Obama versus Boehner on jobs speech date: Who's the adult?

Choosing the night of a GOP debate for Obama's address to Congress on jobs was either petty or incompetent. Boehner's refusal was unprecedented. Were voters expecting better?

Evan Vucci/AP
President Obama gestures after a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 31.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP/File
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Aug. 1 file photo.

This much we know: President Obama will deliver his long-awaited speech outlining a new jobs plan to a joint session of Congress on Sept. 8. He’d originally wanted to make the address on Sept. 7, but when the House speaker told him that date was inconvenient, Obama agreed to wait a day.

This means a GOP presidential candidate debate planned for Sept. 7 in Simi Valley, California, can proceed without having to compete for viewers with another, higher-profile political event.

“Our intention was merely for the president to address a joint session as soon as possible,” said administration spokesman Jay Carney when asked if the White House purposely had been trying to precipitate on the GOP candidates’ parade.

Is anybody being an adult here?

Yes, Mr. Obama accepted a date change with little comment. But he – or his scheduler – is the one who set the whole tiff-haha off in the first place.

Yes, Speaker John Boehner asked the president to pick another day, rather than saying flatly that the House was going to be washing its hair on Sept. 7. But his move was still unprecedented – no speaker has turned down such a request, ever, the Senate Historical Office told The New York Times.

Well, we have this to say about that.

First, we don’t think most voters will find this as depressing as pundits did. That’s because the fight was over before they even knew about it – not everybody gets Politico’s Twitter feed, after all. Plus, they already think Washington is full of kindergartners wearing ties.

Second, the White House messed up, big time. If they were trying to stomp on the GOP debate, it was petty. If they weren’t, it was incompetent. Somebody should have checked (maybe via Politico’s Twitter feed!) and seen if that date was already taken.

“I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was out of bounds,” said Democratic strategist James Carville Thursday on “Good Morning America”.

(Maybe Carville is being magnanimous here. But there are also Democratic analysts who think it’s best for Obama to get as many voters as possible to watch GOP debates, so they can see Rick Perry before he has to tone down his rhetoric for the general election.)

Third, does anybody think jobs-related legislation will actually pass Congress in the months ahead? It doesn’t seem likely.

To the right, Obama is unlikely to propose anything that would actually help. The stimulus plan didn’t lead to long-term job growth, they say. Nor did health-care reform.

“Every time the president has pivoted to jobs a funny thing has happened – we’ve wound up losing more jobs. How many mulligans will we give our golfer-in-chief?” wrote Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative blog RedState, on Thursday.

To the left, Republicans in Congress have no intention of helping Obama pass a bill because the real issue is the coming election, not unemployment.

“If it wasn’t already clear that Republicans in Congress have no intention of working with the White House on further help for the jobless, it’s pretty clear now,” writes Wonkbook blogger Ezra Klein in the Washington Post.

One last note: Sept. 8 isn’t exactly a clear date either, as far as competition for voter eyeballs is concerned. That’s the night the NFL season starts. The last two defending Super Bowl champions, the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints, meet at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field on that day at 8:30 PM.

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