I understand that television appearances are a bit different in the current era. They’re not so much different that they explain Nancy Pelosi’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Pelosi was on the show to talk about all anyone on the Sunday shows wanted to talk about, which was the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday. The big news from the interview was that — presumably in part to maintain some semblance of relevance for the House in the run-up to the election — she told host George Stephanopoulos that the lower chamber has “arrows in its quiver” to stop whoever the president nominates in the Senate to replace Ginsburg.
“We have a responsibility,” Pelosi told Stephanopoulos. “We’ve taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people. When we weigh the equities of protecting our democracy, that requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.”
However, few outlets reported directly on what she said shortly afterward, when the host asked to clarify that she “was not taking any arrows out of your quiver.”
If you haven’t seen her answer either live or on social media since then, I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to push the back button on your browser. You’re operating under the misapprehension she sputtered through some non-answer answer and we’re asking whether that means if she “suffered cognitive failure during live TV interview,” using Pelosi’s strange gaffes in the past as a launchpad.
I beseech you to stay, dear reader. Watch and see what you think:
— Matt Christiansen (@MLChristiansen) September 20, 2020
“Good morning. Sunday morning,” Pelosi said, smiling in a very specific way that suggested she was ready for her closeup, Mr. DeMille.
I mean, apparently it was a good morning on Sunday morning in Washington, the District of Columbia, with the temperature in the 60s, going up to 70 with partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze going.
It was the perfect brisk early fall day in our nation’s capital to walk around the Tidal Basin with a nice sweater and the Airpods in and a nice autumnal album cued up — say, maybe some Simon and Garfunkel, John Coltrane or Wilco. Go home, make yourself a nice cup of cinnamon chai and watch the sun set over your Georgetown block.
She wasn’t asked that, however. She was asked whether she was taking any arrows out of her quiver.
To preempt any of the email I’m going to get: Firstly, no, she almost certainly wasn’t receiving different audio in her earpiece at the time or thought the interview was over. If she was receiving different audio, it would have to be audio that was infelicitously synchronized with Stephanopoulos’ question.
Second, no, she didn’t misunderstand the question; you don’t become speaker of the House by answering a question on live TV that you don’t understand — at least not if you still possess some vague facsimile of the acumen that got you there.
And finally, no, this wasn’t out of context. Here’s the full interview; I’ve cued it up to the moment where she starts in on the “arrows in our quiver” response, roughly a minute and a half before she has what a Mac user might refer to as a “kernel panic“:
Now, it’s possible that Pelosi was joking — that she didn’t appreciate being pressed for an answer on a sensitive topic when she’d just given what she probably hoped was a base-covering response.
But plenty of Twitter users had a less charitable view, openly wondering whether she’d suffered cognitive failure during the interview:
Did Pelosi just have a stroke or something? What happened here? As per the full clip (right below original tweet) this was not edited… https://t.co/xWEZrDIP7x
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) September 20, 2020
This is so uncomfortable to watch….And confusing. It’s like something is malfunctioning. https://t.co/Yj7n3hdtda
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) September 21, 2020
MOOMMMMM!! GRANDMA’S DOING IT AGAIN!!! https://t.co/5ToZziV5RP
— Marty Young (@MartnYoung) September 21, 2020
Meanwhile, I perfervidly wish this response — implying either Pelosi was on a teleprompter during the interview or was running on some sort of internal tape recorder — had been made by Ben Stein:
“Who is it? Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t come to the door right now. I’m afraid that in my weakened condition, I could take a nasty spill down the stairs and subject myself to further school absences. You can reach my parents at their places of business. Thank you for stopping by.”
— Dooode (@SolaFide101) September 20, 2020
In case you were unaware of the reference, this is the taped recording Ferris Bueller links to his doorbell’s intercom system so no one who drops by from school — specifically, his principal — notices that he’s out of the house on his titular day off. If you don’t get my Ben Stein reference, you should probably watch more movies.
And naturally, there were liberals who wanted to make it clear this was always the answer she meant to give, you idiot! You just don’t get that she’s playing the long game:
Pelosi was focused on the only answer she chose to give to Stephanopolis. Perfect side step to unwelcome questions. Nothing is wrong with Pelosi she’s controlling the conversation.
— Curzon Timmy (@fiveovals) September 20, 2020
So that’s the liberals’ take: You think Trump is playing 4D chess? She’s playing 6D underwater Go! George Stephanopoulos asked her to confirm that she “was not taking any arrows out of your quiver,” something she had made clear earlier in the interview, and she just fixed him with a strange grin and said, “Good morning. Sunday morning.” Bam. That’s what you call sticking it to the patriarchy or, uh, something. No glitches to be seen here!
Assume that this was a power move, a joke meant to cut Stephanopoulos off. Why, though? This wasn’t even a softball question, it was a T-ball question. It was a setup for Pelosi to throw red meat to the base. “Yes, George, we still have arrows left … mwahahaha!” It was a chance to strike fear into Republicans that she could gum up the process.
Her response, in this telling, was to hand the red meat back to George and say, “No thanks, I’m good.” It was also doing it with a “joke” that looked a lot more like someone entering an ultra-brief fugue state, something that looked less to those watching like the speaker was shutting the host down and more like she might be shutting down. If this is her sense of humor, that’s still a glitch.
It’s also worth noting that Stephanpoulos, a former Clinton White House communications director who’s definitely on Pelosi’s side politically, looked as if he’d have been less worried if Pelosi started hemorrhaging pumpkin spiced latte out of her nose.
While the Democrat most-commonly associated with incidents like this is Joe Biden, it’s worth noting Pelosi has had strange moments like this in the past. This takes it to a whole new level, however. Good morning, indeed.
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