Politico declares Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi "the most powerful woman in U.S. political history." I once suggested that White House aide Karen Hughes, "the most powerful shaper of the words and message of a president of the United States whose own command of the language seems weaker than average," held that position and got altogether too little attention for her accomplishment.
But Politico is probably right these days. And along with the breakthrough campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, it's the sign of a new era in American politics. Women are going to be major players. But it remains to be seen whether that will make much substantive difference. Pelosi seems to wield her power in much the same way that male speakers did, on behalf of policy positions that match the center-left of the Democratic party.
P.S. One of the best moments capturing the rise of Clinton and Palin this year was this exchange between Tina Fey (Palin) and Amy Poehler (Clinton) on Saturday Night Live:
Sarah Palin: Just look at how far we've come. Hillary Clinton, who came so close to the White House... and me, Sarah Palin, who is even closer. Can you believe it, Hillary?
Hillary Clinton: [ forcing a hard smile ] I cannot!