It’s not just the “good morning” non sequitur. It’s the awkward pause after she says it.
Did she have a senior moment here? Remember, Pelosi’s actually a few years older than Grandpa Joe.
STEPHANOPOULOS: "To be clear, you're not ruling anything out?"
PELOSI: "Good morning! Sunday morning!" pic.twitter.com/Moy75XqAIW
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 21, 2020
The wrinkle in the “senior moment” theory is that she’s coherent both before and after the “good morning” bit. I wouldn’t expect an elderly person having a moment of confusion to recover within two seconds and then go right back to making a scripted political argument without missing a beat. Also, if Pelosi were prone to senior moments behind the scenes, you’d think Democrats would be careful about letting her spend time in front of the cameras. That’s Republicans’ theory of why Biden is so often missing from the campaign trail, after all: His handlers are trying to hide his alleged senility by keeping him away from reporters.
But that theory breaks down with Pelosi. She gives a press conference every week. And she’s become one of the most reliable guests on the Sunday political talk shows over the past few months as coronavirus stimulus negotiations with Republicans have ground to a halt. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she’s momentarily the most visible messenger for her party in the entire country, Biden included. Would Dems really risk running her out there week after week to be lead spokesman for their side on the stimulus if she were having periodic “malfunctions”?
And wouldn’t we expect some of her answers to the substantive questions she’s asked to be confusing or even incoherent? Pelosi is awfully disciplined in her talking points for someone whose mind is supposedly slipping.
My read on the clip is that she might have been attempting sarcasm and it just came off weird. Stephanopoulos asks her of the coming SCOTUS vacancy, “To be clear, you’re not taking any arrows out of your quiver, you’re not ruling anything out?” Pelosi’s “good morning” reply might have been her way of politely calling him an idiot, like saying “Hello?” when someone asks you a stupid question. Of course they’re not ruling anything out in trying to keep the seat open. This will be the most cutthroat partisan war since, well, since the last Supreme Court vacancy.
As for the pause, good acting relies on good timing and it may be that as Pelosi ages her acting skills are getting worse. Here’s an example from a few days ago in which she remains cogent throughout but her brief attempt to manufacture emotion is so awkward and transparent that you’re left cringing:
Pelosi with an incredible emotional pivot here pic.twitter.com/iCYCxBG5lS
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) September 16, 2020
People on Twitter speculated that maybe some other network with which she had an interview lined up accidentally cut into her earpiece during the Stephanopoulos segment, but I don’t think she would have recovered as seamlessly if that had happened. There would have been some crosstalk about it (“George, are you still there?” etc.) Bottom line: If her mind is starting to slide while she’s behind closed doors, we should expect her public appearances to become scarcer or, if not, for more moments like this to recur. We’ll have an idea by New Year’s.