We recently discussed the highly inappropriate conduct of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in changing the traditional greeting of a president at the State of the Union, engaging in facial demonstrations of disapproval behind the President during the address, and ripping up the address in protest of the president from the Speaker’s chair. The outrageous conduct shattered decades of tradition of Speakers remaining neutral as representatives of the entire House, not just their own party. CNN’s chief media correspondent Brian Stelter, however, sees no pressing issue of principle or propriety. The only most pressing question for Stelter was whether it worked and he praised Pelosi for stealing the media attention at any cost. He is not alone in the coverage. This purely consequentialist view of the issues is precisely why we are living through this age of rage. The measure of Pelosi’s shocking conduct is simply whether it worked to dominate the coverage.
The analysis on CNN quickly brushed over the fact that Pelosi’s conduct was rude and disrespectful. It did not matter whether it is appropriate for a speaker to adopt a purely partisan stance and abandon the tradition of neutrality. Instead, Stelter declared
“It was unprecedented behavior for a speaker, aggressively rude and unapologetically meant to rile up her base. It was divisive, but effective. It took the Democrats three years, but they may have finally figured out how to control a news cycle in the Trump era.”
In other words, Pelosi finally “figured out how to control a news cycle” by abandoning all sense of tradition and propriety as Speaker. What is interesting is the he, and others, are celebrating Pelosi acting like Trump while denouncing how Trump acts. He then simply brushed aside the correctness of the conduct:
“Ripping up a piece of paper is only a big story if members of the media decide to make it a big story, and if members of the public respond by reading and watching and reacting. Whether these attention-grabbing tactics are in the best interest of the country, well, that’s a debate that requires more than one TV segment worth of time. Producers would rather move on to the next controversy instead.”
Would this have been the take on the story if a Republican speaker had refused to appropriately greet President Barack Obama, made faces behind his back, and then ripped up his address at the end of the State of the Union with the President standing before her?
Various shoes on MSNBC and CNN instead seemed to share the thrill of Pelosi using her position to denigrate and disrespect the President. It is treated not as a matter of ethics but solely one of effectiveness.