SOTU delay: Cagey move or caving to Pelosi?

Unless something changes during the next tweetstorm, the President has apparently made his decision regarding the State of the Union (SOTU) address. He’s going to postpone it until after the shutdown ends. Under current conditions, that puts the date somewhere between Sunday and the California primary next year. Democrats are taking a victory lap, while some of Trump’s more excitable supporters are aghast.

This appeared to be a decision reached as part of some late night meetings. But how did the President decide to walk back from the brink? (NY Post)

President Trump said Wednesday night that he will not deliver a State of the Union address during the government shutdown — hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled the annual speech in the Capitol’s House chamber.

“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative,” Trump wrote in a tweet a little after 11 p.m.

“I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for an alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber,” he added.

Let’s be honest here… that tweet sounds an awful lot like it was written by one of Pelosi’s aides, not the President. It’s hard to even dredge up the suggestion of a jab at the Speaker in there, aside from the “she then changed her mind” line, and even that would be totally kid gloves by Trump’s normal standards. Saying, “That is her prerogative” comes off as if the Speaker actually controls the SOTU address.

There either has to be some far deeper strategy behind this decision or it was basically forced on Trump. If it’s the latter case it must have really stuck in his craw to have to write that tweet. But that’s never been his style since taking office. The President had a dizzying array of choices other than postponing after saying he was planning on going ahead with the address. He was invited to any number of state legislatures to do it and the media would have shown up to cover it. He could have done it at the White House with a select list of guests invited. (Including Pelosi and Schumer, just to see if they would show up.) He could have rented a stadium for a rally and done it then.

So how did the postponement under Pelosi’s terms come to pass? There’s one name that immediately jumps to mind. Jared Kushner, according to some credible reports, has been knee deep in the shutdown negotiations for weeks. Ever since his success in helping to broker the criminal justice reform compromise, he’s been keeping busy running around Washington looking to make deals.

Was this a Kushner move, then? Does he somehow believe that by throwing this bone to Pelosi they’ll get the government reopened with all or most of the wall funding included? That would be a major cave on her part so I’m honestly not seeing it. Either Jared is vastly underestimating the Speaker here or there’s something else going on.

Here’s an alternate theory. Donald Trump has a sense of timing and style when it comes to public events. Yes, he could have charged ahead like a bull and delivered the address on a battleground of his own choosing, as I mentioned above. But he’d be doing it while a lot of the country is either unhappy with him or at least wondering if he’s handling this properly. He knows his poll numbers have taken a beating because of the shutdown. Does he want to give the address under those conditions or wait until he’s somehow cut a deal where the can declare victory, open the government and get back to the next item on his agenda?

That might be the pitch that Kushner was making. And it sounds like the kind of argument that Trump would listen to. We probably won’t find out until everyone publishes their memoirs somewhere down the line, but it makes at least as much sense as any other theory out there.