House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) pulled a fast one on President Trump on Wednesday by postponing the State of the Union address until the shutdown is over — or allowing him to submit his remarks in writing. Trump feigned indifference. But he couldn’t contain himself — much as he could not control himself on the day Pelosi was sworn in and showed up in the White House press room to get some attention.
On Thursday, Trump, in an error-filled letter (are fact-checkers on furlough?), told Pelosi that he was postponing the trip she and others were planning in order to visit NATO leaders in Brussels and troops in Afghanistan. (He said the trip was seven days; it was five. He said they were to stop in Egypt; no Egypt stop was planned.)
Let’s count Trump’s most obvious blunders.
First, you cannot claim to be indifferent about a punch to the gut and then in 24 hours retaliate in such petty fashion while claiming — no, really — that this wasn’t about retaliation at all. Trump could not help appearing spiteful because, well, he was acting out of spite.
Second, Trump, as narcissists are wont to do, cannot imagine that every event isn’t about him. He was denied the SOTU, so he’ll take something away from her. But unlike Trump, Pelosi knows that the trip isn’t about her; it isn’t some kind of perk. As her spokesman Drew Hammill explained via Twitter, “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.” The trip to Brussels wasn’t for pleasure-seeking but to reassure freaked-out allies about whether Trump is still keen on pulling out of NATO.
Third, Trump doesn’t know how to treat anyone, especially a woman, as an equal, so he treats her like she works for him. She is a co-equal, constitutionally speaking. The Post reports, “Trump didn’t explain what authority he has to cancel Pelosi’s trip, but it probably would require the use of military aircraft controlled by his administration. He said Pelosi could fly commercial if she chose.” Congress, however, has its own obligations and does not report to him. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who was to accompany Pelosi, blasted the president, calling him a fifth-grader and vowing to do his oversight regardless of the president’s antics. Trump wound up making himself seem small and congressional Democrats look mature by comparison. “We’re not going to allow the President of the United States to tell the Congress it can’t fulfill its oversight responsibilities, it can’t ensure that our troops have what they need whether our government is open or closed,” he declared. “That work must go on and I think it’s vitally important now, in particular that the President has announced withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan, that we understand the situation on the ground.”
Fourth, while denying a visit that is of benefit to the troops and our national security, Trump had dispatched Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to hobnob in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum — a laughably elitist and unnecessary function for the rich and famous (and popular with autocrats trying to convince the West that they are sophisticates). That was just dumb — and the result of letting the president do whatever he pleases, with no adult supervision. It took until Thursday night for someone to recognize how awful this would appear; the Davos trip was canceled, thereby depriving his own people of their boondoggle.
Finally, Trump committed a rudimentary, blatant violation of national security protocols. As Schiff and others pointed out, one does not disclose the destination of an official trip to a war zone. But alas, Trump thinks only of himself; national security is secondary.
Trump’s move was blasted by Democrats but also by one of his most faithful lapdogs. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said:
"One sophomoric response does not deserve another," Graham said. "Speaker Pelosi's threat to cancel the State of the Union is very irresponsible and blatantly political. President Trump denying Speaker Pelosi military travel to visit our troops in Afghanistan, our allies in Egypt and NATO is also inappropriate."
Graham — who a Senate aide said could be heard shouting in his office at the matter — added that while he was disappointed in how Pelosi was handling the State of the Union situation, he was “glad the Speaker wants to meet our troops and hear from our commanders and allies.”
Trump makes his position worse with each new misstep. He misreads each situation and mistakenly believes he can outwit Pelosi. In every encounter, Pelosi manages to effectively pull the football away, sending the Charlie Brown president skyward, only to land flat on his back. Bam! She got him once again.
UPDATE: Unbelievably, the story gets worse for Trump. Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesman, released a statement Friday morning that read in part: “After President Trump revoked the use of military aircraft to travel to Afghanistan, the delegation was prepared to fly commercially to proceed with this vital trip to meet with our commanders and troops on the front lines.” The statement continued: “In the middle of the night, the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service provided an updated threat assessment detailing that the President announcing this sensitive travel had significantly increased the danger to the delegation and to the troops, security, and other officials supporting the trip." He added, “This morning, we learned that the Administration had leaked the commercial travel plans as well.” Hammill concluded,"In light of the grave threats caused by the President’s action, the delegation has decided to postpone the trip so as not to further endanger our troops and security personnel, or the other travelers on the flights."
This stunning violation of his duties as commander in chief in order to serve his petty personal desire for revenge tells us just how unfit Trump is to serve. A House vote on a resolution condemning the president’s conduct, as well as an oversight hearing on his attempts to sabotage and potentially endanger others, should proceed.