President Obama has rescheduled his highly anticipated jobs speech to next Thursday, Sept. 8, after complaints from Speaker John Boehner and Congressional Republicans. The president had originally requested to convene a joint session of Congress for the speech on Wednesday, but he ran into significant opposition from Republicans who feared that their presidential debate — scheduled to take place on the same night and same time as the speech — would be overshadowed.
“It is undignified that the President of the United States would resort to such transparent tactics to step on our Republican debate,” said Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s campaign manager. House Speaker John Boehner did not publicly link the timing of the speech and the presidential debate, but the conflict was clearly the subtext of a terse statement from his spokesperson, which accused the White House of ignoring established protocol of mutually agreeing to a date before making public announcements. The White House has maintained that the speech was scheduled to coincide with the debate by sheer chance.
“It is coincidental,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement Wednesday night. “There are a lot of factors that go into scheduling a joint session of Congress for a speech. You can never find a perfect time.” In any case, the White House has relented and the president will speak on Thursday, as Boehner and his fellow Republicans requested.
The Republicans may have unwittingly helped the President by forcing him to move his speech, however. Delivering the speech on the night after the debate will allow President Obama to respond to the jobs plans offered by Republicans during their debate, as opposed to letting the debate turn into a real-time referendum on Obama’s plan. Had the debate and the speech happened simultaneously, the Republican presidential candidates would have received a great deal of added attention; by giving the speech on Thursday, the White House avoids this pitfall.
By pushing the speech back a day, Obama will also be able to deliver his address to Congress, which political analyst Chris Cillizza argues will help “send a powerful visual and rhetorical message that [the president] can’t solve the economic problems of the country alone.” Furthermore, Cillizza notes that many of the President’s worst speeches have been delivered from the Oval Office, where the address likely would have been given had it been scheduled for Wednesday.
Finally, relenting to the Republicans’ pressure will once again highlight how uncooperative the president’s opposition continues to be. Poll after poll shows that voters are fed up with the gridlock in Washington, and they will likely see the fact that the Republican Party cannot even agree to the time of the speech (let alone the content) as yet another example of petty opposition for the sake of opposition. Overall, this is one case in which President Obama will probably end up thankful that he bent to the will of John Boehner and the Republican Party.