In a speech she gave this past week, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke out against the immoral ways in which President Donald Trump and his supporters are attacking Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Videos were shared across social media by Trump’s backers that appeared to show Pelosi speaking in a slow manner, with comments by those users suggesting that she was drunk during a talk she took part in on Wednesday. Trump himself shared a video on Twitter shortly after of a separate speech by Pelosi that was also doctored, edited in such a way that suggested she had “stammered” through a news conference she recently gave.
Those videos cast Pelosi in a negative light — and are false representations of who she is or what she said. Unfortunately, they’ve already been seen hundreds of thousands of times across social media.
The video Trump shared specifically omitted any mention of policy differences or ways in which he would counter Pelosi’s arguments in a recent debate they were engaged in. This makes it clear that his intent in sharing that video was solely to make her look incompetent, using manipulated edits in order to do so.
Clinton wasn’t having any of it. In a tweet of a speech she recently gave, the 2016 Democratic presidential candidate lashed out at Trump and others who were sharing such disrespectful visuals.
“The president and his cronies have been running around spreading a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi,” Clinton explained to her audience, describing it as “sexist trash” — and also “a sign that Trump is running scared.”
My take on Trump and his cronies spreading that doctored video of Nancy Pelosi: It's sexist trash.
It's also a sign that Trump is running scared. pic.twitter.com/AgcH5RQNyj
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 25, 2019
It may be appropriate to describe these behaviors by Trump and his allies in such a way. Consider whether any other political official has shared such videos of opponents who are male. There aren’t any out there, at least any that are as prominent as this recent incident.
The only comparable video I can think of is of Donald Trump himself, though it was done in a comedic way by late night television host Jimmy Kimmel.
There are stark differences, however, in what the comedian did and what Trump’s supporters are presently doing. In those specific instances from the comic’s past, Kimmel stated to his audience that he had slowed down and altered the videos. There wasn’t any doubt that he did. Furthermore, it was done for comedic effect, not for political purposes, to get a laugh out of audience members.
The case could be made that Kimmel, who hasn’t hidden his opposition to Trump in the past, is trying to disparage the president in some way. Still, it’s likely that he’d try to make a joke out of whoever the president was, whether it was Trump or not, and again, Kimmel isn’t involved in a direct policy dispute with the president over the past week. In short, he’s not a politician himself, and it’s not unbecoming of him to share such videos because it’s his job.
So at the very least, Clinton’s insinuations that Trump’s attacks on Pelosi are sexist have some merit to them. Trump and others on “his side” aren’t making the same blatant attacks against Chuck Schumer, for instance, or any other male Democratic lawmaker.
Nevertheless, it is also necessary to decry such behaviors by Trump and his backers, beyond their misogyny, for harming the norms of our democracy as well, for such attacks have absolutely no place in the free marketplace of ideas.
What purpose do videos like these serve? They get a laugh out of those who agree with the president, for sure. But they also get those people to further disparage Pelosi in their own ways on social media, adding commentary about her (fake) slurred speech or even simply how much they dislike her as Speaker of the House.
Lost in that discussion is the “why” element of this entire “debate.” The videos themselves fail to address any real point. We’re supposed to be discussing infrastructure and, possibly, whether the president and Congress can cooperate with one another while inquiries in the legislative branch continue to ask questions about the executive branch.
You can land on either side of that question and still make the argument that you’re engaged in a legitimate debate. What you cannot do, however, is disparage another person in such a way as to make fun of them, or share altered video of them to suggest they’re drunk, and claim that’s part of the discussion, too. It’s not.
In as straight-forward way as I can possibly say it, that’s not a real debate — it’s childish antics meant to serve an entirely different purpose, of mocking and distracting from the real argument at hand.
Trump’s claims that he cannot work with Pelosi or Schumer while inquiries still exist is somewhat disingenuous as well. He came to an agreement with Democratic just three weeks ago, when Pelosi, Schumer, and Trump all came to the conclusion that they could spend up to $2 trillion on infrastructure upgrades. Those inquiries existed at that time.
It wasn’t until he and the two Democratic leaders met this past week that suddenly, when it came time to discuss how to pay for the proposal, Trump decided he couldn’t work with Democrats any longer on the basis that those investigations were being carried out.
That makes it seem less like a real concern from Trump, and more like a convenient excuse for him to bolt from the meeting, supposedly out-of-the-blue. Schumer expressed similar beliefs.
“It’s clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the president’s part. It was planned,” Schumer said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: "To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop. … It's clear that this was not a spontaneous move on the President's part, it was planned" https://t.co/QYL1uTlbrz pic.twitter.com/zMds9Fz5QY
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) May 22, 2019
Pelosi has called Trump’s theatrics a “temper tantrum.” She’s also called on those surrounding Trump, who recognize he’s not behaving in an appropriate way, to stage an “intervention” to get him to come to his senses.
Whatever happens within this back-and-forth between the president and Democratic leaders, we must agree that the difficult way in which Trump engages in debates is itself bad for democracy. The manner in which the president “argues” against his opponents provides fodder for him to rile up his base, which may in fact be his intention.
As far as moving the debate forward, however, which would be beneficial for the nation overall, Trump’s escapades do nothing of the sort.