Nancy Pelosi has always projected a kind of uncanny composure, even remaining collected during the January 6 attack as armed insurrectionists stalked the halls of congress chanting her name. But she appeared rattled as she spoke to Anderson Cooper in a CNN interview Monday, discussing the recent assault on her husband at their San Francisco home: “I never thought it would be Paul,” she said, visibly emotional as she described Capitol police banging on her door to inform her of the October 28 attack. She still spoke like a leader concerned about the state of democracy and our political climate. But she also looked and sounded like an 82-year-old grandparent whose spouse was nearly killed with a hammer a week and a half ago, which she is. “I’ve been close to tears a number of times in this conversation,” she told Cooper, suggesting that the attack on her husband may influence decisions about her political future. “I think I’ve done very well in containing that. But, of course, I’m sad because of my husband.” The attack, she said, was traumatizing enough. But even more disconcerting was the way the right has “made a joke of it.”
“That,” Pelosi told Cooper, “has to stop.”
But at the same time Pelosi was calling for “unity,” Donald Trump was on the rally stage espousing the same dangerous rhetoric that led to the attack in the first place. “I think she’s an animal,” the former president said of Pelosi during an Ohio campaign event, interrupting a rant about the MS-13 drug cartel to rail against the House Speaker for having twice impeached him. “They’ll say, ‘What a horrible thing — he called Nancy Pelosi an animal,’” Trump continued. “Let me tell you. What she does to this country, and what she did, and the turmoil…”
The comments were weren’t exactly surprising. A day earlier, Trump paused a rant about “crazy Nancy Pelosi” to ask the crowd: “How is she doing lately?”
Trump has no low, but his dehumanizing rhetoric about the House Speaker — and that of those who shared the stage with him Monday — made clear that while Paul Pelosi may now be on the long road to recovery, the nation is not.
A man like Trump doesn’t get elected in a healthy country, and certainly doesn’t continue to wield influence over it following his defeat, and absolutely doesn’t do so after attempting to overthrow the government in an attempt to reverse that loss. But here we are. Not only has the country failed to reckon with Trump and the antidemocratic forces he’s unleashed; his party seems poised to make gains in the midterm elections, and he is getting ready to launch his bid to return to power. “I’m going to be making a very big announcement on Tuesday, November 15th,” Trump told the Ohio rally crowd, “at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.”
The crowd cheered the teased announcement, just as they cheered his “animal” line against Pelosi. He basked in the applause. But there didn’t seem to be much joy in any of it — only the nihilism and darkness that has always been at the heart of Trump and Trumpism, a politics that can only sneer at the kind of humanity Pelosi couldn’t help but display as reflected on her husband’s attack and what it may portend for the future. “It’s really sad for the country that people of that high visibility would separate themselves from the facts and the truth in such a blatant way,” Pelosi told Cooper. “It’s really sad, and it is traumatizing to those affected by it. They don’t care about that, obviously, but it’s destructive to the unity that we want to have in our country. But I don’t have anything to say to them. I mean, we have nothing, there would be no common ground to have any conversation with them.”
“Right now, it’s time for healing,” she told Cooper. “I’m just not in a place where I’m ready to talk about what comes next.”