I got to the office later than usual after a morning of outside meetings, and was surprised to find hackles still raised on the right and especially on the left after yesterday’s kerfuffle over the timing of the address to a joint session of Congress that President Obama requested.
One can only wonder what people in the White House were thinking. Asking for the time slot they did — exactly coinciding with a long-scheduled GOP presidential debate at the Reagan library in California — was a lose-lose-lose proposition:
First loss: Had the White House gotten its way, it would only have opened the door for the Republicans to push back their debate by one hour and provide instant, multi-throated criticism of his plan — stealing his thunder and setting the tone for coverage of the plan in the next news cycle.
Second loss: If the White House was anticipating a fight over the speech’s timing, it would have behooved the folks there to have known the procedural and security problems Speaker John Boehner raised in his polite suggestion that the president wait until the next day. These problems, reasonable or not (though I suspect they do sound reasonable to all but the most die-hard Obama supporters, and perhaps even some of them), are far more objective than any rationale the White House gave for requesting the conflicting time slot. Now, the president is left looking either petty or, worse, clueless about how standard operating procedure works in the legislative body where he once served. White House officials can claim they ran the details past the speaker’s office beforehand, but Boehner’s quick and reasonable reply explaining why the timing wouldn’t work makes that claim sound like a defensive, spin-tastic move.
Third loss: In setting up a conflict that he wasn’t certain to win, the president set himself up for the line now echoing around the left-wing blogosphere — that, once again, he has caved to the GOP. That was a possibility he couldn’t afford to risk. But here we are, with Huffington Post commentator Cenk Uygur suggesting:
There is no secret, brilliant strategy. This White House is in a bubble. They think they’re winning when the roof is about to cave in.
Stumbling over such a mundane detail as the timing of a speech cannot inspire much confidence, even in those still disposed to support Obama and his policies, that he’s going to get it right with the big issue of jobs and the economy.
– By Kyle Wingfield