Was it disrespectful?
Of course it was disrespectful.
And my hunch is intentionally disrespectful. I don’t think it was a spur of the moment, act-of-passion moment. I think it was carefully planned. She was expecting an act of disrespect. In turn, she was going to demand respect.
Several years ago, I was a part of a group of citizens that arranged to meet with the then governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn. Prior to his election he had agreed to meet regularly with us as a way to be accountable to the promises he had made in support of some initiatives in our communities. We had met with him a couple of times before and he had always been late. He was scheduled to speak at one of our assemblies. He was late, an hour late. On this particular occasion, we had arranged to meet on the top floor the Thompson building in downtown Chicago. It was the “governor’s floor.” We had made a special request to him to honor our time; we were working people who had taken time off from our job and had to travel downtown from the suburbs to meet with him. Our time was as valuable as his. Except that, apparently, in his mind it wasn’t. We sat in the designated room for 20 minutes after the appointed meeting time and began to talk about what we should do. We decided to wait until half past the hour and if he wasn’t there we would leave. At 3:30 we got up from the table in the meeting room and moved toward the hallway.
About that time, the governor and his entourage appeared at the other end of the hallway. “What’s going on here?” he blustered.
“We’re leaving. Our meeting was scheduled to start a half hour ago and you’re late. Our time is as valuable as yours.”
He blew up, shouting expletives, “Who do you think I am? I’m the governor of Illinois. You don’t walk out of a meeting with me!”
One of our leaders quietly responded, “Governor, you are 30 minutes late. Our time is as valuable as yours. You have had a pattern of arriving late, so we specifically asked you to make it to this meeting on time. We demand that you respect us and our time.” In the end, he calmed down, apologized, and we went on to have a productive meeting.
Respect is a two-way street.
If the tearing up of the speech manuscript was one bookend for the State of the Union speech, the other was the very intentional and obvious snubbing of the Speaker of the House by refusing to shake her hand. Those kinds of official greetings are part of the protocol and liturgy of The State of the Union speech. To skip that protocol was also no accident and was as calculated as was Pelosi’s tearing up of the speech. The President’s disrespect is one more example of a man whose stock in trade is disrespect. He has a long history of disrespecting women by objectifying them and demeaning them, part of a larger pattern of disrespect that includes calling his political opponents names, mocking disabled persons, referring to certain countries as sh*thole countries and the list goes on and on.
Respect is a two-way street.