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Pelosi's Power Play: Taking Away Trump’s TV Privileges

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, speaks as she stands next to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, following their meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, speaks as she stands next to Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., left, and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., right, following their meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Susan Walsh/AP)
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After many years as a wife, mother, and politician, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knows plenty about the habits of insecure men. She knows that they tend to thump their chests and interrupt and insult because, not very deep down, they feel unmanned.

Our current president is, by this measure, the most insecure creature on the face of the earth, a guy who goes crazy at the idea that he’s being ignored or excluded.

This is why the letter Pelosi sent him on Tuesday, essentially canceling his annual State of the Union (SOTU) address before Congress, is so ingenious. Because Trump cannot actually bully his way into the House of Representatives without an invite from speaker Pelosi — even if he promises to spring for stale fast food.

The letter points out, quite reasonably, that it’s inappropriate to hold a SOTU during the current government shutdown, which Trump engineered in an effort to bully Democrats into funding his useless border wall.

There are security issues to be considered, Pelosi notes. What’s more, it would be simple enough for Trump to submit his address in writing, as presidents have done for much of our history.

Pelosi knows that Trump, who emerged from the swamp of reality TV, loves more than anything to have the cameras trained upon him. It’s what allows him to believe that he actually is the president, rather than a failed businessman under investigation for colluding with our chief foreign adversary.

A portion of a letter sent to President Donald Trump from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 in Washington. Pelosi has asked President Trump to postpone his State of the Union address to the nation, set for Jan. 29, until the government reopens. (Wayne Partlow/AP)
A portion of a letter sent to President Donald Trump from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019 in Washington. Pelosi has asked President Trump to postpone his State of the Union address to the nation, set for Jan. 29, until the government reopens. (Wayne Partlow/AP)

Trump could not care less about running the government — that’s why he’s just fine with shutting it down. Stiffing workers is kind of his thing.

But deprive him of the chance to brag about himself, and browbeat his enemies, before a national audience? That’s hitting a demagogue where he lives — as Pelosi surely recognizes.

Trump will no doubt go crazy and portray Pelosi’s letter as an assault on his dignity. Self-pitying sadism, after all, is his brand. But there’s no reason Pelosi should offer Trump a platform to spread his vile and divisive propaganda.

Given that the FBI launched an investigation to determine if the president was working on behalf of Russia, common sense would dictate that he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the capitol dome.

In fact, my advice to Pelosi would be to toughen the terms of her deal. If this president wants to be treated like other presidents, he should start behaving like them.

... why should Trump be afforded the dignity and privileges of an office he disgraces daily?

He should release his taxes, so voters know where his money comes from, and what his conflicts of interest are.

He should release the transcripts of his meetings with Vladimir Putin.

He should answer questions, under oath, about any interactions he’s had with any Russians.

And he should reopen the government, and negotiate a path forward on immigration and border security.

If that sounds like too much to ask, it’s because we’ve set such an egregiously low ethical standard for Trump.

He spouts lie after lie, traffics in racist rhetoric and conspiracy theories, and mocks everyone from law enforcement professionals to journalists. And we all pretend it’s OK. This is precisely why he continues to behave like a spoiled child.

President Donald Trump gestures as delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud. (Win McNamee/AP)
President Donald Trump gestures as delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington, as Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan applaud. (Win McNamee/AP)

But why should Trump be afforded the dignity and privileges of an office he disgraces daily?

Congressional Republicans, led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, have long since abdicated the moral duty of oversight. They are willing to stand by as Trump degrades democracy, so long as they retain the power to sop their corporate sponsors.

Nancy Pelosi isn’t going along with the program. She recognizes that Trump, beneath all his bluster, is nothing more than a conman with epic manhood issues. Rather than give in to his hostage-taking, she’s taking away his favorite binky: free airtime.

Hats off to the speaker for finally figuring it out.

The less this professional troll is on TV, the stronger the state of our union will be.

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Steve Almond Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Steve Almond's new book, "Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country," is now available. He hosts the Dear Sugars podcast with Cheryl Strayed.

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