high drama

Trump v. Pelosi: Anatomy of a Feud

What the heck is going on? Photo: Getty Images

I have ended each week since Donald Trump entered the White House feeling like I live inside the Confused Mr. Krabs meme, just a wildly disoriented cartoon curmudgeon whose world swirls queasily around her as she claws at something, anything, for balance. The reasons for this are legion: Sometimes, it’s patently dangerous policy that denies people bodily autonomy and basic rights on the basis of their sex and their gender identity. Sometimes, it’s the president going full online bully on his colleagues, as if he were a 13-year-old child and not a 72-year-old adult.

Take, for example, this obviously edited video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she “STAMMERS THROUGH [A] NEWS CONFERENCE,” which Trump pulled from Fox News and tweeted on Thursday evening. Basically, it’s a mash-up of moments from her recent speech at the Center for American Progress, selectively spliced together to make her messaging seem fumbling and incoherent. It spawned a series of videos doctored to make Pelosi seem drunk or slurring.

Trump shared the video hours after calling Pelosi “crazy” and declaring, “She’s lost it,” according to the Washington Post, escalating a feud that’s been ratcheting ever upward in intensity over the past few months, and particularly this week.

Trump and Pelosi have never taken rosy views of one another: She helms the sole Democratic-controlled body in our government, the one that just so happens to hold the keys to impeachment. Still, over the past couple of days, and even as I type this, things have reached dizzying new heights of insanity between them. Please, join me as I attempt to wend my way backward through the “high drama” of this fully bananas feud.

The deal that was promised.

This week (dubbed “Infrastructure Week”), Trump and the Democrats were set to hammer out the details of a $2 trillion infrastructure deal that Republicans view as prohibitively expensive and largely oppose. Infrastructure has been a key talking point for Trump, but so far he has not put his money where his mouth is, thanks in part to a series of minor calamities that have derailed negotiations. But then! For a brief moment, it seemed that Infrastructure Week would maybe, actually, finally happen. Alas, it was not to be.

Deal day dawns.

Infrastructure Week’s banner day came Wednesday, when Trump was scheduled to meet with Pelosi and Chuck Schumer to discuss where, exactly, the president might find that $2 trillion. Before that happened, though, Pelosi commented to reporters outside a meeting of House Democrats that the president was “engaged in a cover-up.” (He keeps trying to block representatives from reviewing his financial records, you see.)

Naturally, Trump caught wind of her comments; incensed, he reportedly stormed into his meeting with the leading Dems and, as he recalled at a Rose Garden press conference immediately after the fact, delivered this zinger:

I want to do infrastructure, I want to do it more than you want to do it. I’d be really good at it, that’s what I do. But you know what? You can’t do it under these circumstances. So get these phony investigations over with.

He then stormed out again, but not before demanding that Democrats drop their inquest or he would kill the infrastructure deal.

A press conference, a meme mine.

Meeting torpedoed, Trump beat a path to the Rose Garden, where he stood at a podium arrayed with a fun visual: “Mueller investigation, By the Numbers.” The sign also included a favorite refrain of his: “NO Collusion, NO Obstruction.”

At this presser, the president reiterated his refusal to work with the Dems and touted his historic “transparency,” while the internet went to work on photo editing, turning a high-key temper tantrum into a meme gold mine.

Pelosi responds.

According to the Speaker, the meeting’s trajectory left her feeling somewhat bewildered. “He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” Pelosi said, according to the New York Times. “In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.” And then, in her speech at the Center for American Progress, she suggested that the president’s rage was “orchestrated,” adding, “In plain sight, this president is obstructing justice and is engaged in a cover-up. And that could be an impeachable offense.” A fairly obvious “no” on the question of whether Democrats would comply with Trump’s ultimatum.

On Thursday, Pelosi confirmed that she had no intention of abandoning that kind of rhetoric but said she would accept another meeting. She also said, according to CNN, “I wish that his family or his administration or his staff would have an intervention for the good of the country.”

Calm, so calm. The calmest. No one is calmer.

Never one to leave the narrative unclaimed, Trump doubled down in an address in the Roosevelt Room on Thursday. Calling himself an “extremely stable genius” and the Speaker “crazy Nancy,” he questioned Pelosi’s mental fitness for office: “I’ve been watching her,” Trump said. “I have been watching her for a long period of time. She’s not the same person. She’s lost it.”

He then called on his minions to testify to his utter chill at the infrastructure meeting. “Very calm, no temper tantrum,” Kellyanne Conway said of her boss’s comportment the previous day. “You were very calm!” Larry Kudlow confirmed on command. “This was definitely not angry or ranting,” presidential mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized. “Very calm.”

In response to which Pelosi had the following to say:

And then, the video.

A few hours later, Trump tweeted the aforementioned video; in response, Pelosi reportedly accused him of trying to distract the people “from his cover-ups and unpopularity,” and from Democratic achievements. As doctored footage continued to cycle around the internet, however, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani seemed to defend it as comeuppance for Pelosi’s suggestion that Trump needs help to get his train back on the rails.

And on Friday, the president defended his actions, saying he “just responded in kind” to the speaker’s “horrible,” “terrible,” no good, very bad insults. “Look, you think Nancy is the same as she was? She’s not. Maybe we can all say that,” Trump said, according to Politico: “I think Nancy Pelosi is not helping this country.” He reportedly went on to say that he “[doesn’t] know about the videos,” which is odd, because the clip remains on his Twitter feed.

So there you have it; that’s where we are right now. I myself do not feel any more anchored, but that’s just the state of our union, I guess.

Trump v. Pelosi: Anatomy of a Feud