Shredding Trump’s State of the Union Speech 

Standing alongside Trump after he delivered his State of the Union speech, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tore her copy of the speech apart. Some say this was “childish.” Some say it was the behavior of “a sore loser.” Some say that it was counter-productive: that it only emphasized that the Democrats pursued a hopeless strategy, that Trump and his supporters outplayed them; that it only increased the chances that Trump will be reelected in November.      

Asked why she did it, Pelosi replied that the alternative would have been worse. What would the alternative have been? To stare stonily ahead? That would have elicited the same criticism without producing any positive effect. To smile politely and pretend that this was a normal president delivering a normal State of the Union speech, rather than the self-serving monologue of a dangerous megalomaniac, whose criminal behavior was stamped “We don’t care what he did” by all but one Republican senator? That’s what one might expect of a soulless, cynical, Trump hanger-on.

Trump’s speech will endure as a model of bad faith, mendaciousness, hatred, and cynical opportunism. It should have been torn up as soon as it was written. Tearing it up afterward was the next best thing.

After Trump was elected in 2016, the journalist Christiane Amanpour counseled, “Fight against the normalization of he unacceptable.” Trump is unacceptable. Trump’s speech was unacceptable. Tearing it up was the right thing to do, not only morally, but politically. People of good will must get it across to voters that Trump is unacceptable, that treating him otherwise is to foolishly indulge him, and that reelecting him would be to normalize the unacceptable as America’s way of being a nation. Pelosi’s speech-shredding helped make that point.