Susan Estrich: The shocking attack on Paul Pelosi

From the commentary: People talk about the old days, but in this case, there is truth to it. The old rules were that when the workday ended, Republicans and Democrats would raise a glass together. ... We were on different teams, but we were playing the same sport.

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi's husband violently assaulted during break-in at their house in San Francisco
Members of law enforcement work outside the home of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after her husband Paul Pelosi was violently assaulted during a break-in at their house in San Francisco, California, U.S., in this screen grab taken from video October 28, 2022.
Handout: KGO TV via ABC Via REUTERS
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Police are calling it a "targeted attack."

Why would someone target Paul Pelosi,

Easy, right. Does anyone doubt the reason?

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
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The hard question is not why he was attacked, but who to point the finger at; there are so many contenders, in addition to the assailant himself.

Words have power. Speech is protected not because it's harmless, but because of its power. Good ideas don't always win out. And in the current political climate, where only the hottest, most hateful rhetoric gets attention, should we really be surprised that powerful words and images trigger powerful responses?


The attack on Paul Pelosi is terrifying for multiple reasons. Here is a man who intentionally stayed out of the spotlight himself, supporting his wife proudly and, mostly, quietly. He is family. Since when is family fair game? Ugly as politics has become, when the family is hurt, it becomes uglier still.

And there is the timing. Nancy Pelosi has been crisscrossing the country tirelessly in her efforts to raise money and stave off a red wave that is threatening the House. Now, of course, she will be doing none of those things, an attack on him being an attack on her as well. Stopping both of them in their tracks.

Who does it help? It helps no one. It hurts our democracy.

I grew up reading political novels the way kids today read about fantastic worlds. To me, there was no world more fantastic than the Capitol, nothing more exciting than a political convention, no one worth paying more attention to than the first president I remember, John F. Kennedy. The "best and the brightest" went into government, and that's where I wanted to go. And did, at least for a while, and it would have been longer if more of my candidates had won than lost.

I can still remember the days when my best students wanted to go into politics. I have a long memory. It was a long time ago.

These days? Are you kidding?

Who could be a better role model than Nancy Pelosi, a woman who had it all, family and career, supportive husband, strong family, the whole nine yards. And a man with a hammer aimed at her husband. For what? Since when is politics a blood sport?

People talk about the old days, but in this case, there is truth to it. The old rules were that when the workday ended, Republicans and Democrats would raise a glass together.
We were on different teams, but we were playing the same sport.


There were times, to be sure, when we used to wonder whether we were playing by a different rule book, whether the other side had opted for a tougher game of hardball. The Clinton impeachment was a low point. Supreme Court confirmations got uglier. Campaigns got meaner. But still, there were limits.

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"Camp Auschwitz?" I'm told they were wearing T-shirts at the freeway overpass, amid signs that Kanye was right. How can hate be right? Who are these people who live among us? And who are they listening to?

"Where is Nancy?" the attacker reportedly yelled. Nancy was serving her country.

This Susan Estrich commentary is her opinion. She can be reached at


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Related Topics: COMMENTARY
Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via
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