U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dropped by the newspaper Monday and generously gave us more than an hour of her time to talk about the issues of the day, both legislative and political.
She opened by noting it was Presidents Day, which indeed it was. About 40 minutes later, it struck me that Pelosi, in town as part of a Texas swing to rally the Democratic troops for this year’s elections, seemed to have trouble saying the name of our current president.
This revelation occurred to me as Pelosi, D-Liberalville, was answering a question from my colleague Jonathan Tilove.
“So here’s the thing,” she said. “I wish the election were today because we would win today.”
Then she talked a little more and then she pinpointed her cause for optimism.
“When number 45 became president of the United States …,” she said just before I interrupted her.
“You really don’t like to say Trump. I’m getting a pattern here,” I said. (I’m pretty good about being quick to detect patterns. For example, I’m starting to think our current president is a tad different.)
Pelosi assured me she had no trouble with saying Trump. No, she said, she has no trouble with that. “It’s to say President and Trump in the same” breath that’s the problem, she said.
The ex-speaker speaks for much of a concerned nation.
Sensing an outcry for help, I staged a one-columnist intervention to help Pelosi say the words she has trouble saying: “Come on, try it. It’ll be OK.”
And she did and it was, though she quickly fell back into the previous pattern. Some habits are difficult to break. Some you don’t want to break.
“When President Trump became president… ,” she said in prefacing her next line of thought. “As I said, I’m a respectful person. More respectful of this office than he is. And, by the way, you know who tells us every day that he should not be president? You know who tells us every single day, who knows better than anyone that Trump should not be president?”
Pelosi then answered her own question: “Forty-five,” she said, referring to the number our 45th president has monogrammed on the cuffs of some of his shirts. “Every day. Right? More than once a day sometimes. Tweet city.”
Earlier in the visit to the paper, Pelosi, with disdain, told of the first thing Trump said to her and other congressional leaders during their first meeting after he became president.
“We’re sitting at the table, and where will he begin? Will he quote our founders? Will he quote the Bible? (Tell us) what inspiration he has had?” Pelosi recalled.
Nope, she said. He went with what you’d expect him to: “You know I won the popular vote.”
(Fact check: Hillary Clinton won 65,853,516 votes ― 48.2 percent ― compared with Trump’s 62,984,825 votes ― 46.1 percent, according to the official results compiled by the Federal Election Commission and released Jan. 30, 2017. Fiction check: Trump claims millions of people voted illegally. There’s no evidence of that.)
Also during the Monday session, Pelosi told me I’m dead wrong about my theory that lots of congressional Republicans, while publicly backing Trump, privately think he’s something of an oddball, possibly a dangerously odd ball.
“They love him,” she said. “He’s their guy.”
She said my question was one she gets on daily basis. She resorted to a dramatic whisper to make her point: “When are Republicans going to” acknowledge the weirdness of Trump?
“Never,” Pelosi said in a barely audible whisper.
She said she thought about Trump the other night when a certain song came on in a Houston restaurant. Again speaking for a nation, she noted how Trump that day had claimed personal exoneration in the federal indictments alleging Russian meddling in his improbable 2016 election victory.
“It’s not about you,” Pelosi recalled thinking. “You’re the president of the United States. You’re the commander in chief. An assault has been made on our country. It’s not about you. It’s about the United States of America.”
That was in her mind when that certain song came on in that Houston restaurant, reminding us that God sometimes speaks to us via background music and Carly Simon.
“They had this song on just as he was saying that,” Pelosi said, leading into the lyrics. “’You’re so vain. I guess you think this song is about you.’”
“It’s not about you,” Pelosi repeated. “It’s about you a little bit. Well, we’ll see if it’s about you.”
And for Democrats this year, it is all about him, she said.
“God has blessed us this time with so much enthusiasm, so much urgency. People see the urgency. They want to take responsibility. That gives us opportunity,” she said. “Right now, today, we would win. But the election isn’t today so we have to put one good day in front of another.”
The opportunity is great. But, as a sage of old once said, the Democrats rarely see a great opportunity they can’t screw up.