For Pelosi, no early notice on Biden pick

Denver – House speaker Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking Democrat in the US government, standing just after Vice President Dick Cheney in the line of succession to the presidency.So how much advance word did Speaker Pelosi, permanent chair of the 2008 Democratic Convention, get of Barack Obama’s decision to pick Sen. Joseph Biden as his running mate?

“I didn’t have any advance word,” she said Saturday at a Monitor-sponsored lunch with reporters at Denver’s historic Brown Palace Hotel. “You found out before I did because I was asleep. We had to get up early for a plane that would not get here in time.”

Pelosi, who seemed unconcerned about the lack of advance notice, said she had advised Senator Obama to choose a running mate “where the chemistry is right for you.” The Obama campaign announced the vice presidential selection by sending out e-mail and text messages early Saturday morning.

When Pelosi is commuting between her congressional district in San Francisco and Washington, she flies in a US Air Force jet. But for political travel, Pelosi flies commercial. Thus it was that at 11 a.m. Saturday, one of her top aides called to say she would be late for our 1:30 lunch.

Her flight was delayed and it was packed, because the airline had canceled the next flight to Denver. Then, she said, the airline decided to unload those who would not make their connections. “It was like, does anyone know about service?” she said.

It may have been a long day on the road, but when Pelosi stepped out of the elevator with her husband, Paul, she looked flawless in a blue pin-striped pantsuit and pearls. Paul Pelosi, a successful investor with an easy, friendly manner, is tall and strikingly handsome, and was dressed in a blazer and open-collared shirt.

After walking around the table greeting reporters, Pelosi sat down and immediately attacked the chocolate mousse at her place and began an energetic presentation.

“You are getting me right off the plane, with chocolate,” she quipped. And midway through the lunch, in a supreme sacrifice for the Monitor, I offered her my dessert, which she also polished off.

As might be expected, Pelosi was enthusiastic about her party’s ticket. “I am very sure we will leave this convention with all of the enthusiasm in the world and the greatest unity and with Barack Obama and Joe Biden – is that a ticket! That is great – a terrific platform and just a campaign ready to win in November and to govern in January.”

Most impartial forecasters expect Democrats to pick up seats in the House in the 2008 election. Pelosi said, “We will have a stronger and bigger Democratic majority in November.” Patting her chest she said, “pitter-pat, pitter-pat, that is my heart beat. We are in great shape.”

The closing question focused on comments Senator Biden made about his wife, Jill, at Saturday’s Springfield, Ill., unveiling of the Democratic ticket. Biden called his wife “drop dead gorgeous.” He then quipped, “she also has her doctorate degree, which is a problem.”

Pelosi responded, “You know what? I am going to tell you something. Lighten up, folks. We have a planet to save. Nothing less is at stake than civilization as we know it today. The economy of our country, the health of our children, the state of our deficit, and the rest. These things are anecdotally humorous, funny, lighten up a bit. But the fact is there is so much at stake, and if Senator Biden happens to find his wife attractive, that is A-OK with me.”

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