It was an amazing sight to watch.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi briskly informs the White House that she wants the traditional presidential State of the Union speech canceled because of the government shutdown.
Mind you, a State of the Union has never been arbitrarily canceled by a Speaker of the House in the entire history of the country.
To begin, for a very long stretch of American history, these were written documents only. It took Woodrow Wilson to bring back the long abandoned idea that a president goes to Capitol Hill to personally deliver the address. In modern times, the invention of television began changing the entire speech into more of a show. In my lifetime the early televised State of the Union speeches were delivered at high noon. Somewhere around the LBJ era they were moved to prime time to attract a massive national audience - an easy task with only three broadcast networks in existence showing the same thing.
As I distinctly recall from days as a Reagan White House aide, the1986 State of the Union was postponed - because the Challenger space shuttle flight had exploded on take-off that day or the day before. President Reagan quickly decided to postpone the speech, instead addressing the nation from the Oval Office and spending the next few days in his role as "comforter-in-chief" to the grieving families and the nation. Then, it was back to business and the State of the Union show went on.
What makes the events surrounding the Pelosi cancellation so hilarious was spot lit by Laura Ingraham on her Fox show The Ingraham Angle. And yes, full disclosure, I was on the show. But what instantly attracted Laura's attention was the hilarious reality of the media and how they played the Pelosi shutdown of Trump. There was one media figure after another lauding Pelosi for taking a stand against Trump by doing something that had never been done -- canceling the State of the Union.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC: Speaker Pelosi playing hardball.
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY: She's playing hardball.
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN: Speaker Pelosi flexing her constitutional muscle.
DON LEMON, CNN: Nancy Pelosi flexing her muscles today.
MARY BRUCE, ABC: This bold power play by Speaker Pelosi
JOHN AVLON, CNN: She's got a PhD in needling President Trump.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC: This is a move of exceptional cleverness and sadism in a way.
PHILIP MUDD, CNN: I mean this is political genius.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN: She was showing that she's in charge
CLAIRE McCASKILL, MSNBC: What a badass.
Ahhhhh. But the very next day? After the news arrived that President Trump had one-upped the Speaker, not to mention her chorale of media fans, by likewise doing something unprecedented? Canceling a Pelosi congressional junket to Europe and the Middle East? Suddenly, in a complete 180 turnaround, the media had a different point of view:
JIM ACOSTA, CNN: The President has responded in sort of a childish way, it's the only way to describe it to the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
SAM STEIN, MSNBC: This is a sort of a classic example of Trump kind of overreacting.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC: So what Trump has done today is tactically inept, strategically nitwit.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN: The only phrase that comes to mind is Nanny, Nanny, Boo-Boo.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN: Nobody who's ever traveled to the congressional delegation would think that this is funny or appropriate or cool.
One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at such a stark, out-there illustration of liberal media bias. Although I confess like Laura and her other guests, I found it hysterically funny.
But as I tried to say when it was my turn to chime in, hilarious as this was it isn't funny to those affected by the shutdown. And the serious part here was just how deep the media Swamp runs.
Even after Trump had pointed out the obvious - that the Speaker and her colleagues should not be junketing around the globe when they need to be on deck to get the business of government back on track - the media missed that story entirely, focusing instead, as that transcript reveals, on assailing the President for being childish, a nitwit and more.
As I mentioned on the show, someone out there tweeted this as the media's shock at Trump's action took hold: "Never troll the King of Trolls.”
It is astonishing to realize that a full two years into the Trump presidency -- even accounting for its obsessive Trump Derangement Syndrome -- the liberal media does not realize that Trump understands the media game better than they do. Once Pelosi made her move, the media, without a moment's hesitation, rallied to her side. It clearly occurred to neither that once he understood their State of the Union game, Trump would find a way to reply in kind, using his version of the same kind of serious symbolism that Pelosi used.
This brings another Reagan memory. Reagan, like Trump, had a serious television and media background. On one occasion at a similar time period in the Reagan presidency, the Reagan economic recovery of tax and budget cuts, while passed by Congress had not kicked in. The recession still lingered. But curiously, there was the President out there with crowds at events that were well choreographed by Reagan's TV wizard and top aide Michael Deaver.
CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl ran a tough report on one of these events - and to her puzzlement, Deaver wasn't unhappy in the least. She inquired as to why. The answer came back that the audience had been well-supplied with American flags and were waving them like crazy as Reagan arrived, spoke and departed. This was television, was the essence of the Deaver response. Pictures. People don't listen to television, they watch it. And what Stahl's report showed was a visual of patriotic Americans waving flags at their president. It was a help to Reagan, not a problem for him.
Likewise this week, it was Pelosi who chose the symbol of canceling the State of the Union, and the repeated visuals of media-types assailing Trump. The next day Trump responds, forcing the cameras to show shots of a fancy military jet and then a bus load of angry congressmen called back from a junket. These were hardly the pictures Pelosi and her media friends wanted when they were (and are) busy daily saying how hard the shutdown is on government workers. If your family is suddenly not getting a paycheck - and the pictures on the screen are of Pelosi and various congressmen trying to escape to a junket? Not good. Not good at all.
As mentioned, to put this in 21st century terms? Never troll the King of Trolls. Pelosi and her media friends did just that --and the King of Trolls, the reality television president trolled them right back.
And you can bet Americans aplenty got the visual message.