Nancy Pelosi’s “rip heard round the world”—Immature or praiseworthy?


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Sarah Michels

President Trump delivered his third State of the Union address last Tuesday, Feb. 4, but the content of his speech wasn’t what made the most headlines. The actions of Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, before, during and after the address were what caught the media’s—and America’s—attention.

It was the rip heard round the world.

Even before President Trump began his address, it was obvious that neither Pelosi nor Trump were going to give each other the respect they believed they deserved.

First, Trump snubbed Pelosi’s attempt at a cordial handshake. Then, in a break from tradition, Pelosi introduced Trump by simply saying, “Members of Congress, the President of the United States” instead of the usual “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of presenting to you, the President of the United States.”

It was a small but meaningful difference that foreshadowed the remainder of the event.

Throughout the State of the Union address, Pelosi continued her passive-aggressive demeanor towards the president. As she sat behind the podium alongside Vice President Mike Pence, she remained seated and avoided clapping at Trump’s statements, even when it was clearly the expected decorum to do so.

The only exceptions were when Trump mentioned a few of his guests, mostly veterans or their families. Pelosi stood for all except Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio show host who was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the address. Amongst other things, he has been publicly critical of Pelosi’s actions during the impeachment trials.

But it wasn’t until the end of the speech that the real drama unfolded.

As Trump finished his last statements, Pelosi made a show of ripping up her copy of Trump’s speech. Despite Trump’s Tweets, this act was not illegal. Just bold. Very bold.

Pelosi defended her actions as a necessary response to the many exaggerations and flat-out lies within Trump’s address.

“There has to be something that clearly indicated to the American people that this was not the truth,” she said.

In my opinion, this is a valid justification. While some may see Pelosi’s actions as childish, I see them as a method to call attention to the false information within the address. Yes, there was almost certainly a secondary partisan motive to her actions, but as long as that wasn’t the primary aim, I think Pelosi was less immature as she was justifiably noncompliant.

According to fact checks conducted by PolitiFact, and the New York Times, the majority of Trump’s State of the Union statements were misleading, exaggerated, lacking context or simply false.

The question is, do most Americans know this? Or do they simply trust that their president is telling them the complete and unblemished truth?

Despite her lack of decorum that some may have found offensive, I’m on Pelosi’s side on this one. I don’t think the average American would think to fact check Trump’s State of the Union address, and I don’t believe they should have to. We should be able to trust that everything that our president tells us is true, with the exception of information crucial to national security.

Pelosi’s motive was to first and foremost to draw attention to what she called “a manifesto of mistruths.” While it may have backfired— the media barrage primarily focused on Pelosi’s actions and not the falsities of Trump’s statements in the days after the address—I believe her intention was valid and respectable.

Americans deserve to know when they are being intentionally misled. If showing them that in a way that they will notice means blatantly disrespecting the person telling the mistruths, I say, go ahead.

Some things are more important than decorum.