Trump’s unforced category error

Why government needs professionals

As everybody must know by now, Nancy Pelosi sent the president a letter yesterday which suggests that the State of the Union Address should be delayed.

Dear Mr. President:

On January 3rd, it was my privilege as Speaker to invite you to deliver the State of the Union address on January 29th. The Constitution calls for the President to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union.” 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. And since the start of modern budgeting in Fiscal Year 1977, a State of the Union address has never been delivered during a government shutdown.

In September 2018, Secretary Nielsen designated State of the Union Addresses as National Special Security Events (NSSEs), recognizing the need for “the full resources of the Federal Government to be brought to bear” to ensure the security of these events. The extraordinary demands presented by NSSEs require weeks of detailed planning with dozens of agencies working together to prepare for the safety of all participants.

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.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.



Speaker of the House

I don’t doubt that Pelosi enjoyed sticking a finger in Trump’s eye — What sane and decent person wouldn’t? — but it is a rational letter that rests upon defensible premises, and it does not frustrate a legitimate governmental activity. After all, the President’s annual State of the Union address to Congress is a relatively recent innovation; he could just send a written report, which was good enough for Thomas Jefferson.

Trump retaliated today with a vastly different category of act — by interfering with Congress’ legitimate oversight function by denying eight Democrats, including Pelosi, and an unspecified number of Republicans, the opportunity to visit a war zone.

President Donald Trump hit back at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday, canceling a planned congressional trip to Afghanistan because of the government shutdown.

The remarkable counter-punch came in the form of a terse letter to Pelosi blasted out to reporters and promoted by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Twitter. It marked the president’s first public response to Pelosi’s Wednesday morning request to postpone the annual State of the Union address at the end of the month, citing security concerns stemming from the lengthy shutdown.

Clearly, Trump’s reaction is disproportionate and of a wholly different type than Pelosi’s suggestion. Granted, Trump is a vain and dishonest and stupid man. Unfortunately, because the professionals bailed-out of his administration a long time ago, he is surrounded by people who are equally dishonest and stupid, or worse. This is what you get when you have a government run by insecure and mean-spirited amateurs.

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