Nancy Pelosi should have bitten her lip, not let rip at Donald Trump

PUBLISHED: 10:19 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 10:19 06 February 2020

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi  tears her copy of President Donald Trump's s State of the Union address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tears her copy of President Donald Trump's s State of the Union address after he delivered it to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday

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Watching the most powerful woman in Washington rip up Donald Trump’s state of the nation speech behind him made me wince.

Tracy Brabin was criticised for wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in the CommonsTracy Brabin was criticised for wearing an off-the-shoulder dress in the Commons

What was Congress speaker Nancy Pelosi thinking?

The woman who carries the most political clout in US history, carving her way through the old boys' club on Capitol Hill to the top by merit and hard work, is so much better than that. Cleverer, skilful and more dignified than ripping up a speech in a display of pantomime.

The gesture of destroying his address - more campaign speech than measured address - was always going to be interpreted (by men) as a petulant outburst and hung on the fact that she was female. To be used against her, and every other female getting on with their jobs.

It is difficult to contain anger and outrage in the face of someone or something you consider scandalous. It's one of the hardest things to control.

My face speaks my thoughts before my mouth unless I consciously arrange my features. I struggle every day to disguise what I'm thinking.

But destroying adversaries, and those who make your skin crawl, with devastating wit and rhetoric manners, while maintaining good manners and courtesy, is not only impressive, admirable and intelligent, but has deeper longer-lasting effects.

Pelosi is an incredible woman who needs to prove nothing to anyone. She has won a reputation for being able to get under Trump's skin by her wit and eloquence.

Trump's snub of her outstretched hand as he took to the stage was rude and ignorant, more than likely deliberately intending to incite her ire and ruffle her composure.

Challenging rudeness and showing up ill-mannered behaviour by responding with dignity is the only retort. Stooping to his level with ill manners and more rudeness is never clever and did her no favours.

Shaking her head and looking like she was sucking on a lemon throughout his delivery, and then destroying the pages in a pantomime gesture demeaned her and what she was trying to achieve.

It diminished her position, achievements and intelligence, and handed easy ammunition to her opponents, along with misogynists and chauvinists worldwide.

Her contempt could have been demonstrated much more subtly and effectively, by keeping it all in and then, with her customary sharpness and boldness, using the remarkable "skill, tenacity, toughness and vision" credited to her by President Barack Obama to diminish him with words.

Pelosi's skills as speaker and her ability to stand her ground have always been her key weapons.

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As Obama said: "Her ability to stand her ground and do hard things and to suffer unpopularity to get the right thing done… stands up against any person that I've observed or worked directly with in Washington during my lifetime."

Pelosi described her actions as the courteous thing to do…. considering the alternative.

Her tweet defending her move, over a picture of Mr Trump declining to shake her hand: "Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done #ForThePeople. We will work to find common ground where we can but will stand our ground where we cannot."

Would Trump have refused her outstretched had she been a man?

Rise above it was the best advice I was ever given to deal with rudeness.

Never give away that you're rattled. Smile and nod, and then fire a belittling retort, delivered with measure and grace.

Then, out of sight, in private, rip up the speech and stamp on it.

n Meanwhile, in our Parliament, shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin was at the despatch box raising a point of order on Number 10's ban on some senior journalists from a Brexit briefing.

No one remembers what she said because her erudite points were drowned out by a Twitter flurry of revolting insults about her smart black dress drooping off her shoulder.

Her wide-neck dress sloped off her shoulder and she instantly became a slag, hungover, a tart, slapper, drunk and looking like she'd just been "banged over a wheelie bin."

A regular target for this kind of abuse, she described the treatment as the "everyday sexism" by "Pot Noodle"-munching trolls who attack women in the public eye every day.

How can we be living in a time when an accidentally displayed shoulder is met by bile-filled attacks and the misogyny - let's never forget David Cameron's dismissive "calm down, dear" to MP Angela Eagle and the hoots of laughter from the men - falling asleep in the Commons, Jacob Rees Mogg lounging arrogantly on the front benches and insults is accepted?

Northumbria University literary academic Professor Katy Shaw tweeted: "If I had a quid for every time someone had commented on what I wore rather than what I said... This rarely happens to men - calling it out is the only way to educate."

Ms Brabin was raising a point of order in the Commons on Downing Street's decision to order senior journalists from some of the UK's major news organisations to leave before a briefing on Boris Johnson's Brexit plans when she spoke at the despatch box wearing the outfit.

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