Behold: Petty, hyper-partisan political gamesmanship from our self-stylized "adult-in-the-room," post-partisan president:
President Barack Obama sent a letter to Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid requesting a Joint Session of Congress on September 7th at 8pm to present his economic growth plan to the nation. Obama's announcement conflicts with a long-scheduled debate between the Republican presidential candidates at the Reagan Library sponsored by and POLIT . Asked whether the White House chose the date to coincide with the GOP presidential debate, White House Press Secretary said "No, of course not."
Did the White House study the TV guide and deliberately choose to schedule their giant nothingburger of a jobs speech to directly conflict with the Republican debate -- which also just so happens to be Rick Perry's debut? Of course not, the White House assures us. What a preposterous suggestion! How transparently, obviously, painfully false is this spin? Even the Lefty blogosphere is openly ridiculing it (h/t to Ed Morrissey):
Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, claims it is pure coincidence that the Obama administration happened to schedule this speech at the exact same moment as Rick Perry’s first primary debate performance. Carney suggested the Republicans re-schedule their debate for the night after Obama’s address. This suggests either the Obama administration is either extremely incompetent or just remarkably petty.
...It is best to assume Carney is simply lying. This scheduling decision seems more like an incredibly petty move by the White House, designed to step on the Republican debate, and an attempt to prevent Rick Perry from being the big story the next day. What makes this childish, passive aggressive act really ironic is that Obama will probably use the speech to call for more civility in Washington and ask for both sides to work together. But needlessly stepping on the other party’s important events isn’t how you actually go about promoting civility and encouraging cooperation.
I couldn't have stated it better myself, actually. Assuming Boehner won't object to scheduling the joint-session speech for Wednesday night (and as tempted as he may be, he won't), this will mark the second time President Obama has addressed both houses of Congress in a non-State of the Union setting. The first was his epic healthcare flop of 2009, which merely enraged Republicans and failed to rally public support for his still-unpopular healthcare plan. Now, we'll be treated to a half-assed, warmed-over "jobs" plan. Oh goodie. NBC News has announced that the GOP debate will be delayed until after the president is finished speaking. A short time ago, Townhall received the following statement from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. Suffice it to say, he's...unamused:
“President Obama’s decision to address Congress at the same time as a long-scheduled Republican Presidential debate cements his reputation as Campaigner-in-Chief. While the White House claims it’s simply a ‘coincidence,’ the American people can see right through that excuse. The President has had months to get to work on the economy, but instead he chose to take a taxpayer-funded campaign trip and a cushy Martha’s Vineyard vacation. If the President were serious about putting ‘country before politics,’ as he said in his request to speak to Congress, he wouldn’t be caught in such a thinly-veiled political ploy. This is yet another reminder that the President is out of touch and out of ideas. The only job he seems to care about is his own.”
Some commentators are already calling this a bone-headed move by the White House. They're scratching their heads, wondering why the president would go Full Halperin by (a) stepping on the Republicans' big night, and thus (b) diminish the impact of his own policy proposals by sharing the news cycle with the GOP. This would be a confounding riddle if the White House cared at all about the actual policy. They don't. They know as well as anyone else that the policy cupboard is bare. The goal of this move is not to trumpet a set of new, substantive initiatives that will extricate the nation from its economic morass and boost job growth. The goal of this move is create the perception that the president is doing something about jobs.
Gracelessly stealing the GOP's thunder will delight much of his base (it already has) and will detract from the substance of his proposals -- or lack thereof. Most importantly, it will provide the White House with what they see as killer political optics. As they've designed it, the country will see the president speaking to Congress about jobs -- which looks and sounds important -- before witnessing a bunch of Republicans on stage, saying "no" to his ideas. I'm unconvinced this strategy will work, but that's what they're aiming for. Put bluntly, this will not be a serious jobs speech offering serious ideas. It will be a cynical piece of political theater, and today's scheduling "coincidence" confirms that fact.. The White House is hoping that the American people won't identify this shell game, and they're counting on the media to run interference for them. Don't be bamboozled.
UPDATE - Oh my. John Boehner has requested that Obama delay his speech by one night, citing "security" concerns. That's total BS, of course, but so is the White House's stupid "coincidence" lie. Oh, and a Thursday night slot would pit Obama's lame speech against the NFL and college football regular season kickoffs. Good luck with that. Hardball?
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography