Two red-state Dems to Pelosi: Tearing up Trump's speech was disrespectful and inappropriate

What they mean is “stupid” and “unhelpful” but their phrasing is more tactful.

The most notable thing about Pelosi tearing up the speech was how uncharacteristic it was. Not in the sense that she normally loves Trump but in the sense that she’s normally a bottom-line politician, just like McConnell. Try to imagine Mitch McConnell letting his spite towards an opponent overcome him and lead him into doing something petty and unnecessary that would obviously make life harder for the most vulnerable members of his caucus. It’s impossible. The man doesn’t even raise his voice. He approaches each day with two directives in his CPU: (1) Confirm more conservative judges and (2) maximize the number of Republicans in the Senate after the next election.


Pelosi normally follows similar directives. Normally.

You may remember the names Joe Cunningham and Ben McAdams from the big impeachment vote in December. Cunningham represents Mark Sanford’s very red district in South Carolina; McAdams represents Mia Love’s very red district in Utah. They’re both freshmen, swept into office in the Democratic wave of 2018, and both were expected to vote no on impeachment for the sake of protecting themselves electorally. Each is likely to lose this fall but a show of support for Trump in a big spot would have helped their chances by earning them some goodwill from Republican constituents. Instead both ended up voting to impeach, along with every other endangered red-district Democratic freshman. And, almost certainly, they did so because Pelosi demanded it. She didn’t want to lose any votes between the initial House vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry and the final vote on impeachment, knowing that if she did Republicans would have crowed that Schiff’s witness pageant had succeeded only in dissuading some members of his own party. In the end only Tulsi Gabbard flipped (to “present” on the final vote). The freshmen all did what the boss demanded.

So now here she was on Tuesday night, adding insult to injury in their home districts by disrespecting Trump on national television after his well-received speech. Cunningham and McAdams must have wondered: This is how she repays us? Does she … want us to lose?


Reps. Joe Cunningham (S.C.) and Ben McAdams (Utah) together spoke to Pelosi for several minutes on the House floor before they cast votes to block the attempted reprimand.

McAdams said he told Pelosi that he thought the gesture “was inappropriate and that we deserve better than that.”

“I thought it was disrespectful,” he said. “I found things that I agreed with and things that I didn’t agree with in the president’s speech, but I thought that that was beneath us.”

Cunningham said he found “some blame on both sides” for the displays of partisanship at Tuesday’s address.

Pelosi always figures heavily in GOP attack ads in House races because party ad men know how much Republican voters dislike her. Which clip of her will show up in the ads targeting Cunningham and McAdams this fall, do you suppose?

Three possible explanations for her behavior. One: She hates Trump so much that she lost her cool. She forgot herself in the moment. The bile overload is giving her brain damage. Two: She knew when she tore the speech up that freshmen like Cunningham and McAdams would pay the price, but she’s also resigned to the fact that they’re one-termers anyway. Their impeachment votes sealed that deal; no sense worrying about them now. The flaw in that theory, though, is that there are plenty of other Dem freshmen from districts that are less solidly red who stand a real chance of winning reelection despite their support for impeachment. Pelosi knifed them too by giving Republican voters extra motivation to oust them this fall.


Third: Maybe she *was* being bottom-line about this. Politico noticed yesterday that House Democrats are crushing their Republican challengers in fundraising.

The roughly four dozen most endangered House Democratic incumbents raised a collective $28.5 million in the last three months of 2019, a staggering total that is nearly twice the sum of all of their Republican challengers combined, according to a POLITICO review of the fundraising filings.

This drastic disparity, which House GOP leaders have deemed an all-out crisis, throws the Democratic advantage into stark relief: 32 of the 42 swing-seat Democrats raised over $500,000 last quarter and 36 started the election year with at least $1 million in cash on hand. Of the over 120 Republicans who filed to run against the so-called frontliners, just six had cleared that fundraising threshold, and three had that much in the bank.

“This is quite a wake-up call for Republicans — no way getting around it,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.). “There’s no panacea in this. It’s going to take a lot more grinding work.”…

Buoyed by grassroots enthusiasm and the structural dominance of ActBlue, Democrats have moved the financial goal post, and privately many Republicans are at a loss about how to adapt.

Was it a fundraising stunt? The New York Post noticed that Pelosi began making little tears in her copy of Trump’s speech before she finally tore it up on camera at the end. Maybe she calculated that a showy act of defiance and contempt right over Trump’s shoulder would excite Democratic donors, which would benefit the likes of Cunningham and McAdams financially even if it happened to cost them a little something in terms of rising opposition enthusiasm. It’s not just Republican donors who reach for their wallets when they see one of their hate objects get disrespected in a big spot, after all. Possibly Pelosi saw this as an opportunity to monetize hyperpartisanship on her own side in a quick lowbrow way.


That seems too clever by half, though. I think she just hates Trump and doesn’t care if Cunningham and McAdams have to pay the price. McConnell must have chortled when he watched it.

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