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Was Asking About Nancy Pelosi’s Age Out Of Line?

Earlier today, Nancy Pelosi announced that she would stand for re-relection as leader of the House Democrats, an election she will win quite easily. The news of her announcement, though, was overshadowed somewhat by a question from NBC’s Luke Russert:

When Pelosi took questions from reporters, NBC’s Luke Russert asked her whether she thought the House Democratic leadership is too old.

“The answer is no,” Pelosi responded as her colleagues booed loudly. She later called the question offensive and noted that reporters rarely ask such questions of male leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Everything that I have done in my almost decade now of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to the Congress,” Pelosi said. “In my own personal experience, it was very important for me to elect young women.”

But the question is worth asking, because Democratic lawmakers have said privately that the party need to begin fostering younger leaders. Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), an assistant to Pelosi, are all in their 70s.

Russert has been criticized for asking the question, but I really don’t see how it’s out of line. Comparing the House Republican and Democratic Leadership teams the most striking thing you see is the dramatic differences in age. The Republicans are led by a group of man, and with the addition of Cathy McMorris-Rogers, women that are mostly in their 40s and 50s. The Democratic team is dominated by people in their 70s and, as noted, there have been some signs that younger Democratic Members of Congress find the way the system is working frustrating because its making it difficult for them to rise in the committee system and in the party leadership. Pelosi’s mention of the Senate is mostly a non sequiter because that body has traditionally been made up of a membership that is older in age than the House to begin with so it’s not unusual that the Leadership of both sides would be in their 60s and 70s.

Russert’s question wasn’t implying that Pelosi was too old to do her job, it was a legitimate question about whether the fact that older House members are continuing to hold onto leadership positions is having an adverse impact on the caucus as a whole. His question was entirely appropriate.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Rafer Janders says:

    The Republicans are led by a group of man, and with the addition of Cathy McMorris-Rogers, women that are mostly in their 40s and 50s.

    Yes, but their social attitudes and mindset are also from the 40s and 50s….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 4

  2. Geek, Esq. says:

    Two problems:

    1) That question doesn’t get asked of men in leadership positions–like Harry Reid (73) or Mitch McConnell (age 70).

    2) Snot-nose nepotist twerp baby fake reporter Luke Russert was the one who was asking a woman of her stature whether she had passed her expiration date. When Luke Russert answers the question “shouldn’t you step aside from someone who earned that job instead of inheriting it” then maybe he can try to disqualify people who’ve paid their dues.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 3

  3. wr says:

    Shorter Luke Russert: Shouldn’t we have some hotter babes running our country?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. Derrick says:

    Snot-nose nepotist twerp baby fake reporter Luke Russert was the one who was asking a woman of her stature whether she had passed her expiration date. When Luke Russert answers the question “shouldn’t you step aside from someone who earned that job instead of inheriting it” then maybe he can try to disqualify people who’ve paid their dues.

    I don’t want to agree with you but that was the first thing that crossed my mind. Luke Russert, who has basically had a path laid out for him because people liked his daddy and they felt sorry for said daddy’s early death, is probably the last person who should question anyone’s reason for why they have their job.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  5. KansasMom says:

    Any question asked by Little Luke Russert is out of line.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  6. legion says:

    Yes, it was out of line. As Pelosi herself noted, Steny Hoyer and Mitch McConnel would never have been asked that question, least of all by someone like Russert. Secondly,

    Russert’s question wasn’t implying that Pelosi was too old to do her job,

    Bullsh*t. That’s _exactly_ what he was trying to imply, and every single person there knew it. Including Pelosi.

    Also, it’s good to see that Obama has her back. And on those lines, I’d like to mention sh*tstain Lindsey Graham:

    Lindsey Graham shot this back just after that moment:

    Graham responded to Obama’s comments by e-mail just as the press conference concluded. “Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi,” Graham said in a statement. “I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.”

    and point out that if any Dem had made such disrespectful statements towards Bush after 9-11, he’d have been bodily thrown out of Congress.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 3

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @legion:

    You know what’s even worse? Lindsey Graham is a colonel in the Air Force Reserve and a JAG, so he knows EXACTLY how outrageous his comments are regarding the President’s C-in-C responsibilities.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  8. legion says:

    @Rafer Janders: I didn’t know that. I do believe that crosses the line well into Conduct Unbecoming. How appalling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  9. Jen says:

    @legion: I wonder sometimes if people like Graham realize the precedent they are setting with statements like that. You are spot-on that no one made statements like that directed at Pres. Bush. If it becomes standard for them to be that disrespectful of a Democratic president, how will they feel when it’s a Republican in the White House?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  10. Rafer Janders says:

    The Republicans are led by a group of man,

    “Group of Man” would make a GREAT name for a band….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jen:

    If it becomes standard for them to be that disrespectful of a Democratic president, how will they feel when it’s a Republican in the White House?

    IOKIYAR.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  12. TheColourfield says:

    Luke Russert is as sharp as a sack of wet hair.

