President Donald Trump on Wednesday night tweeted what he must have felt was an effective zinger against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The two had been part of a meeting earlier that day on the withdrawal of US troops from Syria, which got so heated that Democrats in attendance ended up walking out. Pelosi told reporters the president had a meltdown and said we have to pray for his health.
Later on Wednesday, Trump tweeted a photo of Pelosi chastising him at the meeting, calling it Nervous Nancys unhinged meltdown.
However, Nervous Nancy is not what a lot of people saw in the photo. Instead, they saw a lone woman standing up to a roomful of men, giving them a piece of her mind. Soon, #PelosiOwnsTrump was trending on Twitter. The House speaker made the photo her Twitter cover image.
Asked about the photo at a press conference on Thursday, Pelosi said that during the meeting in question, shed voiced concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putins influence over Trump and his foreign policy. At the moment the photo was taken, she said, I was probably saying, all roads lead to Putin.
Pelosi on "meltdown" pic Trump posted of their meeting: "I think I was excusing myself from the room."Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 17, 2019
Says she shared concerns "about all roads leading to Putin, & if POTUS is saying, 'I said during the campaign I was going to take the troops home,' then is home Saudi Arabia?" pic.twitter.com/8gxorAf5Uh
Of course, the photo may have played well with Trumps most ardent supporters. But the fact that Pelosi was able to use it so easily to her advantage is yet more evidence of a weakness with Trumps approach a lot of his alpha-male bullying tactics just dont work very well on women. Unable to impugn their masculinity, Trump usually goes for attacks on their appearance or implying that theyre mentally ill. But women who have managed to attain positions of power in American society are used to these tactics and, as Pelosi showed, theyre often more than capable of using Trumps insults to their own advantage.
Trump met with Pelosi and other Democratic leaders Wednesday to talk about the situation in Syria, where the presidents decision to withdraw troops has left key US allies vulnerable to attack by Turkish forces, and sparked criticism among Democrats and Republicans alike, as Voxs Ella Nilsen and Li Zhou explain.
The meeting quickly became contentious, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that Democrats walked out after Trump called Pelosi a third-rate politician.
I pray for the president all the time and I tell him that, Pelosi said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, after the meeting. I pray for his safety and that of his family. Now we have to pray for his health, because this was a very serious meltdown on the part of the president.
Trump tweeted the photo that evening, presumably to show that it was Pelosi, not him, who had a meltdown.
But for a lot of people, the photo instead made Pelosi look brave and strong standing up and speaking up, as Republican strategist Ana Navarro-Crdenas put it, to Trump and the other men at the table.
I hope this picture of Nancy Pelosi, the sole woman at the table, standing-up and speaking-up, inspires other bad-ass women to run for office. pic.twitter.com/MQoIvCo4NJAna Navarro-Crdenas (@ananavarro) October 17, 2019
The term badass came up a lot.
Democratic strategist Christine Pelosi, the speakers daughter, noted that shed seen this side of her mom before.
And the speaker made clear what she thought of the photo when she made it her Twitter cover image.
The presidents attempt to shame Pelosi likely worked among his base. But for most other Americans, it backfired. That should come as no surprise, given Trumps track record with powerful women.
As Ive written before, Trumps strategy in confrontations with men is often to question their masculinity he called Marco Rubio Little Marco and made fun of Jeb Bushs supposedly low energy. Its a style hes likely developed in a long career in male-dominated spaces, from the military academy where he went to school to the heavily male real estate development business to the Hollywood sets where he bragged about being able to grab women by the pussy.
But that strategy doesnt work on women, so Trump usually tries to invade their personal space, insult their appearance, or, as in the case of Nervous Nancy, insinuate that they are mentally ill or unstable. Any woman whos gotten to where Pelosi is now, though, has had to put up with being called crazy a time or two. Except with people already primed to applaud Trumps misogyny, the strategy is doomed to fail.
Of course, Trump still won the 2016 election. But it wasnt because of his ability to square off with Hillary Clinton in one-on-one confrontation most Americans thought she won the debates. And while Pelosi has taken plenty of criticism for her handling of Trump over the years, especially around impeachment, Trumps latest attempt to paint her as having a meltdown only increased her support.
Its a reminder as the country enters the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries with questions about whether a woman can beat Trump still circulating among the media and the public: Most of Trumps tactics were honed over a lifetime of sparring and posturing with men. When he goes up against a woman instead, hes out of his element and it shows.