What was once billed as “the most important relationship in Washington” has fallen to a new low of dysfunction, as President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi publicly trade insults amid an election-year global pandemic.
Pelosi targeted the president’s girth. Trump made disparaging remarks about Pelosi’s mental health. The two are struggling to juggle their need to work with each other on legislation addressing the coronavirus and its economic fallout with their mutual enmity and with the fact that they are both campaigning to replace each other. Pelosi is trying to help put presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the White House, and Trump wants to wrest the speaker’s gavel away from the California Democrat and give it to Republicans.
After Democrats took control of the House in 2018, Jim Manley, a Democrat who was a top aide to former Majority Leader Harry Reid, said: “This is clearly the most important relationship in Washington right now and for the next two years. If there is any hope of getting anything done, it is largely going to rely on how these two operate.”
The operation has not been a success. Trump was impeached by the House earlier this year with Pelosi’s support. Republican voters and conservative donors are as outraged by Pelosi as the Resistance is at the president. At 42%, Pelosi’s job approval rating in the RealClearPolitics polling average is lower than Trump’s. Her favorability rating is at 37.3%, with 51.3% taking an unfavorable view.
“Nancy Pelosi is the face of House Democrats’ socialist agenda, which focuses on robbing voters of their healthcare, raising their taxes, and reshaping our country, all while she indulges in $13 pints of ice cream,” said Michael McAdams, spokesman of the NRCC, the House GOP’s campaign arm.
The dessert reference alludes to when Pelosi showed off a freezer well stocked with expensive ice cream and other treats during a late-night television show appearance. In the midst of a standoff over funds for the then-strapped Paycheck Protection Program, Republicans dubbed her “Nancy Antoinette — let them eat ice cream.”
“I have ice cream in my freezer,” Pelosi shot back during an MSNBC interview. “I guess that’s better than having Lysol in somebody’s lungs, as [Trump] was suggesting.”
The mutual hatred has been building for weeks. Trump didn’t shake her hand at the State of the Union address earlier this year. Pelosi tore up a copy of the speech while he was still standing at the podium. They haven’t spoken in months. But Pelosi’s increasing Don Rickles performance heckling the president in media appearances is something new.
As the grinning host looked on, Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 Monday that Trump was too fat to be taking hydroxychloroquine. “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and in his, shall we say, weight group — morbidly obese, they say,” she said.
“Pelosi is a sick woman,” Trump said on Tuesday. “She’s got a lot of problems. A lot of mental problems. We are dealing with people who have to get their act together for the good of the country.”
Allies of the president predicted Trump’s “sick woman” comments would be covered more critically by the press than Pelosi’s obesity remark.
“They are more likely to laugh and clap, like CNN’s S.E. Cupp did on Twitter, because they feel intensely that Trump deserves everything he’s dished out and more,” said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center.
“Trump’s trolling is outrageous and undignified,” he said. “Pelosi’s trolling is hilarious and justified. “The ‘fact-checkers’ that have taken every Trump joke seriously should flag Pelosi since Trump is not ‘morbidly obese’ as a medical matter, but don’t bet on it.”
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