Apparently, it’s OK if President Donald Trump tries to swap Ukrainian lives to give his next presidential run a little boost. And it’s OK to stretch the truth a few dozen times in his State of the Union address. And it’s OK for him to mock people’s religious devotion.
But just let Nancy Pelosi do a little cutting up, and there’s hell to pay.
You saw this, right?
The whole country saw it, as the Baltimore-born Speaker of the House intended. When Trump’s big talk finally concluded, Pelosi stood up so the TV cameras could catch her ostentatiously ripping up her copy of the speech, and ripping some more, and disdainfully tossing it aside.
She wasn’t hiding her action. She was flaunting it.
To which we have Vice President Mike Pence — who should know about disgraceful things because he’s seen them up close for the last three years — earnestly declaring Pelosi’s action “a new low. I didn’t know if she was ripping up his speech or ripping up the Constitution.”
Well, just to clear things up for the vice president: She was tearing up Trump’s speech. There is a difference between the printed text of a president speaking as his own cheerleader, and the document that serves as America’s non-sectarian bible.
As for Pelosi’s gesture being a “new low,” let’s ask the sanctimonious Pence about a few “low” comparisons.
Was it lower than Trump publicly questioning the religious faith of Pelosi, and of Sen. Mitt Romney, in his graceless remarks two days after the Utah Republican voted guilty on impeachment, and one day after Pelosi tore up those papers?
For that matter, Mr. Vice President …
Was Pelosi’s gesture lower than Trump finding “good people” on both sides of the line at the Charlottesville pep rally for racists, white supremacists and anti-Semites?
Was it lower than Trump insisting for years that his predecessor, Barack Obama, wasn’t a U.S. citizen?
Was it lower than Trump boasting he could grab women by their genitals because he was “a star, and they let you do that when you’re a star”?
Was it lower than Trump paying hush money to a couple of women to fix an election?
Was it lower than separating sobbing children from their parents and putting them in cages, just to make a point about immigration?
Was it lower than Trump University cheating all those people who thought they were paying their money for an honest education?
Was it lower than …
Oh, hell, we could run this list longer than Trump’s State of the Union address.
But Pence wasn’t the only one feigning outrage and moral indignation over Pelosi.
There was Nikki Haley, Trump’s former United Nations ambassador, who still has ambitions – presidential, probably – of her own.
Haley declared herself “disgusted to see [Pelosi] rip up the speech that mentioned lives we’ve lost to heroes we celebrated at the SOTU.”
Beautiful. Here we have Haley attempting to give cover to Trump by implying that any speech that mentions “heroes” should be off-limits for any criticism. That’s a good one. You can say the most scurrilous things in a speech, but if you also throw in some heroes, all criticism is off the table?
Shall we leave aside that among the “heroes” mentioned in Trump’s speech was the broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, upon whom Trump bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom?
Yes, it’s sad that Limbaugh’s now fighting lung cancer. We’re not insensitive to that kind of ordeal, and we don’t want to criticize someone going through it. But we also recall Limbaugh having his great fun with Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease.
And we also recall Limbaugh’s years of painfully racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant remarks that have contributed so much to the national anger and divisiveness.
Maybe Haley could have save some of her “disgust” for those remarks, instead of mouthing her concern over Pelosi tearing up some paper.
And then there’s the Republican Senate president, Mitch McConnell. If he could find no fault with Trump after escaping the impeachment charade, he’s not going to start now.
But Pelosi tearing up papers?
“Perhaps,” McConnell said, with a little smirk playing on his lips, “she’ll tear up the Constitution the way she tore up the State of the Union speech.”
Again, with the comparison of the U.S. Constitution with anything uttered by Donald Trump!
Just for the record, here’s the difference between the two: the Constitution contains America’s Great Truths. When this president speaks, he tends to tell us Great Lies. He’s been clocked telling more than 16,000 lies or misleading statements – and that was before the State of the Union address.
And that speech alone – in less than 90 minutes – contained 31 “stretched facts and dubious figures,” according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker Analysis.
Like what? Like false Trump remarks about health care and pre-existing conditions, and the economy and jobs, and energy independence and “manufacturing establishments” that sound like production lines but are 80 percent places with a handful of employees, and …
And then, the day after Trump’s big speech, and two days after his impeachment escape, he gives this graceless speech in which he questions the religious devotion of Romney and Pelosi.
Romney, for voting his conscience.
Pelosi, for tearing up some paper.
Yeah, how low can a person go?
A former Baltimore Sun columnist and WJZ-TV commentator, Michael Olesker is the author of six books. His most recent, “Front Stoops in the Fifties: Baltimore Legends Come of Age,” was reissued in paperback by the Johns Hopkins University Press.