The three women of San Francisco

So, what city gave America the only woman House speaker, the most senior senator and the first woman vice president?

San Francisco, of course, that fair city.

But here in Washington, nobody knows this.

Few give props to San Francisco for making — or breaking — American history. But a trifecta of Democratic women in high places is no coincidence.

What’s in the water there (so to speak?) No other city comes close.

As a journalist who’s seen them in action and once lived in the late great columnist Herb Caen’s “City,” let me offer some thoughts on Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Vice President Kamala Harris. Two are truly great.

Pelosi held the speakership for eight of the last 14 years. At 82, she’s speaker emerita, clearing the way for the next generation to take the House Democratic torch.

The new leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, praised her as “the greatest Speaker of all time.” Congressional expert Norm Ornstein agrees.

You probably know her heroics on Jan. 6, 2021, the day an armed mob stormed the Capitol, some howling and hunting for her by name.

Pelosi showed grace under pressure, calling governors and the Pentagon to send the National Guard (which showed up after the damage was done.)

I witnessed the siege and will never forget that Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence insisted Congress finish the job of counting electoral votes.

At 4 a.m. by the Capitol’s Ohio Clock, democracy won the day.

During the forlorn pandemic, Pelosi kept the lights on in the Capitol. She didn’t miss a day, giving her Thursday press conferences in person, striding in with a bright mask.

During the Donald Trump years, Pelosi was the only lawmaker to stand up to him to his face. Oh, how he hated her for initiating two impeachments and the Jan. 6 committee.

The violence Trump incited could have been much worse, but it claimed 150 police casualties.

What you may not know is that Pelosi was packed to go to Afghanistan, when Trump canceled the military plane.

Conducting diplomacy, Pelosi invited foreign leaders to Washington, such as the NATO secretary general and the Greek prime minister.

Pelosi also visited Ukraine last year. As her last act, she had President Volodymyr Zelenskyy deliver a speech, a riveting hour that united the chambers and parties.

I liked lighter moments, too. The St. Patrick’s Day luncheon with the Irish leader was a tradition.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is such a fixture in San Francisco politics, from when she was mayor, that she’s taken for granted as she approaches age 90. Tall and regal, her speaking manner is more formal than Pelosi’s warmth.

Feinstein rushed to dying Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone when they were assassinated in City Hall in 1978.

That tragedy put her on the path to the Senate in 1992. That was known as the “Year of the Woman” because women were aghast at how an all-male Senate panel handled the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for one Clarence Thomas.

(I remember listening by radio from my soccer team game in Golden Gate Park, our river of anger rising.).

As a freshman senator, Feinstein authored a 10-year ban on assault weapons that became law. That established her as a force to respect in the clubby Senate.

Serving on the Intelligence committee, Feinstein went public with a CIA report on torture practices during the Iraq War.

That was moral courage.

Yet Feinstein is fading. The job is punishing. She could be president pro tem, fourth in line to the presidency, but chose to decline.

Feinstein should retire with the dignity her career deserves, in the 2024 election cycle.

Vice president Kamala Harris, 58, is still earning her spurs. Washington is watching, but she hasn’t won people over.

In a field for extroverts, Harris seems cool, and needs a success of her own. She requested voting rights, which came up short in the Senate.

Washington is a masculine city, if there ever was one, with marble memorials to presidents and generals.

San Francisco’s scenic hills, bridges, fog, bay and skyscape colors created a city of free spirits and pioneers.

Pioneers like these three women.


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