state. …
Photographs released by the Vatican showed that Pelosi also met with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallagher.
“Why?” might be a question that the USCCB might be asking about this photo op, and perhaps especially Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Cordileone has argued publicly that pro-abortion Catholic politicians should be denied communion, a position with which Pope Francis disagrees, and the USCCB still has yet to issue a clear guidance one way or the other. The warm greeting at the Vatican today will likely complicate Cordileone’s efforts and those of other American bishops to push back against the contradictions that pro-abortion Catholic politicians create for the faithful.
Beside that, though, the idea that Biden would choose Pelosi ignores some obvious and basic problems. In the first place, while this administration has lots of problems doing math, the math here is so simple that even Joe Biden can grasp it. Right now, House Democrats only have a three-vote cushion for their majority, so appointing anyone out of that chamber creates the risk of majority collapse. That risk is exponentially larger if Pelosi leaves, because she holds lots of chits among her caucus members that Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn simply don’t. Pelosi is far too integral to Biden’s congressional strategies to kick her into an ambassadorial role, for which she is ill-suited anyway. (When was the last time anyone found Pelosi remotely “diplomatic”?)
Furthermore, such a nomination runs a significant risk of an embarrassing refusal from the Vatican. The pope might give Pelosi an audience on a visit due to her leadership position, treating her courteously and friendly enough while discussing “the environment, migration, and human rights” on an ex officio basis. When it comes to accepting her credentials as an official diplomat at the Holy See, Pelosi’s radical abortion advocacy could very well prompt a humiliating refusal. Refusal might not be a slam dunk, but it’s not a zero risk either, and it would bolster Cordileone and the conservative bishops in the USCCB.
In fact, the idea of nominating Pelosi to this post is so dumb that it could only have originated in the Beltway.
So what about Biden’s actual pick, Joe Donnelly? He’s a solid choice for a Democratic president, having served in the House and Senate from Indiana for a little over a decade. If Joe Manchin is the last pro-life Democrat in the Senate, then Donnelly might have been the penultimate. He opposed abortion funding in ObamaCare and opposed embryonic stem-cell research, but he did reverse his previous opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He’s the kind of Democrat that would draw instant and significant primary challenges if he was still running for office today, and moderate enough on other issues to be tempted into a party switch at some point.
I would have guessed that Biden might have picked someone from Catholic Charities or some other prominent Catholic NGO as Barack Obama did, but Donnelly works well enough for this administration. Thanks to his membership in the Senate, Donnelly can expect a very easy and quick confirmation process, too. There won’t be any embarrassing fumbles such as those in other nominations, such as David Chipman’s for the ATF. And that brings us to the final point about Pelosi: can you imagine what Republicans would have done to her in a confirmation hearing? Only an idiot would have put her in that position, and only an idiot would have accepted such an assignment. One of the two people in this equation isn’t an idiot, so …