Issues & Insights

Pelosi’s ‘Cover-Up’ Ploy: A Strategy in Seven Letters

“It is almost always the cover-up rather than the event that causes trouble.” — Senate Watergate Committee Ranking Minority Member Howard Baker

“We believe that no one is above the law, including the president of the United States. And we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” — Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi may be a polarizing figure, but trotting out the word “cover-up” shows again that she’s one smart cookie who has been in and around politics for a long time. The Speaker learned the art at the knee of her father, a Congressman and later Mayor of Baltimore. She was a Congressional intern in the 1960s. And after moving to the Golden State, she became a protégé of the legendary legislative tactician Rep. Phil Burton, whose seat she eventually inherited.

The much-maligned San Francisco Democrat is no slouch as a strategist herself, and is master of the long game. The first time she held the gavel, the Speaker willingly sacrificed her House majority, and her own glass-ceiling-shattering position, to ram through legislation that upended the relationship between government and governed forever. All it did was hook upward of 20 million voters onto Medicaid and federally subsidized health care, provide the issue that propelled her back into the Speaker’s chair and put America on an inexorable trajectory toward single-payer.

And since November, all Dona Pelosi has done is quietly and efficiently shiv the opposition to her continued leadership of her caucus — despite 58 Democratic incumbents and candidates having pledged to vote against her as Speaker — followed by her unquestioned triumph in staring down and schooling The Donald as she shut down his government shutdown.

So when the Speaker uses a word, you’d think it is with careful consideration and strategic forethought. And you would be right.

With her “cover-up” declaration, she neatly abbreviated the Democrats’ pathetically weak case against President Trump for alleged obstruction of justice into a simple, powerful and highly loaded word. A game plan in seven letters, really.

Because that word arouses an instant association: with Richard Nixon and Watergate. As in “the cover up was worse than the crime” the popular watchword for the scandal into which Senator Baker’s quote was ultimately condensed.

And the Speaker surely also knows that although “Tricky Dick” was never actually impeached he resigned before the full House could act — many voters link that concept with him and Watergate as well.

Yet the crafty veteran also understands that the politics around impeachment have evolved. She had a front-row seat as voters punished House Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton over “lying about sex.” And she therefore recognizes the potential damage if her party strings up Trump for legitimately exercising his presidential powers in the face of a strung-out, overwrought and over-reported investigation of imaginary “collusion.”

Accordingly, behind Madame Pelosi’s deployment of the “C” word, shortly after trial-ballooning a double-C term also tied to Nixon’s fall — “constitutional crisis” — is an alternative approach. Her calculated rhetoric tips the spear of a full-out war of attrition by House Democrats — which in the wake of the Special Counsel investigation’s roughly 500 witness interviews and 3,500 subpoenas and warrants, now consists of more than 20 committee probes with hundreds of subpoenas of Trump, current and former aides, and his businesses.

The goal: gain the benefits of impeachment by rhetorically making the case for it, and generating the associated distractions, without actually following through, while keeping the President on the defensive and preventing any further substantive gains. And most important, driving up his personal negatives in hopes that they will in 2020 overwhelm a record of solid accomplishment and promises kept.

Will the Speaker’s shrewd strategy in two syllables work? Much depends on the President’s response. Usually, his smash-mouth counterpunching leaves opponents wondering what hit them. But Ms. Pelosi once again slipped his errant blows to win another round: Trump’s storming out of their scheduled meeting on infrastructure both made him look puerile and petulant and deprived him of his only issue where he could make headway with a Democratic House.

No, a front assault on this Speaker especially labeling her “Crazy Nancy” won’t carry the day. Rather, the President must keep going straight to the American people with a next-stage vision that meets pressing needs. It must extend beyond his admittedly prodigious domestic and diplomatic gains — which have already been “priced-in” to the public’s view of him. And like his regulatory reform efforts, it must be capable of implementation with or without the Democrats echoing Sleek Barry Obama’s “pen-and-phone” declaration.

As Jean Arthur allowed to Jimmy Stewart as he filibustered the Taylor machine in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, “It’s a 40-foot dive into a tub of water.” But that’s been the nature of the quixotic crusade against the capital’s elites that began with the fateful ride down Trump Tower’s escalator.

Nancy Pelosi’s deft deployment of code words is demonstrating that she’s as politically elite as they come. To maintain his momentum and survive next year, Trump will need to raise his own game above mere “fili-blustering.”

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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  • The entire Democrat strategy is rooted in fraud, deception and felonious behavior. Without moving goal posts and propaganda I’m not sure they could even survive another election cycle.

  • Naive analysis indeed, what you fail to mention is that the vast majority of intelligent people in the USA think she is a complete and utter nut case.

  • Please provide proof the PDT “Stormed out of the meeting”. That has been debunked. So if that part of your article is dishonest we must assume the whole thing is dishonest.

  • Ballot Harvesting, Extended voting periods and voter fraud are as much a threat to democracy as any term spewed from democrat propagandists.

  • People fail to understand that single-payer will screw over 180 million currently insured individuals as well as quite a few hundred thousand of people in the insurance industry. In addition I want everyone to think how may doctors will be willing to come into our system when they begin making 40% of what they are making today? That in fact is what Medicare pays them today.

  • Another clumsy attempt at anti-Trump propaganda. Why did the writer lie about the meeting Trump ended over the coverup trope? Nancy is a genius for using the shopworn coverup card? How hard is that?
    Meat for the base, with nothing to back it up.

  • Author does not give credit to what Barr, Horowitz, and the new “special counsel that has been investigating the source of the “collusion” charge are going to find and then act on. The author stagnates on what is now deemed in the past. This is a constantly changing, evolving narrative with the potential of explosive revelations of the DNC, Dems and the weaponizing of our intelligence agencies with fabricated charges to take down the duly elected POTUS. Pelosi is part of that take down so her efforts at a “cover up” are desperation to keep the narrative going to influence the low information voters. She is despicable and anti-America and it will be gratifying when her entire Dem house falls and that will be her legacy.

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