UPDATE: 8/31, 10:11 pm
News outlets report that the White House has decided to accept Boehner’s proposal to move the President’s address to September 8.
CBS News reported this morning that President Obama has requested to address a joint session of Congress at 8 pm on September 7, the same exact time as a Republican presidential debate. The White House has dismissed calls of politicking through scheduling as “coincidence.” I’m calling BS.
The debate, to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, CA, has been scheduled for months. Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney claimed that the congressional schedule is too difficult to work around and that September 7, Congress’ first day back from recess, was best. Even so, the President could have just as easily scheduled his address for 7 pm. I have trouble believing 8 pm on September 7 was the only time Congress could possibly gather for a joint session.
This is political gaming by the White House at its worst. I agree that there is an over-saturation of Republican debates on tap for this primary season, three alone in the month of September. But that does not excuse this blatant show of disrespect by the President of the United States towards his potential opponent. And what for? So he can hop on his bully pulpit and deliver some canned, crap speech about jobs? Remember the last time he addressed a joint session of Congress on healthcare? We learned nothing new, just got a bunch of old talking points and rhetoric.
I sincerely hope Obama’s jobs plan is filled with new and exciting ideas, but I, and I suspect many other Americans, have had enough of the grandstanding. Keeping the Capitol building running at full capacity into the late evening hours cannot be cheap. Ensuring the safety of the entire Congress, most of the executive branch, a designated survivor, and the President cannot be cheap.
So what now? NBC and Politico have confirmed that the debate will not be postponed, but I hope for two scenarios. One would be that NBC uses the President’s address to grill the candidates on jobs. The President’s speech should, God willing, be over by 8:30. Therefore, the moderators of the two hour debate should have plenty of time to formulate some questions based on Obama’s speech without the candidates having heard the speech or having prepped for it.
The other scenario would be that the speech is postponed. Earlier in the day, Representative Ron Paul’s campaign indicated that he would use whatever means he could to delay the President’s address. Speaker of the House John Boehner responded to the President’s request in the afternoon, saying that the timing of the President’s address was inappropriate, given that House business would be going until 6:30 that evening and that a required three-hour security sweep of the House chamber preceding a Presidential visit would make an 8:00 address impossible. Boehner politely invited the President to deliver the address the following evening at any time.
I find it infuriating that the President would not consult with the Speaker of the House before insisting on addressing Congress, especially after considering that Carney claimed the congressional schedule was so difficult to work with. Logistically, unless the President were to completely disrupt the House’s already scheduled legislating session, the White House could have easily saved everyone a lot of trouble by checking with House leadership about their schedule. It really comes down to politics and in a time when we need politics least, this is truly bad politics.