Wednesday, August 31, 2011

President Obama is playing politics

And you can decide whether he should be.

The White House announced today that the president has asked to address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday night in order to layout his jobs plan.

The New York Times outlined the president's plan in this news alert it sent at 12:53 p.m. EDT:
President Obama is requesting a joint session of Congress for next Wednesday — at 8 p.m., exactly the same time as the scheduled Republican presidential debate, as it happens — to give a much anticipated speech outlining his proposals to boost employment and the economy.

In a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Mr. Obama said it is his “intention to lay out a series of bipartisan proposals that the Congress can take immediately to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses, helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the middle class and working Americans.”

That Mr. Obama was going to make his speech next week was expected. But it is remarkable that he would choose to do so in such an elevated setting, and at the same time that Republican candidates for president will be laying out their own vision for how to get the country out of the economic doldrums.
Indeed, on that evening, the Republicans who want to replace Mr. Obama are gathering in California for one of their debates. Though he didn't use that as a reason, House Speaker John Boehner asked the White House to move the address to Sept. 8, as Politico noted in one of its alerts.
House Speaker John Boehner rejected President Barack Obama's request to address a joint session of Congress the night of Sept. 7th and invited him to speak the next night instead.

In a letter to Obama, Boehner said Sept. 8th would be better "so we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks."
Now, you know and I know there are no "parliamentary or logistical impediments" on Sept. 7; Mr. Boehner simply doesn't want to give the president the spotlight on the night Republican presidential hopefuls thought would belong to them.

Perhaps the White House goofed, forgetting about what was taking place on Sept. 7? Uh, huh. Sure it did. The Washington Post makes clear that such mistakes never happen.
Strategists spend hours poring over every word a president utters, every policy position he takes and every state he visits, a level of attention to detail that makes happenstance virtually nonexistent.
And so, when the White House announced today that President Obama would deliver his much-anticipated jobs speech on Sept. 7 at 8 pm — the exact same day and time that the 2012 Republican candidates are scheduled to debate in California — the idea that the timing was purely coincidental was, well, far-fetched.
It’s clear that this White House saw an opportunity to drive a major — and direct — contrast between President Obama and his potential Republican rivals and took it.
It is common for the White House to request a date and time for an address to Congress, but CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller "tweets" that such protocol was not used this time: Boehner aide says WH didn't try to negotiate time for speech before going public w its request.

The White House should have known better. In my opinion, whether it requested that night is irrelevant -- it set up a showdown with the Republican Party that it didn't need. It also gives off the impression, again in my opinion, that it is worried that the Republican bashing of the president will have some traction with the public.

It should have asked for a different night and a different time. However, it is now in a no-win situation -- it can back down (and look weak) or it can move the address to another location (thus denying the president the ability to address the Congress). Remember, a president requests the opportunity to speak to Congress; it does not dictate when it will happen.

Petty politics here, ladies and gentlemen. I expect more from this administration. 

1 comment:

Alex V said...

The problem with taking the high road, which this administration has done more often than not (in my opinion), is that republicans don't seem to ever want to do. Which would have certainly been ok (I also like the idea of being above all this), except the American public has not been able to see through the dirty tricks and inflammatory pettiness on the right. At this stage of the presidency I am personally quite pleased that the president is starting to fight back more forcefully, it's about time! (I am a big fan of the movie "The American President")

by the way, apparently he has taken the high road again after all since he agreed to move it.