Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Given the caution of the White House and the intransigence of the GOP, I haven't held out much hope for the Obama post-Labor Day comeback tour -- I don't expect Congress to approve anything that will bring jobs, nor do I expect the administration to find a way to act independently, or to direct voter anger at Republicans. But I guess my expectations weren't low enough, because I didn't anticipate anything like what happened today.

The administration declared that it wanted the president's jobs speech to be delivered to a joint session of Congress scheduled on September 7 at 8:00 P.M. -- precisely when the next GOP debate is scheduled to begin, the first one that will feature all-but-inevitable nominee Rick Perry.

The problem is, if you're going to use the power of the presidency to smack down the opposition, you want to be sure that the opposition stays smacked. The Republicans, however, had several avenues of retaliation, and they used them all: some Republicans denounced the move as political, congressman and debate participant Ron Paul threatened to use his prerogative to object to the joint session request, and then John Boehner did object, rejecting the call for the joint session and proposing a postponement to the following day.

So now any on-the-fence voter who's paying attention (and who isn't a politics junkie) looks at what transpired today and concludes that (a) they really are all children in Washington, very much including the president -- they just have to fight, even over something like this; and/or (b) Obama got rebuffed again, because he's just not tough enough to take on these guys and win, even though he's the president. Our non-politics-junkie swing voter may also ask a sensible-seeming question: why did the speech have to be on the same day as the debate anyway? Why not let the Republicans have their time in the spotlight?

Result: Obama looks like part of the problem and he looks weak. A completely unforced error.

Did anyone actually game this out? Did anyone have any sense of what the reaction would be? If you're going to try to reverse-engineer GOP-style tactics, shouldn't you have a sense of how they'll work?