How Jon Stewart Helped Defeat a Key Pelosi Ally

A preventable backlash takes down a Californian candidate for a key role.
Photograph by Getty Images

The intra-Democratic battle to lead the party on the House Energy and Commerce Committee was, up to this week, exciting and obscure. New Jersey Representative Frank Pallone, elected in 1988, wanted the job, which (until the party wins back the majority) represents a leading role on everything from the environment to the ACA to the Internet. California Representative Anna Eshoo, elected in 1992, was angling for the same job. Both wanted to succeed California Representative Henry Waxman, who's retiring this year, and whose takeover of the role (from Michigan Representative John Dingell) represented a huge progressive victory in 2008. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi preferred that the Californian succeed her fellow Californian.

Then came the case of Illinois Representative Tammy Duckworth. A Democratic star since she was first tapped to run for Congress, way back in 2006, Duckworth is a double-amputee veteran of the Iraq War—and, currently, eight months pregnant. She'd asked for a proxy vote, but as Billy House reported, Pelosi was among the members objecting to that.

The story blew up, as—in retrospect—Democrats must have known it would. Republicans relished the story of the Pelosi-led party, hardy warriors for women, screwing over a pregnant war veteran. On Tuesday night's episode of “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart devoted five minutes to an attack on Pelosi, titled “Petty Woman,” ending by muttering that it might be time for her to go.

“She is everything you supposed stand for, stuffed into one individual,” said Stewart. “She is a Democratic, demographic Tur-duck-worth! Why, why, would you do this?”

The next morning, the caucus voted. Pallone beat Eshoo, 100 to 90. According to a source, Pelosi's own goal over the Duckworth vote helped lock down the majority Pallone needed. It wasn't the only issue, but it moved votes.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the year Representative Frank Pallone was elected.

(Corrects year Representative Frank Pallone was elected in first graf.)
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