GOP Targets Pelosi's 'San Francisco Values'

Republican leaders such as House Speaker Dennis Hastert have coined the term "San Francisco values" to describe the views of Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi. Republican media strategist Dan Schnur talks to Madeleine Brand about what effect the term is having on voters, and what it will mean if Pelosi becomes speaker of the House.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

From NPR News, this is DAY TO DAY. If the Democrats win a majority in the House tomorrow, California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi is expected to become the new Speaker. If she does, be prepared to hear more of this.

(Soundbite of "The O'Reilly Factor")

Mr. BILL O'REILLY (Talk Show Host): San Francisco values versus Iraq chaos. That's the subject of this evening's talking points memo.

Mr. NEWT GINGRICH (Former House Speaker): I mean Nancy Pelosi represents a San Francisco values system.

House Speaker DENNIS HASTERT (Republican, Illinois): I don't think that the American people are ready for San Francisco values to be implanted on every district in this country.

BRAND: Talking about San Francisco values, that was Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and FOX talk show host Bill O'Reilly. And joining me to talk about this Republican talking point, San Francisco values, is Dan Schnur; he's a Republican media strategist and political science professor at UC Berkeley. Welcome to the program.

Mr. DAN SCHNUR (University of California, Berkeley): Hi Madeleine, how are you?

BRAND: Fine, thank you. Well, what does it mean, San Francisco values?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, first of all the term or at least the sentiment isn't anything new. If you go all the way back to 1984, you remember Gene Kirkpatrick speaking at the Republican convention, talking in very much the same light. But in this political climate it means a lot of things. Any number of national security, economic, cultural and social issues that spring out of San Francisco political dialogue are, for better or worse, depending on your own perspective, markedly different than that in the rest of the country. And I think that's what you're beginning to hear a variety of Republican and conservative voices talking about.

BRAND: So basically it's meant to say these people in San Francisco are so ultra-liberal, they are so out of touch with mainstream America that they're going to bring these so-called values, because they're not really using them as values, right, in the terms that Republicans and conservatives usually use the terms values, they're going to bring them to the rest of America if Nancy Pelosi is elected Speaker.

Mr. SCHNUR: Oh, that's exactly right. And one of the great ironies here is if Nancy Pelosi does become Speaker, it's going to because of moderate and conservative Democrats in the old Rust Belt who are much more conservative than her on military and economic and on social issues. But then one of her challenges as Speaker is going to be trying to bridge that divide. But if you're a Republican trying to warn voters against a Democratic vote, even for one of these more moderate candidates, you can say San Francisco values, you can mention Nancy Pelosi, and the point you can make in almost a verbal shorthand is to say, hey, look, these are tax-raising, terrorist-loving, same-sex marriage supporting, ultra-liberal Democrats who aren't like you and me.

BRAND: Well, how effective is this strategy?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, we'll see on Tuesday. I mean ultimately a lot of the Democratic candidates in other parts of the country have done a fairly good job of running away from Congresswoman Pelosi in their own campaigns, just as a lot of Republican candidates in the Midwest and Northeast have kind of distanced themselves from President Bush and his agenda. But if the Democrats take over the majority of congress on Tuesday and Nancy Pelosi is then elected Speaker, I suspect it's going to be a term you hear thrown about with pretty good regularity over the next couple of years. Ultimately, it's probably going to be November 2008 before we can judge its effectiveness.

BRAND: Now, you live in the San Francisco Bay area. Are people - how are people reacting to being tarred with the San Francisco values talking point?

Mr. SCHNUR: Well, it's been a very odd reaction. It's been a very mixed reaction. On one hand the people are very offended and on the other hand they're somewhat flattered. On one hand they say, how dare you try to tar us with such a horrible name-calling exercise, and then on the other hand they talk about all the things that they love about San Francisco with great pride.

BRAND: Dan Schnur is a Republican media strategist. He's also a professor of political science at UC Berkeley. Dan, thanks for joining us.

Mr. SCHNUR: Thanks for having me.

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