One of the enduring personality traits of Donald Trump is his knee-jerk compulsion to retaliate against his perceived foes in a manner that best suits a cholicky infant. Trump’s massive and fragile ego demands that he slap back at anyone who he thinks has wronged him. And he doesn’t seem to care if his vengeance winds up boomeranging on him and hurts him more than his intended victim.
On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi informed Trump that the State of the Union address should be rescheduled due to the Trump Shutdown which has resulted in the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers, including Secret Service and other security personnel. The situation would place an unusually difficult burden on those responsible for maintaining the safety of the annual speech before Congress. Pelosi wrote that:
“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.”
The initial response from the White House and other Republican politicians was to castigate Pelosi for making what they asserted was a purely political move in order to embarrass the President. Setting aside the fact that Trump doesn’t need any help embarrassing himself, Pelosi’s action was entirely reasonable and responsible. No one from the White House could offer a direct criticism for Pelosi’s justification for her action. And contrary to the claims of her critics, she was not preventing Trump from delivering the address, either in an alternative venue, or at a later date.
Now Trump has made his first official response to Pelosi. But consistent with his childish temperament, he didn’t address the matter directly. Rather he retaliated by postponing a diplomatic trip that Pelosi had planned with other members of Congress. The purpose of the trip was to meet with allies in Brussels and Egypt, as well as to visit troops in Afghanistan. Trump wrote in his letter to Pelosi that:
“Due to the Shutdown, I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over. In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I’m sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate.”
BOOM! Trump sure showed her. If Pelosi wasn’t going to let Trump disgorge predictable cliches, platitudes, and self-serving lies a room full of politicians, then he wasn’t going to let her engage in diplomacy with our foreign counterparts. He obviously didn’t mind publicly disclosing a foreign trip by U.S. officials that was supposed to be secret for security purposes. And Pelosi’s office responds:
The purpose of the trip was to express appreciation & thanks to our men & women in uniform for their service & dedication, & to obtain critical national security & intelligence briefings from those on the front lines. (3/4)
— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) January 17, 2019
The problem with Trump’s choice of vengeful payback is that he has inadvertently affirmed Pelosi’s reasons for delaying the State of the Union address. In fact, his reference to the 800,000 unpaid workers was the very same language that Pelosi used when explaining to the press why she had sought the delay. So now Trump can no longer complain that Pelosi’s rescheduling of the State of the Union was inappropriate, since he adopted the same reasoning to delay the congressional mission.
Even though Trump’s speech is a pro-forma ritual that serves no productive purpose, while a congressional fact-finding and diplomatic trip is essential to foreign relations, the argument Trump is making completely shields Pelosi from any further criticism regarding the State of the Union. But don’t expect that logic to register with Trump. He will likely continue to harague Pelosi even though it undercuts his own actions. After all, this is the same guy who promised to take full responsibility for the shutdown and swore that he wouldn’t blame Democrats. That lasted about two days.
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UPDATE: As noted by Hunter here on dKos, Trump has now called off the trip to Davos by Sec. Mnuchin and other Treasury Department officials after he realized that his reason for nixing Pelosi’s trip applied to this as well.