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About a week ago, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, who makes no secret of his admiration for Donald Trump, asserted with confidence that when it comes the government shutdown and the State of the Union address, the president’s skills as a master tactician will prevail.
“If [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] thinks her State of the Union stunt can outmaneuver [the president], she’s in for a rude awakening,” Brody wrote. “Pelosi is playing checkers. Trump is playing chess.”
Yesterday, it appears one of the players realized he was losing and knocked over the board.
President Donald Trump late Wednesday announced he would not hold a State of the Union address until after the partial government shutdown, now in its fifth week, is over. The announcement made shortly after 11 p.m. seemingly puts to rest a dispute between the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, over whether the address would be held.
The timeline of events helps illustrate the scope of the fiasco. It began on Jan. 16, just eight days ago, when Pelosi recommended that the president delay his speech until after the shutdown. On Jan. 17, Trump responded by derailing Pelosi’s trip to Afghanistan.
White House officials told the New York Times the move was intended as “a play for dominance,” with the president and his team trying to “put her in her place.”
That was unwise.
Trump announced yesterday that he would give his State of the Union address on the House floor next week, as scheduled, leading Pelosi to cancel the event. Almost immediately, the president announced plans to find an alternative venue for his remarks.
All of which led to last night’s news via Twitter, where Trump said he’d delay the speech until after the shutdown after all – bringing him in line with what Pelosi recommended eight days ago, before all of this avoidable drama.
Or put another way, the president didn’t just reverse course; Trump realized he was playing a weak hand and folded.
After the 2018 midterms, there were some in Democratic politics who questioned whether Nancy Pelosi was the party’s best choice for House Speaker. There’s a reason those voices have suddenly fallen silent.
Postscript: It’s probably worth pausing to note that Trump routinely changes his mind, even about things on which he’s already changed his mind. It seems entirely plausible to me that the president will turn on his television this morning, see hours of coverage about how badly Pelosi embarrassed him, and announce that he’s holding the State of the Union in the lobby of his D.C. hotel next week.