To cleanse the palate, this has been floating around MAGA Twitter all day and I’m intrigued by it. It does look to me like Rosen says “watch your ass” in the clip, but after watching a billion Bad Lip Reading videos I have no faith in my ability to read lips accurately. Plus, given their respective positions in the party, I don’t think this is something Rosen would have the temerity to say to Sinema.
If anyone’s going to tell Sinema to watch it when applauding Trump, you’d expect it to be someone in the leadership. They’re the ones with the cachet within the caucus to demand discipline on the party’s message, especially in a visible spot like the State of the Union. Rosen’s not in the leadership, though. She doesn’t even outrank Sinema in seniority. She’s been a senator for all of 34 days, the same as Sinema has. (I assume that’s why they were sitting together — they represent the two Democratic success stories in the Senate from the midterms.) If you add up their total tenure in Congress, in fact, Sinema is more senior than Rosen is. She served three terms in the House before joining the Senate. Rosen served one.
Of course it could have been a friendly “watch your ass,” like a kid warning a friend who’s passing notes in class that they’ll get in trouble if they’re not more discreet. You don’t want the teacher, mean Mr. Schumer, to see you! But that doesn’t add up either. Democrats understand Sinema’s position: She just claimed a prize that had eluded their grasp for almost 25 years, a Senate seat in Arizona. She ran as a centrist there despite her progressive track record, distancing herself from the “abolish ICE” nuts because she knew that veering left would likely be fatal in a red state. Clapping ostentatiously during Trump’s speech — and wearing pink to distinguish herself from the women like Rosen who were in “Team Spirit!” white — was an obvious way for her to distinguish herself from the rest of her party to all of the conservative Arizona voters watching back home.
In fact, given Sinema’s unique success in November, it might not be overstating it to say that she has as much leverage over Democratic leaders as they have over her. Look at it from Chuck Schumer’s perspective. Would you dare try to punish a 42-year-old rising star who’s already proved she can win in a state where Dems never do, and who might parlay her incumbency into holding that seat for the party for the next 35 years? They won the lottery with her. So long as she votes reliably with them, party leaders will give her a wi-i-i-de berth on pandering to righties in whichever shallow ways she deems best.
Which is a long way of saying that not even Schumer or Pelosi likely would have had the nerve to tell Sinema to “watch her ass” by clapping for Trump. Clapping was good politics under the circumstances, frankly. Rosen’s from a purplish state herself in Nevada and understands very well everything I just said, so what did she really say to Sinema? Any lip-readers want to float alternate theories?