Political Animal


September 01, 2011 8:00 AM ‘The Bart Simpsons of Congress’

By Steve Benen

About a year ago, the American Enterprise Institute’s Norm Ornstein, not exactly a raging leftist, said John Boehner and his team “are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious.”

That was May 2010. They’ve gotten considerably worse since. Hell, I’ve been watching “The Simpsons” for more than two decades, and I’m convinced Bart’s capacity for seriousness far exceeds anything we’ve seen from congressional Republicans.

At a certain level, the dust-up over the scheduling of President Obama’s Joint Session speech on the economy could have been a non-story. The White House wanted Wednesday; the Speaker’s office wanted Thursday. The White House, willing to oblige, goes with Boehner’s preference. No big deal.

But as American politics unravels before our eyes, this helps capture the painful stupidity that now dominates the process.

Any hopes that a kinder, gentler bipartisan Washington would surface once Congress returns after Labor Day were summarily dashed on Wednesday when President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner clashed over, of all things, the date and time of the president’s much-awaited speech to the nation about his proposal to increase jobs and fix the economy.

In a surreal volley of letters, each released to the news media as soon as it was sent, Mr. Boehner rejected a request from the president to address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m. — the same night that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled.

In an extraordinary turn, the House speaker fired back his own letter to the president saying, in a word, no. Might the president be able to reschedule for the following night, Sept. 8?

For several hours, the day turned into a very public game of chicken.

White House officials actually had to engage in talks with the Speaker’s office into the night, before announcing the change to Thursday.

Remember, this is just about picking the date for the speech. It’s like arguing about the shape of the table before sitting down for negotiations. What possible chance is there for Washington to approve meaningful economic legislation if there’s a dramatic showdown over scheduling? That’s a rhetorical question; the chances are zero.

Accounts differ as to exactly how this fiasco occurred, but it appears the White House consulted with congressional leaders before the announcement and, according to Democrats, chose Wednesday. Republican leaders didn’t object at the time, which the White House interpreted as acceptance. GOP officials then said they hadn’t actually agreed to Wednesday, leading to Boehner’s letter yesterday afternoon.

It was, according congressional historians, the first time in American history the president requested an audience with a Joint Session, only to have the Speaker balk.

By agreeing to Boehner’s preferred day, the White House at least prevents a prolonged argument about process. Because Washington rules dictate that there must be a “winner” in every dispute, the Speaker gets to gloat this morning, but the fact remains Boehner still looks small and petty, picking an unnecessary fight. That he claimed to be speaking “on behalf of the bipartisan leadership and membership of both the House and the Senate,” when he clearly was not, only makes him look slightly worse. If President Obama values being seen as “the adult in the room,” this little mess reinforced the perception.

But that doesn’t make yesterday’s developments any less ridiculous. If Americans wanted a responsible Congress, ready and willing to act in the nation’s interest, and able to work constructively in response to critical challenges, they made a tragic mistake in November 2010. Yesterday’s largely inconsequential fiasco will fade away soon enough, but it’s symbolic of a larger problem: voters elected far-right children to run the legislative branch of government.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Live Free or Die on September 01, 2011 8:05 AM:

    So let me guess. Obama comes out looking "reasonable" once again. He looks like very weak president to me. Why could he have not just scheduled a town hall meeting in Ohio instead? Why did he have to once again cave? I just do not get it. Can someone explain this to me? I really congratulated Obama for finally starting to play hardball. Then this. How does he expect congressional Democrats to follow him out on a limb, when they know he will eventually cave? I will be over at my friends house watching football, and they are going to be watching the pre show, not the President. Obama needs to fire his entire media staff.

  • DAY on September 01, 2011 8:09 AM:

    Boner did what he did because he knew he could.

    Schoolyard bullies don't pick on the Karate Kid, they go after Mister Softee.

  • c u n d gulag on September 01, 2011 8:12 AM:

    Let's hope people DO tune in to the Republicans debate that night.

    They'll see what looks like the aliens in the bar scene from "Star Wars" running for President.

    Let's see a show of hands for who'll want to vote for either Snow Not-so-White, or any of the dwarves up there with her?

    And yeah, right from the get-go, Obama's all bipartisany, hopey, and even willing to changey the time of the joint session, which doesn't bode well.

