This was excerpted from the September 3 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
(CNN)Nancy Pelosi will never live this one down.
The Democratic House speaker was captured on security footage — leaked to Fox News — inside a San Francisco hair salon not wearing a mask, even though the city’s Covid-19 restrictions only allow service outside. Cue a gleeful eruption from conservative media and from President Donald Trump himself, who slammed her for not wearing a mask “despite constantly lecturing everyone else.”Pelosi comes across as a hypocrite, since she has frequently rebuked Trump for undermining government advice on masks. Her office’s excuse that her face was uncovered only when she got her hair washed and that she had been told by someone at the salon that it was OK to come inside was pretty half baked. The speaker herself says she was “set up.”Is this the worst political transgression ever — on a par with Trump ignoring a pandemic that has killed 184,000 Americans or coaxing a foreign power to interfere in the election? Of course not. Democratic spinners will lash the media for ripping this out of proportion, as with their tiresome complaints about coverage of Hillary Clinton’s emails. But politics is as much about perception as policy. And Pelosi handed Republicans a gift, since conservatives love to demonize her as a rich socialist who passes laws infringing the freedom of Americans that she ignores herself. Worse, the incident will further politicize mask wearing, one of the few current ways to slow America’s disastrous pandemic.Salon-gate is a classic campaign brouhaha, apparently confirming an existing negative stereotype about the politician caught in the trap. It’s a reminder that in campaign season — and for any politician not named Donald Trump — even the slightest slip can be catastrophic.Read MoreTrump’s campaign used Clinton’s reference to his supporters being “deplorables” as a campaign-defining attack. President Barack Obama was haunted by a 2008 remark that working class voters in the Rust Belt “get bitter, (and) cling to guns or religion.” And Republican Mitt Romney’s leaked comment in 2012 that 47% of Americans paid no income tax and lived off the government played into the impression that he was a heartless vulture capitalist.Pelosi’s mask slip won’t decide the election. But each of the remaining 61 days of the campaign that Trump’s handling of the pandemic is not the issue is a win for the President.In this screengrab from security footage obtained by Fox News, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is seen inside a San Francisco hair salon.’This is playing with fire’US Attorney General William Barr just gave a big boost to Trump’s false claims that mail-in voting, an option that is attractive to many Americans as the pandemic rages, is steeped in massive fraud.“This is playing with fire,” Barr told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview. The top US law enforcement official also doubled down on his claim that foreign adversaries could dump large numbers of fraudulent ballots into the system. US intelligence officials have said there is no evidence of any such plot.Barr was speaking after Trump made his latest flagrant attempt to discredit an election in which he is trailing Biden two months out. Trump said North Carolinians should first vote by mail and then show up at their polling stations on November 3 and try to vote again. If they were flagged, it would prove that the system was in fact secure, he argued. Trump has consistently argued that mail-in voting is hopelessly corrupt. There’s no evidence to suggest that is the case.And by the way, voting twice is illegal.