When it’s autumn, the geese fly. When it’s spring, the cherry trees blossom. In summer, the lobbyists sweat, and in winter the president gives a State of the Union address. That’s pretty much how the seasons go here in D.C. Or at least it was until this week, when the earth finally spun off its axis amid the radical gravity of Donald Trump.
If you haven’t heard, Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has effectively disinvited Trump to visit Congress to deliver the traditional speech. She wanted him to delay it until the government is wholly reopened. He said he was coming anyway. She said, “Like hell you are!” Well, no, not really but she may as well have.
Anyway, the result is something I’ve never seen in more than 40 years of reporting: a sitting president of the United States shopping around for someplace to give what is typically one of the biggest speeches of the year. (Just spit-balling, but he might want to look at the room where they train NFL referees — pretty sure no one has used that in ages.)
Kidding aside, and no matter how much you may dislike the pomposity of the yearly State of the Union pageant, this is not good for several reasons.
While voters wail about the fact that the two major parties don’t talk to each other much, is there any way it gets better when they are not even in the same room?
Most likely, removed from the Capitol, the speech will become more of a political rally than a serious assessment of the nation’s condition. And heaven knows we’ve had enough of those.
And the way this is playing out will almost certainly mean Trump’s words will be shaped for, heard by, and aimed at his base, making it more a State of Their Union – not everyone’s.
That last point is the most important. As one pundit noted, a State of the Union delivered away from the Capitol suggests the worst possible truth: We are not united. And the potential, long-term consequences of that are far more profound than any speech could ever convey.
Tom Foreman is a CNN correspondent and author of the book “My Year of Running Dangerously.”