    But, it's not like Republicans are going to do anything about the economy or jobs - besides making them worse, I mean...

  • Live Free or Die on September 01, 2011 8:12 AM:

    I am an idiot. Yesterday when this blew up, I bet one of my conservative coworker political junkies $100 that Obama would give his speech and tell the GOP to go blow chunks. I agree to that this makes Boehner look like a petulant child. But it also makes Obama look like a very weak parent. If your child threw himself on the ground and started kicking people, would you say to him, "OK you can have the candy". That would make you a bad parent.

  • bleh on September 01, 2011 8:13 AM:

    Yes Boehner looks petty, but that's fine with the people he was trying to impress. As long as he can stick his thumb in the black guy's eye, it's all good.

    And really, the WH needs to wake up and smell the corn likker. They're acting like they still assume the Republicans are mature or trustworthy negotiation partners. Are they just play-acting, and if so, how many times will they turn the other cheek? And if they're not play-acting, how many times do they need something like this to happen before they realize that the Republicans are like fifth-graders with a vendetta?

    This is another lose-lose, but for the WH, I think it was an unforced error.

  • FRP on September 01, 2011 8:13 AM:

    Pitiful , once again Bart Simpson shoulders the responsibility for Homer Boehner's minimal attention span .
    Where are the protesting throngs of Anime and Cartoon aficionado's ?
    Tune in to the next episode when Ann Coulter scolds Michelle two l's Malkin for encouraging the younger members of the Tee Peeurs to publicly demonstrate the "Tee Pee Cheer" . See Paul Ryan's face contort with emotion , while Eric Cantor weeps silently over the loss of a nail and it's cascading equine effect .

    This broadcast brought to you by the (somebodies , somethings) refusal to face reality .
    Thank you

  • hells littlest angel on September 01, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Obama did the smart thing in agreeing to switch the speech to Thursday. Unfortunately, picking Wednesday originally was a dumb thing. Not catastrophically dumb (like, say, invading Iraq), but dumb. Most people will forget about it by tomorrow. The right-wing will flog it for years in their grievance-flogging machine, just as they do with every action Obama takes.


  • howie on September 01, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Cave, cave, cave...
    And all of America gets reminded who really runs this country.
    Less than 16 months until undivided government.
    Lord help us all...

  • Anonymous on September 01, 2011 8:15 AM:

    He had to show that ni**er who's boss.

  • Live Free or Die on September 01, 2011 8:16 AM:

    Yesterday on the late thread I wrote this :

    "I am so proud of President Obama for bigfooting the GOP debate. Finally the gloves come off. More of this. Now that Boener has exposed himself as an asshole, hold a town hall meeting in Ohio in a packed stadium. Mention that you were going to give the speech to Congress, but for the first time in history Boehner denied that to a president. "

    I take it all back.

  • John B. on September 01, 2011 8:17 AM:

    Gawd almighty, this is pathetic. Obama loses -- twice. He looks like a wet noodle (once again!) and half the testosterone population will get p-o'd at him for moving his speech to interrupt their football game.

    One question: When will Obama grow a pair????????

  • Danp on September 01, 2011 8:21 AM:

    So now the question is, will the NFL chanage their scheduled season opener? Will NBC (or whoever) have to delay their game, or will Obama speak at 8 and make NBC skip over the Republican response. Surely Obama will be blamed in either case, but R's sure look petty, once again.

  • Live Free or Die on September 01, 2011 8:21 AM:


    I blame this 100% on Obama. Once the WH made this announcement, I know the GOP was going to block it before they made the announcement. Why could he have not taken this speech to the people. People who would be cheering him for talking about jobs. Now he has to pray that people watch his speech instead of the pre game. I am not going to tell my apolitical friends to turn of the pregame to watch the president. Does the WH not know that many people go over to their friends house or bars to watch the NFL games?

  • FRP on September 01, 2011 8:24 AM:

    Don Henley had an insight into the party machinery .

    Can we film the operation? Is the head dead yet?
    You know the boys in the newsroom got a running bet
    Get the widow on the set, we need dirty laundry

  • Brenna on September 01, 2011 8:24 AM:

    This makes two times in a row that Obama got sucker punched by Boehner. The debt ceiling fiasco and now this childish scheduling deal. Obama played a part in both of these. He tried to one up the republicans and got his lunch money stolen. It's getting very old and very sickening. I don't even want to watch his speech. Like Steve said, the republicans have no desire to govern. What's the point. The American people are on their own.

    c u n d gulag makes a good point. The republican debate will undoubtedly be a showcase in asininity. With any luck, Perry will implode.

  • BrklynLibrul on September 01, 2011 8:27 AM:

    This is only a big deal for Beltway insiders -- most Americans could care less about the date of the speech. But, contra Benen the Obama Buttlicker, it does reinforce to the GOP that they can kick this wussy any day they want, any hour, on the hour. Obama's caught in a vortex because he's so, so frightened of them. At some point he's going to have to hate on Republicans as much as they hate on him; he needs wake up each morning, thinking how many GOP babies he can eat for breakfast. Otherwise, he's doomed -- and the consequences for the country are unthinkable.

  • Anon on September 01, 2011 8:28 AM:

    My MSN homepage has the following headline: "After Boehner Objects, Obama Changes Speech Date". Nothing in there about being the only adult in the room, only a headline showing pretty strongly who's calling the shots. And yes, as John B point out, now Fox news will go out and stoke its base about Obama's unAmerican move of stepping on the NFL opening game.

    The narrative's already gotten away from him, and he hasn't even said what his jobs agenda is. And this is a horrible first step.

  • John B. on September 01, 2011 8:28 AM:

    Danp asks, "now the question is, will the NFL change their scheduled season opener? "

    Hell, no! All they have to do is tell the White House, "No. You pick another day." And, Obama will tuck tail and do as he's told.

    Someone should tell the White House voters absolutely despise a weak, lily-livered push-over. Worse, they laugh at one who talks tough on the campaign trail but predictably caves-in whenever a bully shakes his fist at him.

  • SW on September 01, 2011 8:32 AM:

    I'm sorry but it looks to me like the lower chamber is running the government. Something that I dare say every other president would have found inconceivable.

  • Live Free or Die on September 01, 2011 8:36 AM:

    Obama is just getting really bad advice from all of his advisers. First he agrees to a stimulus package that was too small, and 40% tax cuts. He could have told Americans that he did not like the tax cuts and that the package was too small so that now he could go back for a bigger one. Then he say he give up the public option right off the bat, instead of using it as a negotiating chip. Then he caves on the debt ceiling despite having 75% of the combined Executive,Legislative branches. Now he caves on this speech. He is in a big bubble. He needs to get rid of Geitener, Alxelrod. The are just not getting things done.

  • FRP on September 01, 2011 8:40 AM:

    I know what my people are thinking tonight,
    As home through the shadows they wander.
    Ev'ryone smiling in secret delight,
    They stare at the castle and ponder.
    Whenever the wind blows this way,
    You can almost hear ev'ryone say:

    Well, I'll tell you what the king is feeling tonight:
    He's numb!
    He shakes!
    He quails! He quakes!
    And that's what the king is doing tonight.

    It certainly is one Right Wing point of view your majesty .

  • DAY on September 01, 2011 8:46 AM:

    Apparently, Obama want the Kabuki of a joint session speech. The usual partisan applause, the usual camera shots of Major Players.

    I suppose that is the White House thinking, that the simple folk (AKA Americans) want the reassurance of a familiar plot line.

    I would prefer Obama to follow Spenser's dictum of, "Be bold, be bold", and give the speech on the Mall. The new MLK venue would give the media an opportunity to compare this speech to King's.
    It would be a good comparison; this president's strong suit is speechifying; sadly, it is beginning to look like his ONLY one. . .

  • Grumpy on September 01, 2011 8:48 AM:

    Bartís capacity for seriousness far exceeds anything weíve seen from congressional Republicans.

    Bart Simpson's first words: "Dad, what is the mind? Is it just a system of impulses or is it something tangible?"

    Now imagine Boehner asking that.

  • ckelly on September 01, 2011 8:51 AM:

    I sincerely believe that "Eat my shorts" would be a significant improvement in Republican rhetoric and bluster.

  • ckelly on September 01, 2011 8:54 AM:

    White House officials actually had to engage in talks with the Speakerís office into the night, before announcing the change to Thursday.

