House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Trump today, suggesting that his upcoming State of the Union Address -- scheduled for January 29th -- ought to be postponed until after the partial government shutdown is over. Pelosi cites "security concerns" related to the temporary lack of funding for US Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security, implying that speech attendees might be unsafe due to the budget impasse. Here is Pelosi's missive in full:
Pelosi wants to reschedule Trump’s SOTU this year until after the government is re-opened pic.twitter.com/ab2ludmxj5— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) January 16, 2019
Notice how Pelosi quotes the DHS Secretary to bolster her argument, which is an interesting choice, given Pelosi's total disregard for DHS' insistence that new border barriers are essential to protecting American sovereignty. Indeed, when Sec. Nielsen attempted to give Pelosi a detailed briefing on her department's reasoning, the Speaker reportedly cut her off and refused to listen. Furthermore, the notion that Secret Service and law enforcement professionals are somehow incapable of fulfilling their duties, even amid a protracted partisan fight that's delaying their paychecks, is absurd. If this is Pelosi's view, let her say so outright, rather than by insinuation. (Update: Pelosi's office reportedly didn't even reach out to the relevant agencies before declaring her bogus "security concerns").
Pelosi has also left herself wide open to a Trump rejoinder that the multimillionaire Democratic leader appears more concerned about her own personal security than the security of America's border, or the safety of those Americans who have been victimized by hundreds of thousands of criminals who've repeatedly exploited our porous border to enter and re-enter the country unlawfully. The truth is that this is a political play that has nothing to do with the ability of Secret Service and Congress' police force to protect the US Capitol building and its occupants. Pelosi doesn't want to offer the president an enormous platform from which to advance his arguments and inevitably blame Democrats for their refusal to negotiate or compromise.
Trump should respond to the postponement idea with the back of his hand, informing the Speaker that he intends to take her up on her invitation as planned. He might use this occasion to note that she chose to initially extend it during the shutdown, and emphasizing that there would be no need to postpone anything, including reopening a fraction of the federal government, if Democrats would actually engage in substantive talks to reach a compromise. If Pelosi decides to formally cancel the invitation, that's her decision. Force her to make it. And if she does, perhaps a new venue for the annual address could be found:
Some conservatives are encouraging Trump to accept Pelosi's proposal that the president should simply submit his speech in writing, and be done with it. Quite a few politicos loathe this yearly spectacle, calling it a silly pageant that should be permanently deep-sixed. I don't much mind the tradition, if we're being honest, even it's packed full of grandstanding and unserious theater. Regardless, no president -- let alone this one -- would blithely forego an opportunity to deliver an hourlong, nationally-televised speech about his or her accomplishments and plans for the future. The atmospherics are too "presidential," and the platform too large, to relinquish. It's a pipe dream.
As things stand, Republicans are holding the short straw in this showdown. Most voters understandably blame the president for the ongoing fight, which is why unified Democrats are standing behind Pelosi's "no negotiations until the shutdown ends" posture, even as some wobble and worry behind the scenes. I offered a potential way out of the quagmire yesterday, but that would require the Speaker to publicly agree in principle to providing significant extra funding for new physical barriers when negotiations resume. Thus far, she keeps saying that she won't give a dime for that purpose in any context, even as many within her party have said they're willing to fund new fences or walls. I'll leave you with two questions: (1) What's up with this Politico-reported detail that Democrats have been mulling some sort of delay on the State of the Union "for months"? The shutdown hasn't yet lasted one month:
Publicly, Democrats plan to argue that the parties need to focus on addressing the shutdown, now the longest in U.S. history. But privately, they also don’t want to give Trump a major platform to blame them for the shutdown when Trump’s demand for billions in wall funding has been the main driver, according to a Democratic lawmaker close to leadership. Staff have been discussing the idea of postponing the State of the Union for months, with some expressing concern about scheduling travel plans for lawmakers and guests as well.
Yes, Obama & D's also punted on immigration during their yrs of unified control, only resurrecting deep concerns when they had a foil to attack/blame. So what? That dynamic made Obama's subsequent unilateral power grabs look cynical & partisan. Same applies here. Clean hit. https://t.co/1QsdIxkgzc— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 16, 2019
UPDATE - Here's my analysis on Fox earlier today: