Trump and Pelosi’s desperate fight for the hearts and minds of the future

From tearing up speeches to spinning ever more fabulous yarns, the speaker and the president are locked in a titanic struggle for the judgement of posterity. Phil Thomas explains

Wednesday 19 February 2020 14:53 GMT
That’s torn it ... Pence applauds as Pelosi tears up Trump’s State of the Union address
That’s torn it ... Pence applauds as Pelosi tears up Trump’s State of the Union address (AP)

In their new book on the Trump administration, A Very Stable Genius, the reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig describe the first encounter between the newly elected president’s inner circle and the leaders of congress. Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, was an object of particular fascination to the incoming team.

The Washington Post journalists relate that Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist at the time, saw her as “Katharine Hepburn from The Lion in Winter – who looks up and down the table and thinks to herself, ‘These men are all clowns,’ and plots her return to power”.

In the film, Hepburn played Eleanor of Aquitaine, wife of the English king Henry II and, in her own right, one of the most powerful figures in medieval Europe. It’s appropriate that Bannon saw Pelosi in historical terms. The House Speaker appears to have an acute sense of how the all-consuming rough and tumble of everyday politics will gradually coalesce into the smooth narrative of history.

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