Obama Speech Scheduling Follies
How hard is it to schedule one measly jobs speech?
So, President Obama announces that he’s going to address a joint session of Congress at 8 pm Eastern on September 7. Coincidentally, that’s the exact same time the Republican contenders to unseat him are debating in California. Of course, as Chris Cillizza points out, there are no coincidences in presidential politics.
[T]he political reality is that by scheduling the jobs speech at the same time as the debate the White House is trying to force a choice and a contrast.
The choice is over which event you want to watch. While picture-in-picture technology has come along way (or so we hear — we don’t know how to use it on The Fix home TV), it’s not really possible to watch two (non sporting) events simultaneously.
The White House is well aware of that reality and they want to force viewers into a choice — believing that most people will choose a presidential address on jobs and the economy over a debate between Republican presidential candidates.
The contrast the White House is hoping to force is between a sitting incumbent spending his time trying to find solutions to the big problems facing the country and a motley crew of Republicans fighting amongst themselves as they all try to run to the extreme ideological right.
Opinion was deeply divided about the smarts of the strategy.
Some applauded the move as a sign of much-needed aggression from the White House “Whether intentional or not it sends a signal that the president and White House are coming out of their corner between rounds fists up, on their toes and ready to fight,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane.
But there were others within the party who worried that the White House’s scheduling gambit might backfire.
“It’s a bad idea [and] seems a little small,” said one Democratic consultant granted anonymity to speak candidly. “And it suggests perhaps his jobs plan wont be that appealing because now the coverage will be about the strategy and not the substance.”
Another senior Democratic operative suggested that scheduling the speech simultaneously with the GOP debate actually would muddy rather than clarify the contrast the White House is hoping for heading into 2012.
“If you’re trying to define this as a choice and not a referendum, why step on the opportunity for the American people to see the alternatives?” the source asked.
Regardless of where you come down on the rightness of the strategy — and make no mistake that it is a strategy — it’s hard to dispute that it’s “game on” in the 2012 presidential race.
Well, House Speaker John Boehner can play politics, too. He told Obama he’d have to delay one night because of the vagaries of the Congressional schedule and presidential security requirements. So, Obama agreed to postpone to 8 pm Thursday.
It took people about 5 seconds after that announcement to realize that this happens to be the exact moment the NFL season kicks off, with the New Orleans Saints visiting the defending champion Green Bay Packers. Which means either Obama will need to reschedule, NBC will have to reschedule the game and piss off not only the 80,000 or so fans in attendance but the millions who have been looking forward to this for months, or NBC will simply not show the speech.
I’m sure this is just a coincidence, however, and Boehner had no idea.