Washington • When people ask me about my work or comment on it, there is one word that always makes me bristle.
When I wrote about George W. Bush relying on souped-up intelligence to invade Iraq, people would ask, “Why do you hate W.?”
When I wrote about how Barack Obama was hampered as president by his disdain for politicking, people would ask, “Why do you hate Obama?”
When I wrote about Hillary Clinton’s flaws as a candidate, people would ask, “Why do you hate Hillary?”
I hid my irritation by making a joke: “I don’t hate politicians. I save strong emotions like that for my ex-boyfriends.”
But I’ve thought about the word “hate” a lot. Not, as Nancy Pelosi said, in relation to being Catholic. But in relation to being a woman.
The reason it upset me was that it seemed like a way to undercut legitimate concerns I had about the behavior of a president or would-be president by suggesting that strong emotions were clouding my judgment. It’s not that they are doing something wrong; it’s that you are an overwrought female.
It evoked the old trope that women are vengeful and hysterical — a word derived from the Greek word for womb. (This is the same sexist trope Donald Trump played into when he rebutted my criticisms of him during the 2016 campaign by tweeting that I was “wacky” and “neurotic.”)
So I understood why reporter James Rosen got under the speaker’s skin when he asked if her declaration that the House would draw up impeachment articles was inspired by the irrational rather than the rational.
She wore white but she saw red.
When Rosen asked, “Do you hate the president, Madam Speaker?” Pelosi wagged her finger and retorted, “I don’t hate anybody.”
With more to say, she strode back to the microphones: “As a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone. I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love and always pray for the president.” Before walking off, she delivered the coup de grâce to a chastened Rosen: “So don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”
Within the hour, the president had predictably tweet-trashed her, saying she had “a nervous fit,” returning to the threadbare canard of women as hysterics. He said he did not believe that Pelosi prayed for him.
But she does. I talked to her about it in August, when she was still keeping impeachment at bay, after we visited the chapel at Trinity Washington University, where she went to college.
She said that she prays for the president at night in her apartment in Georgetown and in church on Sunday. “The prayer,” she said, “is that God will open his heart to meet the needs of the American people.”
She said that she even complained to her pastor that her prayers were not working.
“Maybe you’re not praying hard enough,” the priest replied.
The last week was a tale of three tantrums: one justified, one unjustified and one just what we expect.
Pelosi’s upbraiding was effective because it wasn’t someone whining or feeling sorry for herself. It was someone laying down the law — without worrying that a man would label her a virago or harridan or termagant. Nervous Nancy? Hardly. She was more like John Wayne, minus the racism and colonialism.
In Iowa, meanwhile, surly Joe Biden erupted at an 83-year-old retired farmer who brought up Hunter Biden’s nepotistic payday from a Ukrainian energy company. The farmer had his facts twisted, mistakenly claiming that Biden had “sent” his son to work in Ukraine to sell “access” to the president.
Biden’s friend John McCain had a blazing temper, but he set the template for how to handle an older Midwestern voter who has the facts bollixed up — firmly but politely.
Biden’s outburst — “You’re a damn liar, man,” he snapped — showed that he still thinks any questions about his son’s windfalls while he was vice president are out of line — even though Hunter Biden himself has acknowledged using “poor judgment.”
It also showed that he has no answer for something that’s bound to be a big part of the general campaign, since it is at the heart of the crazy Rudy-Donny conspiracy theory that provoked the impeachment drive. If Biden can’t handle an 83-year-old retired farmer without losing his cool, how can he handle a 73-year-old piranha?
Withholding $400 million in military aid to a fledging democracy under attack from Russia is in a different universe than making a quick buck off the Washington influence machine. But that farmer is not the only voter who feels a little queasy about Biden not stopping his son from making a money grab in Ukraine while the vice president was pushing the Ukrainians to be less corrupt.
Trump’s trans-Atlantic pout after learning that the other world leaders were caught on tape mocking him as prolix was typical but still pathetic.
He brings to mind the paradox of Cassandra. Her gift was that she could see into the future, but her curse was that no one believed her. Trump’s triumph is that he has sought attention his whole life, and now he can command all the attention in the world. But his curse is that the attention he attracts is largely ridicule and repulsion.
Fortunately for the president, one person in Washington is praying for him.
Maureen Dowd is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.