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A young reporter irks Pelosi with a question about her age

November 15, 2012|By Michael McGough
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol on Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, center, speaks during a news conference… (Rich Clement / Bloomberg )

Washington is agog, as they say, about a testy confrontation Wednesday between Nancy Pelosi and NBC correspondent Luke Russert.

"Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on [as House minority leader] prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long run," Russert said. "What's your response?"

Pelosi’s response was to accuse Russert of partisanship -- "Oh, you always ask that question, except to Mitch McConnell” -- and to point out that, unlike male colleagues who joined the House in their 30s, "I came to Congress when my youngest child, Alexandra, was a senior in high school, practically on her way to college.” 

I’m not sure the latter response is really relevant to Russert’s question. That Pelosi got a late start because she conformed to traditional views about women’s priorities doesn’t alter the fact that the 72-year-old Pelosi and her two male deputies, who are also in their 70s, represent a political Old Guard. (Whether that’s a problem is debatable. Voters in California were happy this month to reelect 79-year-old Sen. Dianne Feinstein.)

What made the Pelosi-Russert confrontation so dramatic was that the 27-year-old reporter who brought up the age issue is almost young enough to be Pelosi’s grandson. Indeed, his youth is part of his persona.

This is from Russert’s biography on the website of the speakers’ bureau that represents him: “Luke Russert stands out among the new generation of American journalists. He shares fresh insights into the millennial generation, today’s headlines and what’s going on in Washington.”  Reading his own publicity, Russert might well conclude that “kids rule, seniority drools.”

Pelosi shouldn’t have been surprised that a reporter who is defined by his youth would ask her about her age. But maybe she expected better treatment because of what she and Russert have in common: the role of family connections  in their career paths. Pelosi’s father served in Congress for five terms before being elected mayor of Baltimore. Russert’s father was Tim Russert, the venerated moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

The Pelosi-Russert face-off may have involved a generation gap, but both youth and experience were represented by Washington insiders.

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