Politics

Pelosi's SOTU Political Play

The House speaker invited the president to give the annual address ... in writing.

Jordan Candler · Jan. 17, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued this appeal to President Donald Trump yesterday:

On January 3rd, it was my privilege as Speaker to invite you to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29th. …

The U.S. Secret Service was designated as the lead federal agency responsible for coordinating, planning, exercising, and implementing security for National Special Security Events by Public Law 106-544, December 19, 2000. However, both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now — with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs.

Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government re-opens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has re-opened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to the Congress on January 29th.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen immediately contradicted Pelosi’s assertion, saying the Secret Service is “fully prepared” for the SOTU. Pelosi responded curtly, “I don’t care what they say.”

Ed Morrissey quips, “And with that, the new Speaker of the House just made the best case possible for a perpetual shutdown. Kidding! What I meant to say was that Nancy Pelosi has finally sounded a note of wisdom, at least in her reminder that presidents used to just deliver a report in writing to Congress.” Indeed they did. As Pelosi also noted, “During the 19th Century and up until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, these annual State of the Union messages were delivered to Congress in writing.”

Morrissey rightly says this is “a tradition worth restoring, especially to reverse the treatment of the president as some kind of feudal lord in Congress.”

Philip Klein chimes in, “There may be times when it makes sense for a president to address a joint session of Congress in front of the whole nation, such as when former President George W. Bush spoke to the nation after the Sept. 11 attacks and laid out his vision for fighting the ‘war on terror.’ But as an annual staged event, the State of the Union is pointless. In an era of the 24/7 news, the Internet, and social media, there is no reason for networks to provide airtime to this event. The president has endless tools at his disposal to make his case to Congress and the country.”

Meanwhile, Pelosi is hardly acting with honorable intentions here. As Morrissey points out, “Pelosi’s not looking to restore the proper co-equal-branch dynamics under the Constitution. She was delighted to offer regal hosannas to Barack Obama, and she’d be equally delighted to offer them to President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or President Jill Stein, for that matter. She just doesn’t want Trump using Congress to beat up Democrats over the wall.”

Indeed, security has nothing to do with her political theater. It’s entirely within Pelosi’s power to end the shutdown, which would render a SOTU delay completely unnecessary. But blocking funding for border security isn’t the only thing she’s after. She also wants to stifle her opponents’ justification for standing their ground. That’s called having your cake and eating it too.

If Trump decides to continue with the address, Ben Shapiro offers this salient advice: “Trump should do a remote State of the Union from the border and feature Border Patrol agents and Angel Moms.”

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