Thursday, January 24, 2019


Nancy Pelosi sent President Trump a letter yesterday making clear that she was serious about postponing the State of the Union address until after the government shutdown is over. Trump can't conceive of any woman hanging this tough against him -- or maybe he can't conceive of anyone, male or female, doing so -- so, according to CNN, he was caught flat-footed:
White House officials had believed Pelosi wanted only to postpone Trump's State of the Union for political reasons after she sent a letter to him last week asking him to delay the address until after the partial government shutdown ended. The plan from administration officials was to call her bluff by pressing forward with plans to deliver the speech, including a new letter on Wednesday that they hoped would force her hand. In that letter, Trump said he was planning on coming to the House chamber to deliver his address on Tuesday as planned, as he had been assured by Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security officials that there would be no problem providing security for the speech. Pelosi had initially cited security concerns as a reason to delay the speech.
So he wasn't prepared for the possibility that Pelosi might preempt his power move? Gosh, I thought we were told Trump was playing chess, not checkers.


Since Pelosi's initial rebuff, I've assumed that Trump would force the issue in the House chamber, or find an alternate venue for the speech, a decision that would inevitably be praised by right-wing media figures (as well as many mainstream journalists, who'd scold Pelosi for trashing tradition). There were alternate-venue fantasies on the right:

The White House pursued non-traditional approaches to the speech, CNN tells us, but nothing seemed quite right:
White House officials were hesitant to hold a campaign-style rally because they thought it wasn't formal enough to look like the traditional speech. Officials also recognized that it's harder to keep Trump on message during a rally, where he often feeds off the crowd, versus a more formal address. Officials noted that television networks rarely carry the rallies live.

The message Trump planned to deliver at the Capitol -- even one shaped around the shutdown -- would be much more tamped down than the President's usual rhetoric at a rally, where he often deviates from the script and works off the crowd.

It would also include other topic areas, like the economy and foreign policy, that might be hard to include in a speech on the border or in a political venue. And officials believe they have a positive message on both of those areas that they want to break through.

Some officials believed a rally would be seen as just another campaign speech, which they acknowledge people have started to tune out.
So the president blinked, writing on Twitter that he's not looking for an

Pelosi understood something I should have understood about Trump, because it's not exactly a secret:
... Trump harbors a very specific kind of class anxiety that’s rooted in the topography of his native New York City.

Though he was born into a wealthy family, ... Trump grew up in Queens—a pleasant but unfashionable borough whose residents were sometimes dismissed by snooty Manhattanites as “bridge-and-tunnel people.” From a young age, he was acutely aware of the cultural, and physical, chasm that separated himself from the city’s aristocracy. In several interviews and speeches over the years, he has recalled gazing anxiously across the East River toward Manhattan, desperate to make a name for himself among the New York elite....

In Trump’s version of the story, he eventually achieved his dream by crossing the river, conquering the island, and triumphantly erecting an eponymous skyscraper in the middle of town as a monument to his greatness.

In truth, though, the city’s ruling class never did warm to his arrival, and they greeted every one of his ensuing accomplishments with a collective sneer. To them, it didn’t matter how many buildings he built, or books he sold, or tabloid covers he appeared on—Trump was a vulgar self-promoter, a new-money rube, a walking assault on good taste and manners. He was, in short, not one of them. And he knew it.

... In many ways, Trump still seems like he’s on that journey—convinced that there’s some destination he can reach, some victory he can achieve, that will finally silence the din of elite ridicule and win him entry into their ranks.
An alternate venue for the State of the Union address would have been like an alternate borough in lieu of Manhattan -- it just wouldn't have been the same for Trump. He wants entrée into the innermost sanctum of power, and being turned away is primal for him.

Nancy knew that. Good for her.

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