House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s subtle facial expressions during President Trump’s State of the Union were more withering than anything she said after.
When she pursed her lips, extended her arms and clapped in Trump’s direction, no one had to guess what she was thinking. Her sarcastic smirk was biting in a way words never could be.
As a mother and grandmother, Pelosi (D-Calif.) has mastered the art of conveying disappointment or scorn with a simple glance. What child hasn’t been completely destroyed by a disappointing look from her mother?
That clap turned meme made the speaker’s own daughter Christine Pelosi recall how her mother could discipline without saying a word.
“She knows. And she knows that you know. And frankly she’s disappointed that you thought this would work,” Christine Pelosi tweeted.
Since the shutdown, when Nancy Pelosi characterized the president’s behavior as a “temper tantrum” (“I’m the mother of five, grandmother of nine,” she told reporters. “I know a temper tantrum when I see one”), Pelosi has treated Trump like a child to be handled. So far, it has proved effective.
On Wednesday morning, when she met with the Democratic caucus, one member asked her whether she was offended that Trump didn’t mention her in his remarks. In contrast, in 2007, when she first earned the gavel, President George W. Bush recognized that accomplishment, saying it was his honor to be the first president to say, “Madam Speaker” at a State of the Union.
“You know what, who cares?” she said of Trump’s omission. “You know what, like, who really cares?”
Another tool of motherhood? Knowing when to respond and when to ignore.
Notably, the other memorable moment from Trump’s speech had less to do with the substance of what he said and rather how it was received by the women in the room.
The Democratic women of Congress sat together in a sea of white pantsuits and dresses, making it impossible to ignore just how many of them there are now.
Post opinion writer Monica Hesse described them as “their own silent, attention-grabbing rejoinder. Their homogeneous clothing palette made their movements all the more noticeable.”
So when Trump dedicated a section of his address to the increase of women in both the workforce and politics, the monochromatic congresswomen rose as one in uproarious applause and cheers, seemingly catching the president off guard.
It was a lighthearted moment that appeared on the surface to be a rare moment of harmony. But, really, Trump had set himself up for one of the more partisan moments of the night.
“Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than ever before,” Trump said, as the Democratic women hooted and high-fived.
But they weren’t applauding him. They were applauding themselves and their collective success.
If the State of the Union is the president’s chance to tout his successes to a captive audience, then referring to the historic wins for women last year is dead-on, considering many of them would have never run for public office if not for him.