Imagine someone invites you on a date. Then that person makes no formal arrangements for the date and texts you that it’s best to postpone. In response you say you plan to honor the original invitation and expect to see the person then.
To no one’s surprise except maybe yours, the person doesn’t show.
It’s not a perfect analogy, but that’s the basic scenario playing out between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump over the State of the Union address.
To recap the facts: Pelosi invited Trump to give his annual address to a joint session of Congress on Jan. 29. Then she sent him a letter telling him that since the government was still shut down and resources were already stretched thin, it was best that he postpone until the shuttered agencies were reopened.
She could make that change because, even though Pelosi had invited Trump, she had never finalized the plans. For the president to come into her chamber and speak to a joint session of Congress, she must file a concurrent resolution agreed to by the House and Senate.
Trump informed Pelosi in a letter Wednesday afternoon that he still intends to give his speech on the date they had agreed to and that he would be doing so from the House chamber. But other than publicly challenging and shaming her to tell him “no," Trump has zero leverage in this situation. Pelosi holds all the cards. He cannot give the State of the Union in the House unless she puts the procedural steps in motion for it to happen.
She soon sent a letter back that she would not be clearing the way for him to speak in her chamber. He has now said he’ll find an alternative venue to give his speech and accused her of not wanting to hear the truth.
This back and forth achieves very little, and certainly does nothing to reopen the government, but it’s Trump’s proclivity to never show weakness when challenged.
But in this specific instance, it was up to Pelosi to let him speak, and Trump was powerless to control the outcome.
It’s like inviting someone to dinner at a popular restaurant, but never making the reservations. Trump can show up at the restaurant, but he’s not getting a table.
(This story has been updated.)