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I understand that television appearances are a bit different in the current era. They’re not so much different that they explain Nancy Pelosi’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
Pelosi was on the show to talk about all anyone on the Sunday shows wanted to talk about, which was the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Friday.
The big news from the interview was that — presumably in part to maintain some semblance of relevance for the House in the run-up to the election — she told host George Stephanopoulos that the lower chamber has “arrows in its quiver” to stop whoever the president nominates in the Senate to replace Ginsburg.
“We have a responsibility,” Pelosi told Stephanopoulos. “We’ve taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. We have a responsibility to meet the needs of the American people. When we weigh the equities of protecting our democracy, that requires us to use every arrow in our quiver.”
However, few outlets reported directly on what she said shortly afterward, when the host asked to clarify that she “was not taking any arrows out of your quiver.”
If you haven’t seen her answer either live or on social media since then, I know what you’re thinking. You’re about to push the back button on your browser. You’re operating under the misapprehension she sputtered through some non-answer answer and we’re asking whether that means if she “suffered cognitive failure during live TV interview,” using Pelosi’s strange gaffes in the past as a launchpad.
Watch and see what you think:
— Matt Christiansen (@MLChristiansen) September 20, 2020
“Good morning. Sunday morning,” Pelosi said, smiling in a very specific way that suggested she was ready for her closeup, Mr. DeMille.
I mean, apparently it was a good morning on Sunday morning in Washington, the District of Columbia, with the temperature in the 60s, going up to 70 with partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze going.
It was the perfect brisk early fall day in our nation’s capital to walk around the Tidal Basin with a nice sweater and the Airpods in and a nice autumnal album cued up — say, maybe some Simon and Garfunkel, John Coltrane or Wilco. Go home, make yourself a nice cup of cinnamon chai and watch the sun set over your Georgetown block.
She wasn’t asked that, however. She was asked whether she was taking any arrows out of her quiver.
To preempt any of the email I’m going to get: Firstly, no, she almost certainly wasn’t receiving different audio in her earpiece at the time or thought the interview was over. If she was receiving different audio, it would have to be audio that was infelicitously synchronized with Stephanopoulos’ question.
Second, no, she didn’t misunderstand the question; you don’t become speaker of the House by answering a question on live TV that you don’t understand — at least not if you still possess some vague facsimile of the acumen that got you there.
And finally, no, this wasn’t out of context. Here’s the full interview; I’ve cued it up to the moment where she starts in on the “arrows in our quiver” response, roughly a minute and a half before she has what a Mac user might refer to as a “kernel panic“:
Now, it’s possible that Pelosi was joking — that she didn’t appreciate being pressed for an answer on a sensitive topic when she’d just given what she probably hoped was a base-covering response.
But plenty of Twitter users had a less charitable view, openly wondering whether she’d suffered cognitive failure during the interview:
Did Pelosi just have a stroke or something? What happened here? As per the full clip (right below original tweet) this was not edited… https://t.co/xWEZrDIP7x
— Dave Rubin (@RubinReport) September 20, 2020
This is so uncomfortable to watch….And confusing. It’s like something is malfunctioning. https://t.co/Yj7n3hdtda
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) September 21, 2020