At a Hunter College forum last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney talked about women and politics. Perhaps inevitably, much of the discussion focused on Secretary of State designate Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.
Pelosi, who had struggled to maintain neutral during the heated Democratic primary between Obama and Clinton, said she spoke with Senator Clinton by phone moments before Obama officially announced her appointment. “The joy I heard in her voice this morning,” she said, “was something so remarkable about the challenge that she faces now, and the confidence that she has.”
In the boosterish spirit of the event, Pelosi and Maloney each found positive things to say about Governor Palin’s Vice-Presidential run.
“I think both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin made a tremendous impact on the political life of America, each in her own way,” said Pelosi, the first female Speaker of the House.
Regarding moderator Lynn Sherr’s question about sexism in the presidential campaign, Pelosi said, “I think that whether any mysogynism, or whatever it is, had an impact on the outcome of the race, remains to be seen… Both of them, for different reasons, changed the dynamic in our country forever in terms of women going forth to the highest offices in the land.”
Maloney, a Democrat who represents New York’s 14th Congressional District, was less sweeping. “What was to me fascinating about Sarah Palin, I think her lasting legacy, is that the extreme right accepted a woman with small children running for office,” she said, “and I thought that was an important step forward for women.” But, she added, “at the same time, [Palin] didn’t support any of the issues that move women into the twenty-first century, with work-family balance, reproductive rights, equal pay for equal work.”
Maloney, a North Carolina native who was first elected to the House in 1992, has been suggested as a contender to replace the outgoing Senator Clinton.
In introductory remarks, Hunter College President Jennifer Raab directed an endorsement of Maloney to Governor David Paterson, who was not present. “We on the Upper East Side at Hunter College strongly suggest that you look no further than our own Representative Maloney,” said Raab. (Paterson won’t make the decision till Clinton officially steps down, probably in mid-January.)
We asked Maloney whether she was interested in the job. “Absolutely,” she said, “but it’s up to Governor Paterson. Certainly, she has big shoes to fill.”
NY1 Wiseguy Mark Green expanded the shoe metaphor to us. “This is the seat of RFK, Pat Moynihan and Hillary Clinton,” said the former Public Advocate. “Ideally, it should be a big person who can fill those big shoes, and in a parallel way, get elected and then reelected, one after the other. While there could be ethnicity or regional considerations, which are real, or gender, at the end of the day, it better be somebody who can hold the seat and reflect on his or her predecessors.”
A reporter asked Pelosi why she resists pressuring Charlie Rangel, the embattled Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, to step down.
“As you know,” she said, “the particulars of Chairman Rangel’s case are before the ethics committee now. We had been assured they would have their work finished by the end of this Congress, which is just a few more weeks. I think Mr. Rangel, who is a Korean War hero, who has been a great public servant in our country, deserves the opportunity to have his case heard and resolved by the ethics committee.”