Today, the White House announced that President Obama will be giving his major jobs address to Congress on the day (September 7th) and same time (8 p.m. EST) as the Republican debates. And before the debate could even begin on whether this was a power play, the White House conceded to Republican pressure to change the debate.
The original date would have pitted the Commander in Chief head to head with Republican leadership who claimed that the scheduling conflict was a politically spiteful move.
In the letter sent from the White House to Congressional leaders, the President “respectfully requests” the opportunity to address members of both the House and Senate. Within hours Speaker of the House Rep. john Boehner pressed the White House to reconsider their chosen date. The conflict was not only reviled by the GOP but by NBC and Politico, both sponsors of the debate. And while the move did not necessarily mean that NBC must air the President’s address, it left network execs with a betting on viewers love for Michelle Bachmann’s crazy eyes and Brian Williams hosting skills over the President of the United States.
When asked about the scheduling conflict yesterday during his daily press brief, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the overlap was merely ‘coincidental.’ Still, Carney maintained that the President’s address on the economy should take precedent over the wrangling of potential Oval Office challengers. When asked if the White House was “stepping on” the Republican debate being hosted by the Reagan Library, the Secretary stated plainly:
“There is one President. There are 20 odd debates.”
It remains to be seen how the strategy of this speech and now it’s subsequent rescheduling to the following night, Thursday September 8th will play out for the Obama administration but with Hurricane Katia too far away to overhype just yet, the politics of the scheduling conflict are sure to become cable news fodder for the next week.
Tommy Christopher of Mediate says the stakes will be high for the President. He writes:
Much of the anticipation surrounding the President’s speech has been centered around whether it would be an ambitious rope-a-dope to critics of his economic record, or a flurry of tiny slaps like the trade deals and payroll tax cut that he’s been talking about. The timing and venue of the speech could be an indication that he plans to present something bold, and dare the Republicans to block him, but it definitely ratchets up the expectations. If the President’s plan is seen as a dud, it will be seen as such under a much brighter glare.
Still Steve Benen of Washington Monthly says political observers should expect something big from Obama’s joint-session address.
“This is in the swing-for-the-fences category. Presidential speeches to joint sessions of Congress are not for routine issues. And if Obama intended to aim low with his plan, throwing out a few tax credits and warmed-over ideas, he would not pick this venue.”