    I see Obama is still "compromising".

  • berttheclock on September 01, 2011 9:00 AM:

    The perception of Boehner looking petty is only in the eyes of the strongest Obama supporters. Liberals/Progressives make up only a small percentage of this country. Obama was elected in '08 by many independents becoming disgusted with anything Bush. To win a 2nd term, this will be the group Obama needs to retain and many of them, probably, do not have this speech dustup on their collective radars at the moment.

    To place the speech against a large percentage of this nation viewing Brees-Rodgers is very stupid on the part of the 1600ites.

    If, they keep caving, consider the renaming of Mammoth to Obama Cave in Kentucky and Carlsbad to Obama Caverns in NMex.

  • Josef K on September 01, 2011 9:02 AM:

    I'm going to be a bit of a contrarian and suggest this has a positive element to it, in that it now sets some precedent for 'deflating' the "Imperial Presidency" a tiny bit.

    I readily agree how this was handled makes no-one involved look good (the President and Speaker are in a dead-heat, frankly, for who looks worst), but by the same token if gods forbid we get another George W Bush, it can't hurt if the Speaker takes a few steps to remind that future President they're just one of three co-equal branches of government.

    Prehaps I'm being overly-idealistic here, but with all the hits we Americans have been taking lately, I'll take what I can get.

  • kevo on September 01, 2011 9:09 AM:

    I wonder:

    Was Gary Cooper ah hope'n ah speech would showd up and save hem by High Noon?

    WTF -Where are the jobs?

    Penny-ante, mealymouthed, twits - Who will I vote for in 2012? Have to vote, but just what does Barack Obama stand for? What is his vision?

    A vicious cycle of "compromise" with utterly disrespectful souls?

    That's not a vision I want to keep! -Kevo

  • June on September 01, 2011 9:10 AM:

    I'm not going to blame Obama for Republicans' bad behavior because that plays right into those f*cking idiots' hands, and I will not be a part of that. Why can Republicans do whatever they want? They get cover from Fox News, "both sides do it" cover from the mainstream media, and Democrats blaming Obama for Republicans' reprehensible behavior.

    Yes, I'm disappointed that Obama moved the date, and it's unfortunate that having integrity and a sense of responsibility translates into being "weak" these days, but that doesn't mean I'm ready to help out the GOP by blaming Obama for the GOP's bad behavior. Obama can't just order up a town hall in a swing state for next week -- there's matters of security, costs to the state, scheduling issues, etc.

    Yes, I would like to see Obama beat the GOP to a pulp with a political baseball bat, but I'm not ready to turn my back on Obama just because John Boehner is a f*cking idiot.

  • SW on September 01, 2011 9:17 AM:

    This is all part of Obama's clever plan to look as week as possible so that he won't scare the old white people or something....

  • j on September 01, 2011 9:19 AM:

    I usually agree with just about every comment I read on this site, just now I think I have a different position to most. I think once again Obama is showing himself to be the reasonable adult, Boehner obviously had no objection to the speech date, but when he informed his masters, they objected and as usual Boehner does what he is told.Obama looks like someone eager to accommodate the repubs because he is smart enough to know that when the jobs speech is given they will be tearing out their hair and gnashing their teeth
    and he wants to be seen as the grown up.

  • jim filyaw on September 01, 2011 9:24 AM:

    boehner and friends may be acting like "far right children", but i'm convinced that obama has been their enabler. even before the keys to the congress were turned over to them in 2010, i noticed a disturbing lack of resolve, even a lack of courage on obama's part in the health care debate. he simply doesn't have the fire for confrontation. book it, he'll cave every time, on any subject. the really scary one was his putting social security and medicare on the table in the budget ceiling debate. only republican stupidity and hubris saved us from obama's "really big deal." he may get re-elected and the democrats may retake the house, but as long as there is one republican whackjob in the congress, obama will have the pavlovian impulse to cater to him.

  • Johnny Canuck on September 01, 2011 9:26 AM:

    Obama needs to run for Prime Minister next year. i.e. he needs to spend time asking voters to vote for Democratic senators and congressmen who will support his legislative agenda.

    I don't understand why Obama didn't opt for an Oval Office speech on Tuesday: the rest of the country went back to work today but Congress isn't back until Wednesday and couldn't get their act together until Thursday, so I'm providing them with some operating instructions.

