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.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Science & Technology, Sports, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Pete says:

    Well said, James, especially after TPM’s hysterical first headlines. Too bad the frothing zombie commenters at TPM don’t visit this site more often.

  2. Mary Katherine Ham summed it up quite nicely on Twitter last night:

    The WH is very disappointed that the GOP won’t put the president’s very important playing of politics above politics.

  3. Lit3Bolt says:

    More evidence that Obama is advised by spider monkeys. Who thought this was a good idea in the first place? Some dewy faced young aide?

  4. JKB says:

    This was a serious bonehead move. Daring the Congress to assert their equal status and signal they won’t be dictated to. Petty political move so the narcissist in chief isn’t out of the news for the night of the Republican debate. And what if they’d agreed and the Obama speech just didn’t draw the viewers?

    Obama better be coming out with new and real ideas on jobs (which they are being unusually quiet about) or it is just going to look worse on him. More, give me all the money to give to my supporters whose companies will go out of business or transfer their jobs to China, isn’t going to cut it.

  5. Rob in CT says:

    Egg, meet face.

  6. CB says:

    total headscratcher. i wonder what endgame they could have possibly been going for. how could they not have forseen the beatings they would take, and how could they possibly benefit, especially when it looks like nothing but a boilerplate speech?

    im continually astounded that such a well oiled, on message campaign machine has proven to be so inept at playing the political game.

  7. Wayne says:

    His whole handling of this has many scratching their heads including the request to address a joint session of Congress. If he gets up and repeat once again another Campaign speech with little in new substance, he will come off as a big fool. You don’t call a joint session of Congress for that.

    Even many of the MSM complain about his last “major” address that had nothing new in it. IMO Obama ego keeps telling him that it is not his actual policies that people don’t like but that people just haven’t been told. He has said as much. He simply can’t accept that he could be wrong.