It's criticism she has heard throughout her public life, but, like many besieged politicians, she seems to use it as fuel. "My friends, they would call me: 'Can you believe what they said?' " she says in an interview. "I said: 'Why are you calling me? Are you calling me to waste my time? If you don't like what they're saying, recruit volunteers, raise money, go door to door....' "
Pelosi isn't a Rhodes Scholar like Speaker Carl Albert (D) of Oklahoma (1971-76). She doesn't turn out rapid-fire policy ideas like Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia (1995-98). Nor does she see herself as a "coach" like Speaker Dennis Hastert (R) of Illinois (1999-2006). On camera, she often appears awkward or stilted, especially under fire. (Faced with criticism that she knew about the Bush-era "torture" of 9/11 detainees and did nothing, she fell back on reading a statement. Pressed for clarification, she looked down and simply read it again.) But for raw organizational skills – preparation, networking, political instinct, and dogged persistence – Pelosi is in a class by herself.