  • Jeff In Ohio on September 01, 2011 9:34 AM:

    The White House wouldn't be looking like a bunch of pussies if their spokesman hadn't told the DC press corps that NBC could move the time of GOP debate to accommodate the president, which NBS, overnight, was willing to do.

    While I agree, no one outside the beltway or political junkies are going to give a rats ass in a year, it's another nail in the coffin of enthusiasm of progressives like me who are willing to work to get Obama reelected, but wonder what exactly is the fucking problem in the west wing.

  • Johnny Canuck on September 01, 2011 9:34 AM:

    jim filyaw on September 01, 2011 9:24 AM:

    I don't think you are correct. Obama asks whether he has the votes in Congress to pass things. I do think he is wrong not to complain about what he gives up when he compromises.

    Also remember that when the April govt shutdown fight occurred, the initial reports were that Obama had caved to Boehner and massive cuts had been enacted. It subsequently came out that most of the cuts were illusory and TP's in the House were seething that Boehner had been rolled.

  • John B. on September 01, 2011 9:46 AM:

    The conventional view, doubtless promoted by the incompetent political advisors at the White House, is that in tielding to Republican demands on small as well as large matters, Obama comes off looking like "the only adult in the room." That is not exactly how the vast number of voters see it.

    A great many voters are parents. As they reach for an analogue in their own lives to what they see of the White House's responses to GOP juvenalia, threats, tantrums, and obstructionism they find it in the all-too-common weaknesses of a bad parent of a delinquent child. To them, it mat be true, Obama may be the only "adult" in the room but he is a Henry Tremblechin adult -- a parent who cannot control his disrespectful, narcissistic, destructive teen-ager; whi redponds to every new door-slamming outburst by handing over the car keys.

    It is not enough to be the "only adult in the room." A president, like a parent, also must be a smart, effective, consistent, and yet loving disciplinarian. The voters who are parents all know this at some level -- the bad ones as well as the good ones. No one is impressed by "adult" behavior that continually invites delinquent abuse.

  • HB on September 01, 2011 9:53 AM:

    Apparently there are a lot of people that don't know how the country works. The Constitution of the US says the speaker of the house sets the agenda for congress. So Obama was not really "caving" in so much as giving bonehead his due. It shouldn't have been a big deal, but you know republicans have to make a big deal out of anything the democrats and the prez wants to do. I'm surprised they don't want to count the number of times the white house toilet gets flushed.

  • gpleigh on September 01, 2011 9:54 AM:

    What planet are you guys on? PBO wants to give this speech before a joint session, which I think is very important. Boehner owns that calendar. All the huffing and puffing and macho tough guy posturing doesn't change that. Boehner is the one who caved. To Limbaugh.

  • Texas Aggie on September 01, 2011 9:55 AM:

    I can't help it, but everytime that Boehner, Cantor, McConnell et al do something this petty, I think of the line in The Godfather when the old man was trying to negotiate with a labor boss who wouldn't give in. Finally he said, "I can't reason with this man!" and walked out. The next day "this man" was dead.

  • g on September 01, 2011 10:01 AM:

    This might be Boehner's Newt Gingrich moment.

    Obama got it off the front page. That was smart. "Well, if it's that important to you to watch teevee, Mr. Boehner...."

    Thursday night, his speech should include the phrase "Last night we heard from the Republican candidates......"

  • SadOldVet on September 01, 2011 10:10 AM:

    I must congradulate President Obama on his consistency.

    Whether it is something big or something small, our president retains his title of Capitulator-In-Chief.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on September 01, 2011 10:11 AM:

    If Obama was cuckholded by a Republican, he'd compromise on a sharing schedule.

  • Bobsled on September 01, 2011 10:11 AM:

    It's time to refer to Rush as "House Speaker Limbaugh".

  • Varecia on September 01, 2011 10:11 AM:

    Agree with Jeff in Ohio. WTF????

    At any rate, I suppose anyone who is really interested--if they're unemployed and want to hear something about the economy and the near future--will watch the speech, regardless of its scheduling.

  • CDW on September 01, 2011 10:12 AM:

    How dense is Obama? It was petty of him to plan the speech for the night of the clown show in the first place and he set himself up for another cave. There's no one to blame but Obama. He should be a spelunker instead of president.

