Unknown to most, she had been seriously contemplating retirement in 2016 when the unexpected election of Trump changed her mind. Now, whatever her shortcomings, she seemed to be precisely the right person at the right time. Tim Ryan, the Ohio congressman who challenged her for the Democratic leadership in 2016, acknowledged that to me in 2020. “Her political instincts – nobody I ever worked with had any better instincts,” he told me. She eventually would command the solid backing of Democrats. Even those who had questioned her leadership in the past came to view her as indispensable in the era of Trump.
President Trump rattled her publicly only once – during a State of the Union address that included the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh – but Pelosi regularly rattled him. When he stomped out of a White House meeting after a confrontation over funding a wall along the Mexican border, she was dismissive.
“It’s a temper tantrum by the president,” she said.
Here’s how she described her job: “Every day I’m like, ‘Don a suit of armor, put on your brass knuckles, eat nails for breakfast, and go out there and stop them from taking children out of the arms of their parents, food out of the mouths of babies.” She didn’t see all that as particularly remarkable. “I mean, it’s just the way it is.”
Her attitude of politics-as-war fueled the capital’s hyperpartisanship.