    Hey Doug, was Reagan too old when you voted for him when he was 69 ? Should he have stepped aside at re-election when he was 74?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  13. Geek, Esq. says:

    @legion:

    Well, this is the same guy who opposed repeal of DADT despite . . .

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  14. ernieyeball says:

    There is the old saw that “the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask”.
    Could be this does not apply to political reporters.

    Howard Simons: Did you call the White House press office?
    Bob Woodward: I went over there; I talked to them. They said Hunt hadn’t worked there for three months. Then a PR guy said this weird thing to me. He said, “I am convinced that neither Mr. Colson nor anyone else at the White House had any knowledge of, or participation in, this deplorable incident at the Democratic National Committee.”
    Howard Simons: Isn’t that what you expect them to say?
    Bob Woodward: Absolutely.
    Howard Simons: So?
    Bob Woodward: I never asked about Watergate. I simply asked what were Hunt’s duties at the White House.
    (AtPM)

    Then again Mr. Russert my want to ask Margaret Dunning, 102, of Plymouth MI if she is too old to drive.
    p://autos.aol.com/article/102-year-old-woman-still-drives-her-82-year-old-car/?ncid=txtlnkusauto00000020

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. ernieyeball says:
  16. al-Ameda says:

    Doesn’t Luke know how to use Google?
    What lame question to ask.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  17. Tillman says:

    I’d call that a legitimate question poorly framed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  18. Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail says:

    @legion: if any Dem had made such disrespectful statements towards Bush after 9-11, he’d have been bodily thrown out of Congress.

    Oh, a lot of them did. Just not immediately after. Hell, such comments are now liberal gospel.

    But are you comparing 9/11/12 to 9/11/01? That’s not allowed. I tried it, and it was shot down.

    Graham, however, is totally correct. That Obama failed is self-evident.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 16

  19. legion says:

    @Jenos Idanian Who Has No Pony Tail:

    Oh, a lot of them did.

    Really? Sitting Members of Congress? Accusing George W Bush of being personally responsible for 9-11? Do tell.

    But are you comparing 9/11/12 to 9/11/01? That’s not allowed. I tried it, and it was shot down.

    Yes, Jenos, that’s because it’s an utterly asinine comparison, with no basis in reality whatsoever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  20. Tsar Nicholas says:

    My question to Pelosi would have been whether she’s too unfathomably wealthy to lead a caucus that’s based entirely upon a platform of wealth redistribution (for us, not for them). That the Democrat leadership in Congress is old and white, save for Clyburn, speaks for itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  21. mantis says:

    It wasn’t out of line, at least not for any of the reasons being discussed.

    The question irritated me because it’s just another bullshit village question about power politics on Capitol Hill by another worthless villager who is only there because of his family. Whether or not young House members think they are progressing up the ladder fast enough has f*ck all to do with anything the citizens care about or the issues debated in this election.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  22. legion says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    too unfathomably wealthy to lead a caucus that’s based entirely upon a platform of wealth redistribution

    Have I introduced you to Mitt Romney?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  23. David Lentz says:

    Mrs. Pelosi did touch on the real problem, to wit Congress’ addiction to seniority. She mentioned that women tend come to elective officer later in life. She mentioned the senority system prohited these congresschics from attaining leadership position.

    Hint Mrs. Pelosi, if the senority system is the problem, eliminate it. There is no evidene that congresscritters gain wisdom while in office.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Whitfield says:

    I would have asked “what model of broomstick do you ride?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

  25. An Interested Party says:

    And on those lines, I’d like to mention sh*tstain Lindsey Graham…

    John McCain’s Mini-Me has to do whatever he can to look tough as he probably already knows that he’ll be primaried by some Teabagger when he’s up for reelection…

    My question to Pelosi would have been whether she’s too unfathomably wealthy to lead a caucus that’s based entirely upon a platform of wealth redistribution (for us, not for them).

    Oh yes, absolutely! It’s much better to be someone like Mitt Romney, an unfathomably wealthy joke who is behind a platform of wealth redistribution for the wealthy…

    I would have asked “what model of broomstick do you ride?”

    Oh, in other words, another sexist question…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. Barry says:

    @Jen: “If it becomes standard for them to be that disrespectful of a Democratic president, how will they feel when it’s a Republican in the White House? ”

    They assume that a Republican President is ‘legitimate’, and so comments like that would be unamerican, if not outright treasonous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. Barry says:

    @Jen: “I wonder sometimes if people like Graham realize the precedent they are setting with statements like that. ”

    Look at Clinton vs. Bush, even before 9/11.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Whitfield says:

    I remember many House members who ran on “term limits”. Yet most of them stayed around ten years or more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. ernieyeball says:

    @Whitfield: I remember that there was at least one Federal Representative from Missouri (more I think) that campaigned on term limits 20 or so years ago.
    When their terms ended they ran again…and again…and again.
    I know I heard one of them asked about this during their campaigns. They replied something about how they thought it was better for their constituents if they held their seats.
    I sure wish I could remember who they were.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0