    Thursday night people will be watching football. I repeat. How dense can one man be? I'm furious and disgusted with him.

  • zeitgeist on September 01, 2011 10:12 AM:

    Ok, I'll be the Devil's Advocate on this one.

    I think Obama blew it from the word 'go,' and does not at all look like the adult.

    I think if you polled the public today, most would believe that Obama intentionally picked Wednesday to stick his thumb in the eye of Republicans on debate night. I also think Jay Carney sounded unbelievable saying otherwise (something about Carney comes off wrong to me anyway). And I think Boehner's story -- true or not -- comes off very plausible: the President only gave 15 minutes notice on the letter, and on reflection there was no way to get the required joint session vote and the security sweep done in time for the speech.

    So Obama looks bad for asking for Wednesday night, and worse for caving. And in the end, the very audience he needs most -- working class white males who have been moving sharply away from him -- will tune out in droves because of the football game.

    It is magnified because everyone looks bad sending the letters and negotiating in public when these things are usually done in private, but again, Team Obama was the first to go public with the letter (and the immediate reaction of the media was "ooh, he's stepping on the debate!")

    Even supporters of Obama, and I am one, should be able to take off the kool-aid-colored glasses and honestly evaluate the situation and say Team Obama played this one poorly in just about every way.

  • Gandalf on September 01, 2011 10:22 AM:

    I'm not surprised by many of the comments here roasting Obama. Most of you really don't give a rats ass about what the real issue is-the speech. Your concerned with meaningless ,petty and unimportant details of when it's to take place. Do any of you honestly believe for one second that the non-political junkies out there even give this little dust up a milliseconds thought.

  • Brenna on September 01, 2011 10:26 AM:

    zeitgeist, I agree totally with you that Obama played this poorly. But he also played the debt ceiling fiasco poorly as well. That one cost us big time. Like Ezra Klein said, Obama was trying to be cute and it blew up in his face.

    Boehner may have got rolled during the April budget crapola, but he took the attitude of fool me once...

    I'm disgusted with this president. Yes, I will vote for him again. What choice do I have? Complete destruction of the country by the republicans or just moderate destruction by Obama.

  • zeitgeist on September 01, 2011 10:33 AM:

    au contraire, Gandalf. this is very much about the speech. but the speech is not free of context: when a President's approval ratings are falling, it is easy and common for people to tune out (did anyone really listen to W towards the end?) And the prime audience for the NFL is a key part of who needs to hear Obama talk about jobs.

    so (1) Thursday night is bad timing precisely because people wont pay as much attention to the speech itself -- your concern; (2) if the perceived pettiness and weakness of the scheduling dust-up make people think less of Obama, even for a moment as they hear the TV news in the background while they make the kids' breakfast, they are less likely to pay attention to his message; and (3) the effort to step on the Republican debate makes this all look more political than Presidential -- and that makes a difference in terms of the lens through which independents in particular see the speech.

    I agree the content of the speech is what is important, but nothing in the real world is ever devoid of context. Context matters.

  • OKDem on September 01, 2011 10:40 AM:

    Is this bush up going to increase viewership of the address and the debate? Very likely.

    Would there have been complaints if the opening of the NFL season was delayed for a joint session speech? Yes, but now that is Boehner's fault. And the President gets the audience for the NFL opener.

    Did the White House just dictate that Rethugs candidates are going to have to put up or shut up on jobs in the debate? Yes.

    Will Rick Perry have to answer questions about jobs in his first real national appearance? Yes.

  • berttheclock on September 01, 2011 10:40 AM:

    So, Gandalf, could you, please, explain how "unimportant" it is to have maximum viewing for this very important speech? This is not a Saturday's radio speech moment.

  • jjm on September 01, 2011 10:45 AM:

    Boehner looks like a petty jerk who is THIRD IN LINE FOR THE PRESIDENCY!!!

    That fact alone should be turning people against him. And the fact that he put his party's 'glamorpuss' candidates (OMG) ahead of the national interest should subject him to oppobrium, not kudos for 'winning.'

    Obama can't TELL Congress to (as one writer above wrote) 'go blow chunks.' He must be invited by them to address a joint session.

