According to The Guardian and The New York Times, President Trump is likely to delay his state visit to the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Theresa May extended Trump a state visit invitation earlier this year.
Trump's critics are celebrating. They see this news as evidence of an embarrassing climbdown, and as proof that Trump realizes he is so profoundly unpopular he dare not step onto British soil.
And in part, they are correct. Trump's deep unpopularity in the U.K. has grown in recent weeks. Trump's relentless Twitter argument with London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, and his tweets on the London and Manchester terrorist attacks were received poorly by Britons.
That said, taking emotion out of the equation, this delay actually serves both May and Trump well.
Consider this from May's current perspective.
She has a lot on her plate at the moment. Suffering a shock election disappointment last week, May is struggling to rebuild her credibility in Parliament. Indeed, her leadership of the U.K. is at risk.
But were Trump to arrive in London this summer or fall, May would face a new barrage of criticism. She would be accused of disregarding popular opinion. She would be criticized for making the Queen entertain Trump at Buckingham Palace (the monarch hosts a state visit). May would also have to worry about Trump's sensibilities (for example, if Trump decided to take the bait of British media teasing and make an inappropriate comment).
Still, May's interest in a delay isn't just about the politics of a Trump visit. It's also about security. With the U.K. government assessing that new terrorist attacks are "highly likely," a Trump state visit now would be ill-timed. Because of associated protests, a Trump state visit would require a massive police presence along the streets proximate to wherever Trump was visiting or staying. Securing Trump would also require the diversion of armed police teams away from counter-terrorism duties. That is something that the British government does not want to do.
May would probably rather push off a Trump visit until next year.
Similar rationales shape the Trump administration's vantage point.
For one, were Trump to visit London now, the White House knows he would face stinging media criticism. Trump's pride would also be offended if, as would be likely, London's mayor and the leader of the Labour Party opposition refused to meet him. And Trump would probably resent efforts by May to limit his exposure to the British public.
As another challenge, the Queen's notoriously impish husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, might pretend he thinks his microphone is off and criticize Trump to his face. Britain's anti-Trump Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow would also likely lecture Trump.
All of this would aggravate Trump and turn the the state visit's rationale on its head.
However, were Trump to delay his state visit, he would improve his standing with Britons. Trump's delay would be seen as a rare show of humility. More importantly, as time goes on, Trump will benefit from Britain's acceptance of his positions.
As they get more used to Trump, Britons will begin to accept him. As was the case with President George W. Bush, British thinking will evolve from "Trump is a clown," to "We might not like Trump, but he leads our most important ally".
Ultimately, all of this points to one central truth.
Offered a choice between a state visit this year or next, for both Britain and Trump, the best option is 2018.