President Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address on January 29. On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to President Trump asking him to deliver his State of the Union address in writing or to delay it until the government shutdown is resolved. According to Axios, Pelosi was quoted as saying, “[the] State of the Union demands “weeks of detailed planning” and cannot guarantee the safety of those present “with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs.” While the shutdown has impacted certain departments, Pelosi’s letter is more likely driven by her desire to delay the president’s address. As a result, President Trump should disregard her request and deliver the State of the Union as planned.
The State of the Union is Constitutionally mandated. According to Article II, Section 3, Clause 1, “The President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
Interestingly, there is nothing compelling the president to deliver the address from a specific location. In other words, the president can choose to deliver the address from a place of his choosing. For example, the president could deliver the address from the Oval Office or another venue. However, since the State of the Union address is supposed to be delivered before a Joint Session of Congress, the president would provide a copy of the letter/speech to Congress before his address.
A live address from the Oval Office could actually help the president as there would be no unnecessary interruptions that could delay the address (i.e. boos, standing ovations, etc.) Additionally, an address of this nature could allow the president more room for creativity. For example, he could bring in additional speakers and/or experts and/or utilize visuals and/or computer presentations during his speech to bolster/explain his points and Democrats would be unable to do anything about it. Finally, the various news networks would have to decide whether or not to cover the address. Those who decided against it would likely hurt themselves and their viewers. Given the vast number of opportunities that are available to the president because of Pelosi’s demand, the president is in a win-win situation. He can choose to deliver the address in the traditional fashion or he can choose to be more unconventional.
While Pelosi cites “security concerns” as the basis for her request, there is reason to question whether this is the sole motivating factor behind her recent letter. According to Politico, “Staff have been discussing the idea of postponing the State of the Union for months.” However, the shutdown is on its twenty-sixth day, which begs the question of why staffers were discussing postponement before the shutdown even started.
One possible reason for this is fairly easy to ponder. When the president delivers the State of the Union, the audience is enormous. The stage is entirely his and he is free to discuss the issues that are important to him and to the country, including border security. In this case, Pelosi’s demand is likely a sad attempt to prevent the president from utilizing the “grandest stage” to re-emphasize why the border wall is needed and how/why Democratic policies regarding the wall (and border security) are wrong, nonsensical and are hurting the American people. Also, given that Trump needs Congressional Democrats to approve funding for the wall, Pelosi’s request to postpone the State of the Union address until the shutdown ends could delay the address interminably if Democrats decide that they will never fund the wall. It is highly doubtful that Trump will allow Pelosi and Congressional Democrats to tie his hands like this.
President Trump should reject Pelosi’s demand and proceed with the State of the Union address on January 29th. In doing so, he need not feel compelled to follow tradition and/or common protocol and can be creative as to how he delivers the speech. Judging from the Democrats’ factually deficient and predictable response to Trump’s recent speech regarding the border crisis, it is not unreasonable to speculate that Pelosi wants to delay Trump’s upcoming address. President Trump should not fall for this ploy. He has a golden opportunity to speak to members of Congress and to the American public on the 29th and should not allow Pelosi to prevent him from delivering this Constitutionally-mandated address.
Mr. Hakim is a political writer and commentator and an attorney. His articles have been published in The Washington Examiner, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, The Western Journal, American Thinker and other online publications.