Typically when wealthy socialites assume a semi-circular formation and air their disagreements on national television, it’s for a “Real Housewives” reunion. Indeed, the only real difference between a housewives reunion and Tuesday’s White House meeting on border security is that everyone in the Oval Office was actually married.
Keeping with that theme, the summit basically functioned as a post-midterm season reunion special, as President Trump, Vice President Pence, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer bickered over what happened and debated how best to move forward. Trump channeled the confident sass of Nene Leakes, dishing out one-liners and biting retorts. Like Bethenny Frankel, he showed up with receipts in the form of print-outs on border security statistics. It’s an effective tactic, whether on Bravo or C-SPAN.
Pelosi gave off Carole Radziwill vibes: so over the Trump show but also still so deeply irritated by it. Schumer is tougher to categorize, but his calculated entrees into the debate recalled Lisa Vanderpump’s coy strategizing. Like eternal moderator Andy Cohen during an impossible-to-moderate blow-up, Pence melted into the background, head swiveling with the rhythm of a spectator at the U.S. Open. There was wild hand gesturing, questions from the audience, and competitive crosstalk. The wardrobes probably could have been better.
When Pelosi lamented the conversation’s turn, hoping to settle the more sensitive conflicts off-camera, Trump kicked back, “It’s not bad, Nancy. It’s called transparency.” Don’t be surprised if that line surfaces verbatim on Bravo someday. It should be a memorable dig. Aside from capturing the president’s ability to improvise punchy soundbites, it also captures a key feature of Trumpism.
Pelosi and Schumer kept urging Trump to save the meat of the debate for a private conversation. Trump, recognizing the political benefits of going toe-to-toe over border issues with Democratic leadership on television, kept pushing. What he brings to our politics may not be authentic transparency. There’s always more said behind closed doors. But Trump’s instinct to fight staid political conventions is an important part his appeal.
There’s nothing people hate more than “politics as usual,” which is not at all to say voters universally love Trump’s unusual politics. But juxtaposed with the alternative, sometimes it’s easy to see how his exasperation with talking points and tradition has appeal outside the Beltway.
Real housewives literally study before reunion specials. They know what was said, who said it, how they said it, where they said it. Most everyone has carefully anticipated their nemeses’ lines of attack long before a single eyelash is applied. But when the show inevitably devolves into chaos, nobody sticks to her script—and not for lack of trying.
The glimmer of raw conflict that bubbled in the Oval Office on Tuesday was more cathartic than corrosive, an opportunity for the public to see how the border is being negotiated without having to sift through insufferable spin spun by professional spinners. To be perfectly clear, our politics should not resemble a “Real Housewives” reunion. For that, there’s not enough body shimmer in Washington. But there is something to be said about seeing more of the process than less of it, and knowing more about our politicians than less of them.