    If he were to speak at a town hall 1) the national press wouldn't carry the whole speech, just sound bites chosen at random to make him sound incoherent and 2) it would not show the seriousness of his challenge to the GOP on jobs.

    So where's the weakness and the cave?

  • Gandalf on September 01, 2011 11:25 AM:

    So Berttheclock can you tell me what the difference in viewer numbers will be? And Zeitgeist the context is jobs isn't it or is it all about perception? AQpparantly perception of Obama is what's most important to you. What was he supposed to do go over to Boners office and coldcock him (not a bad idea) for having the audeacity to be the petty little prick that he is?

  • Kevin (not the famous one) on September 01, 2011 11:56 AM:

    The only fight bOner will pick is one he has a chance of winning. He won a round, give him a prize.

    It is not enough to be the "only adult in the room." A president, like a parent, also must be a smart, effective, consistent, and yet loving disciplinarian. ... - John B. @ 9:46

    OK, I'll bite. How did we get eight years of DubYah again?

  • Susan Puckett on September 01, 2011 1:21 PM:

    Even if the speech is on at the same time as the game, the game watchers can read the speech or watch it again because it will probably be broadcast over again at another time. It will be hashed and rehashed so anyone who is intelligent enough or cares enough about their country will look into what was said. The others wouldn't watch it no matter what time it was. Tues, Weds, or next month.

  • mcc on September 01, 2011 1:27 PM:

    Wait, Obama actually moved to thursday? That's pathetic.

  • Mitch on September 01, 2011 1:36 PM:


    You are as astute and intelligent as ever. I agree 100% that this is mostly Obama's fault, and NOT because he caved.

    He did not have a choice but to cave. He does not have control over Congress, nor should he. He should have known better than to announce the speech in public without having firm approval from Boner. Obama played this round like an amateur and lost.

    So Obama checked with Boner first, and the Speaker had no objections at the time. I am certain that Boner was stiting on the other line with a shit-eating grin on his face thinking, "I've got you, again, dumbass." Then Boner went to work writing his letter.

    How long is it going to take for Obama to understand: THE REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS WANT TO DESTROY YOUR PRESIDENCY AND THEY WILL DO ANYTHING POSSIBLE TO DO IT! You cannot trust them, you cannot negotiate with them, you cannot pretend that they are "loyal opposition". They will block, attack and humiliate you at every step.

    Obama once said he wouldn't bring a knife to a gunfight. Well this time he brought a water-balloon.

    Now only political junkies (mostly Dems anyway, since Repug voters don't want to listen to Obama anyway) will watch the speech. The working-class voter will be watching football.

    Another opportunity lost by amateurish planning.

  • zeitgeist on September 01, 2011 2:48 PM:

    What was he supposed to do go over to Boners office and coldcock him (not a bad idea) for having the audeacity to be the petty little prick that he is?

    Gandalf, thats a strategy we can both agree on!

    But as Mitch emphasized (thanks!) it isn't the caving in that I see as the problem, it is that scheduling on the night of the debate -- and apparently not seeing how the schedule would give Boehner a legit argument on timing for the security sweep -- was too clever by half. I can't tell what the objective was, but Team Obama does not appear to have thought through the strategy well enough to have pulled it off.

    It is not just about appearences. It is about how to ensure that the jobs plan (assuming he does the right thing and goes big enough) is the message, not some petty needless fight; and equally important its about how willing people are to hear it from this messenger.

    Although I'm still fine with him walking to the House and smacking Boehner upside the head, too.

  • Cha on September 01, 2011 3:44 PM:

    What an immature bunch of whiny little feet stompers in this comment section. BFD, President Obama gets to speak on Thursday night before the lead in to NFL..prime time after the republicon teabaggers have their stupid lying points debate on Wednesday. The important subject is JOBS and the President knows that even if the booing section doesn't.

    Those who are whining "he caved" haven't been paying attention to the President's record if that's all you can come up with from this stupid ploy by limbaugh's boy, boehner. And, if you're not paying attention..what good are you?

  • Good On Ya on September 01, 2011 3:50 PM:

    This will actually work in Obama's favor. Now Obama can talk about what he heard from the Republicans in their debate the night before, and the Republicans can't make their entire "debate" into a rebuttal of Obama's speech the night before.