At some point everyone has blanked out and forgotten the name of that place, the important place we were just thinking about. But usually it doesn’t happen on camera. And usually it doesn’t happen twice within the same press conference. Unfortunately for Rep. Maxine Waters, she had her Aleppo moment and then some during an exchange with reporters yesterday, first forgetting Aleppo itself and then confusing Crimea with Korea.
Asked why it was appropriate to call for impeachment less than a month after President Trump took office, Rep. Waters replied, “I have not called for the impeachment yet.” She added, “He’s doing it himself.” Waters went on to say that she was receiving questions and “pleas” from people across the country about Trump.
“How can a president who is acting in the manner that he is acting, whether he’s talking about the travel ban, the way that he’s targeting Muslims, or whether he’s talking about his relationship to Putin and the Kremlin and knowing that they have hacked our D-triple-C and DNC and knowing that he is responsible for supplying the bombs that killed innocent children and families in um…in um…” at this point Rep. Waters waved her hand, clearly having forgotten the name of the city.
Two different reporters offered “Aleppo?” and Rep. Waters continued, “Yeah, in Aleppo.” But then things got more awkward. “And the fact that he is wrapping his arms around Putin while Putin is continuing to advance into…Korea?” Waters said with a questioning glance at Nancy Pelosi. She clearly was thinking of Crimea, not Korea. No one in the room or behind the podium reacted to the gaffe at the moment, but Rep. Waters (or someone on her staff) did clarify it later on Twitter.
During a presser earlier today, I was referencing @realDonaldTrump's relatively soft position on Putin's actions in Crimea, not Korea.
— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) February 6, 2017
After the gaffe, Rep. Waters then once again suggested that, eventually, something would have to be done about President Trump saying, “We cannot continue to have a president who is acting in this manner.” Reporters immediately asked minority leader Pelosi if she agreed with Rep. Waters.
Pelosi came to the podium and said, “Many of the things that the congresswoman said are grounds for displeasure and unease in the public about the performance of this president, who has acted in a way that is strategically incoherent, that is incompetent and that is reckless.” “And that is not grounds for impeachment,” Pelosi clarified. “When and if he breaks the law, that is when something like that would come up,” she said.
Despite having the minority leader walk back her comments while she was standing there, Rep. Waters has continued to talk about impeachment as a possible end game. She appeared on MSNBC this morning and denied that Pelosi had walked back her coments. “There’s no truth to that,” Waters said. “As a matter of fact, all that Nancy Pelosi said was that she was not ready yet to talk about impeachment. I’m ready to talk about it,” she added.
You can check my transcript above or the video below and decide whether that’s all Pelosi said about the impeachment talk. One of two things is happening here. One possibility is that Rep. Waters is a loose cannon who is throwing around the I-word despite the clear suggestion from her leadership that she knock it off.
The other possibility is that Pelosi and Waters are doing a good cop, bad cop routine. By repeatedly raising impeachment, Waters gets the idea circulating. Meanwhile, Pelosi plays the part of adult-in-the-room and says it’s premature. So Democrats get to throw red meat to the base but the party leadership is not tarnished with the irresponsibility of going there three weeks in to Trump’s presidency.
If I had to bet, I’d bet it’s the latter. Pelosi is known to be pretty tough behind the scenes and I don’t think Rep. Waters would get a pass on this over and over unless Pelosi was at least tacitly okay with it. Put it this way, if Pelosi thought this was hurting her party rather than helping to stir up the anti-Trump base, I think Rep. Waters’ impeachment talk would be silenced fairly quickly.