Having already extended the traditional invitation to the President to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29th before a joint session of Congress, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has today reversed course, asking Mr. Trump to cancel the annual address until such time as the government is re-opened.
While Pelosi claimed that her decision to revoke the invitation is based in her concern for the security of all who would be in attendance (the Secret Service traditionally takes the lead in the security arrangements and is currently staffed by agents who are not being paid as a result of the shutdown), few are accepting Pelosi’s rationale in retracting the invite.
Clearly, the Speaker does not want to provide the President with a prime-time opportunity to push his perspective of the government shutdown and to make his pitch for a wall along the southern border before what promises to be a large viewing audience.
Could the Speaker’s move be too clever by half?
While there are many things one can say about the President of the United States, few would suggest that he is anything less than a master when it comes to using unorthodox methods of communication to reach the American people.
So, why would the opportunity to take an alternative path to delivering the State of the Union address be any different?
All the president need do is provide his address to Congress in writing and then avail himself of the many venues and opportunities Mr. Trump has for delivering his speech. With Republicans in control of the Senate, one can expect an invitation to be forthcoming from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell making the Senate available to the President for purposes of delivering his address. Of course, Trump would also have the option of taking the State of the Union directly to the people via one of his staged rallies to be held in Trump Country, USA.
The options go on and on-some of which likely haven’t yet occurred to most of us.
Making it all the more more interesting is the reality that each possible venue the President might choose for his address now comes with the benefit of the additional hype Speaker Pelosi’s move will stimulate, and is likely to deliver the President just as good of an audience for his speech – if not better- than what he might have expected were he to deliver the address before the joint session of Congress.
If you are wondering if the President has the latitude to chose the time and place for delivering this speech outside of the walls of Congress, he most assuredly can.
The Constitution requires a president to provide Congress with an annual expression of the state of the union but it does not dictate how the President must do so. Indeed, 26 of our 45 presidents elected not give a state of the union speech, choosing instead to deliver their assessment in writing to the Congress.
So, why would Speaker Pelosi want to allow this President- who has been so adept at using new and old media to his advantage by upsetting the traditional means of communication-to gain an upper hand?
Remember when many of the “new blood” Democrats elected to Congress is 2018 were telling us that they would not vote to hand Pelosi the Speaker’s gavel because she was too “old school”?
This is what they were talking about.
The Speaker is so attuned to the way things have so long been done, she appears to have missed the fact that- for better or worse- there is nothing traditional about our current president.
Pelosi failed to consider that in giving President Trump an opportunity to buck the traditional approach to the State of the Union, she has, effectively, played right into his hands and allowed him the chance to do what Trump does best-screw with the established system.
Trump will give his State of the Union address and, in all likelihood, he will give it on the evening of January 29th. He will deliver his speech to a national audience as large or larger than what might have been expected were he obligated to stick with the traditional plan.
Where he will give the speech is an open question but you can be sure it will be in venue that the President believes will play to his benefit, all thanks to an unforced error on the part of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and anyone who told Mrs. Pelosi that this was, somehow, a clever idea.
Don’t be surprised when Ms. Pelosi reverses course, telling us that the Secret Service has convinced here that the security will be up to standards.
What the speaker will really be saying is that she thought better of this questionable plan and realized that she is better served by a president forced to perform inside her tent than she is by a president operating in a tent of his own choosing.
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