Last week was dominated with pettiness and silliness, as President Trump responded to Speaker Pelosi's cheap 'State of the Union' stunt with some retaliatory theater of his own. Pelosi hid behind the Secret Service and DHS to raise bogus "security concerns," only to insult those very public servants when they contradicted her unfounded sloppiness. Then Trump foraged about for a hammer with which to clobber Pelosi in return, settling on the abrupt cancelation of an overseas trip. But since that display of mutual childishness, the president has made two smart plays: First, he adopted a constructive tone and approach in putting a compromise deal on the table over the weekend, making Democrats' preemptive rejection look small and stubborn. Even the Washington Post editorial board is starting to question Pelosi's posture as this impasse enters its second month. Democrats may not have been able to sign onto the entirety of Trump's BRIDGE Act-for-barriers exchange (these likely poison pills, intentional or not, would have needed to be addressed regardless), but at least it was a real effort to move from 'no' to 'yes.'
Second, as Katie mentioned yesterday, Trump has decided to press ahead with next week's regularly-scheduled State of the Union address, essentially calling Pelosi's bluff (see update). She's using the shutdown -- which she's taking zero realistic steps to end -- as a pretext to reschedule, but Trump is rightly pointing out that she extended the invitation for January 29th during the shutdown:
Nancy, I am still thinking about the State of the Union speech, there are so many options - including doing it as per your written offer (made during the Shutdown, security is no problem), and my written acceptance. While a contract is a contract, I’ll get back to you soon!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 20, 2019
That was Sunday. The White House forged ahead on Tuesday. Pelosi asked, Trump accepted, and now he's indicating that it's his intention to show up and give the speech as planned. This leaves Pelosi with two bad options: (1) Formally rescind the invitation and try to bar Trump from delivering the annual address inside the House chamber, as has become the longstanding tradition, or (2) back down, then devise some other method of undermining his message. The first route would represent an escalation of pettiness and an unusual breach of protocol -- neither of which may play terribly well with the public, especially against the backdrop of her staunch refusal to negotiate a compromise. The second route would look like a surrender, and would raise additional dilemmas about how to handle the resulting optics. Allahpundit sees pitfalls ahead:
If she attends she’ll be stuck sitting there silently with a camera trained on her while Trump blames her and Democrats for the shutdown. And it’ll be personally humiliating for her to have quasi-disinvited Trump from delivering the speech, had her bluff called, and then left with little choice but to dutifully attend and endure the speech anyway. So she probably won’t attend. But if she doesn’t, the empty chair in-frame over Trump’s shoulder while he makes his speech will reinforce all of the points he’s made about Democrats over the past month. They’re the ones who are being stubborn, not him. They hate him so much that they’ve let this become personal, illustrated by an unprecedented SOTU snub by the new Speaker. They’re so deep in the tank for illegals that they can’t stand to sit there and listen for an hour while he warns the country about the risks of crime from across the border. Bad optics either way...The likeliest scenario is that Democrats boycott the speech en masse, handing POTUS 72 solid hours of “Trump Derangement Syndrome” material about them in the aftermath.
AP also wonders whom the Democrats might hypothetically select to offer real-time counter-programming, assuming they wouldn't wait around for the typical post-SOTU response. A joint Pelosi/Schumer appearance didn't work out terribly well last time, and showing favoritism toward any of the 150 or so Congressional Democrats running for president would be an internal nightmare. Why not let AOC loose to rant about the 'immorality' of the existence of billionaires, inform voters that they're living in a hellish dystopia, and warn about the impending 2031 apocalypse? Perhaps she could offer additional commentary on her Democratic critics while she's at it. Come to think of it, maybe the Speaker is better off just grimacing her way through the presidential speech, for which she set the date and time earlier this month.
But what if Pelosi opts not to allow the requested SOTU walk-through, basically blocking Trump through bureaucratic and scheduling means? Does Trump take his motorcade down Pennsylvania Avenue, uninvited, and dare Pelosi to literally refuse him entry to the House chamber? Does she really want to risk that sort of ridiculous and totally unnecessary confrontation? I'll leave you with Mitch McConnell getting some extra mileage out of the WaPo editorial I linked above:
ICYMI, The Washington Post Editorial board had this to say about Democrats’ outright refusal to negotiate. pic.twitter.com/nJ7XMjwEC9— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) January 22, 2019
UPDATE - The gauntlet has officially been thrown, with Trump correctly noting right out of the gate that Pelosi's invitation was offered during the shutdown:
UPDATE II - Pelosi has informed Trump that he is no longer welcome to deliver the speech next week, effectively rescinding her invitation. This latest stunt underscores Pelosi's pettiness and partisanship. She is emerging as the number one obstacle to reopening the government. I hope the workers she claims to care about are impressed. The president will certainly give the speech elsewhere, and expect Republicans to pound away at this ridiculous episode. To recap:
1) Shutdown starts— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 23, 2019
2) Invite extended
3) Invite accepted
4) Invite questioned, based on bogus excuse
5) Invite acceptance reaffirmed
6) Invite rescinded
Pelosi appears to be spending much more time on SOTU stunts than any constructive/realistic steps toward ending shutdown. https://t.co/3l8eU7Tq9P