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Is Nancy Pelosi Too Old to Serve?

An impassioned letter to NBC's Luke Russert, the young journalist who'd like to see her step aside

By Leah Rozen

Dear Luke Russert,
Geez, what were you thinking? 
Was it your own question you were asking or someone else’s when you piped up Wednesday at the press conference in which U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) announced she would continue as the House minority leader?
During the question and answer session, you chimed in with, “Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long term. What’s your response?”
You then added offense to injury by asking if Pelosi, by hanging onto her job, “prohibits younger leadership from moving forward?”
Ms. Pelosi is 72 years old. You are 27.
I’m gonna chalk up your question to the presumption and immaturity of youth.
As she rightly said in response to your question, “It’s quite offensive, though you don’t realize that, I guess.”
She also, aptly again, pointed out that you had failed to ask the same of Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), who's 72, or minority leader Mitch McConnell (R.-Ky.) He is 70.
You weren’t even all the way through your question before the klatch of women, fellow members of the House of Representatives, standing directly behind Pelosi on the podium began booing, hissing and otherwise making their displeasure at your query plain. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.) yelled, “Discrimination.” (She’s 66.)
The point is, why should Pelosi step aside because of her age? Why should the California Congresswoman, who rose to the position of leader of the House Democrats almost 10 years ago, give up a job she clearly relishes just because she’s past what you consider her sell-by date? And how come you’re not asking the same question of Rep. John Boehner (R.-Ohio), who’s 62?
Obviously, from your viewpoint, Pelosi is the only one of these geezers who has no business taking up space that a younger person could better occupy.
Your question reminds me of a line that F. Scott Fitzgerald penned when he was even younger than you: “She was a faded but still lovely woman of 27,” he wrote of a female character.
One has to be awfully young to write that line — or to ask the question that you asked.
When you got home at the end of the day following the Pelosi press conference, I sincerely hope that your mom, journalist Maureen Orth, who’s a correspondent at Vanity Fair, set you straight. She’s 69. What, you might ask her, is she doing still writing and taking up valuable pages in a magazine, pages that a younger writer might make better use of?
If you’re still on-air 50 years from now, I pray some still-wet-behind-the-ears whippersnapper asks you whether it isn’t time you stepped aside to let fresher blood have a chance to ask uninformed questions.
You don't have to respect your elders. But a good reporter does have to ask questions that have smarts behind them.
The problem with your question, besides the fact that it was insulting and sexist, is that it was fundamentally flawed. Younger doesn’t always mean fresher or better. It’s just younger.
You’re going to eventually learn the truth of this — I promise — and, when you do, you’ll understand why Nancy Pelosi took umbrage at your question today. She wasn't the only one.
Sincerely yours,
Leah Rozen
Age 56

Leah Rozen, a former film critic for People magazine, is a freelance writer for The New York Times, More and Parade. Read More
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