Nancy Pelosi's ridiculously over-the-top response to questions about the coronavirus stimulus
CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 10/14/2020, 11:49 a.m.
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi isn't used to being questioned about her strategic decisions. And boy did it show in a hugely contentious interview with Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, when the CNN anchor simply pressed Pelosi on her approach to a coronavirus stimulus package deal.
Here's how it started:
Blitzer: Even members of your own caucus, Madam Speaker, want to accept this deal, $1.8 trillion, Congressman Ro Khanna for example. But let met just quote Ro Khanna, a man you know well. I assume you admire him. He's a Democrat.
And he just said this. He said "People in need can't wait until February, $1.8 trillion is significant and more than twice the Obama stimulus. Make a deal, put the ball in McConnell court."
So what do you say to Ro Khanna?
Pelosi: What I say to you is, I don't know why you're always an apologist. And many of your colleagues, apologists for the Republican position. Ro Khanna, that's nice. That isn't what we're going to do and nobody's waiting till February.
It went downhill from there. Asked if she had spoken to President Donald Trump about the possibility of a coronavirus stimulus deal, Pelosi said she doesn't "speak to the President." Pressed on why not -- given the suffering of people in desperate need of a stimulus deal to keep their business open or pay their bills -- Pelosi responded this way: "What makes me amused if it weren't so sad, is how you all think that you know more about the suffering of the American people than those of us who are elected by them to represent them at that table."
Pelosi wasn't done. "Let me say this with all due respect, with all due respect, and you know we've known each other a long time, you really don't know what you're talking about," she said as Blitzer continued to ask why the $1.8 trillion deal proposed by the White House wasn't good enough.
And she ended the interview with snark -- telling Blitzer ,"Thank you for sensitivity to our constituents' needs" and then when he responded that he was aware of their needs because 'I see them on the street begging for food, begging for money," the Speaker of the House said this: "Have you fed them? We feed them, we feed them."
On the whole, it was a decidedly embarrassing performance by the Speaker of the House. And I'll note here that I believe Pelosi to be the best congressional strategist of her generation -- bar none.
But this was a disaster.
Pelosi's position in the interview appeared to be that Blitzer wasn't allowed to ask her any questions about her unwillingness to accept the White House's latest stimulus deal because, uh, he wasn't the one negotiating it? And that by asking basic questions -- like why she continues to hold out for what she believes to be a better deal and whether she has spoken with Trump -- that Blitzer was an "apologist" for Republicans. Say what?
What about the prominent Democrats Blitzer cited who have been pushing -- publicly and privately -- Pelosi to make a deal? Well, according to Pelosi they don't matter either because they aren't the ones negotiating it. (Sidebar: I am sure Pelosi's California colleague -- Ro Khanna -- appreciated her condescending "that's nice" comment about his support for a deal.)
This was all bad from Pelosi. Why? Maybe because she feels the pressure from her colleagues to find a way to "yes" on the stimulus package amid increasing signs that the economy badly needs another shot in the arm. Maybe some other unknown reason. Or no reason at all.
But the point is this: If you are the Speaker of the House and agree to an interview in the midst of a contentious debate over a coronavirus stimulus package three weeks before a presidential election, you can't act surprised -- or outraged -- when you get asked about the coronavirus stimulus package and whether or not you've spoken to the President of the United States about it.
Those are not Republican apologist questions. They are fair ones. And ones that Pelosi should have been prepared to answer rather than snark at Blitzer and act as though he was doing something untoward.