WASHINGTON--Caving in to pressure from Republicans, President Obama will deliver his jobs speech before Congress on Sept. 8--not on Sept. 7, when the GOP 2012 presidential rivals debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The Obama team cut its losses as the scheduling was seen as provocative--and coming just as Obama is asking Congress to compromise on major debt, spending and revenue measures when lawmakers return to work next week.
Press Secretary Jay Carney issued a statement about the date switch on Wednesday night, after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republicans complained that it was not a coincidence that the Obama speech was set for Sept. 7.
The debate, sponsored by Politico and NBC, had been set for months.
Boehner said he was not consulted about the Sept. 7 date before it was announced.
"It's unfortunate the White House ignored decades--if not centuries--of protocol of working out a mutually agreeable date and time before making any public announcement," Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said.
Carney said in his statement, "Today, the President asked to address the Congress about the need for urgent action on the economic situation facing the American people as soon as Congress returned from recess. Both Houses will be back in session after their August recess on Wednesday, September 7th, so that was the date that was requested. We consulted with the Speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better. The President is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8th and challenge our nation's leaders to start focusing 100% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people."
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the timing was no coincidence.
"President Obama's decision to address Congress at the same time as a long-scheduled Republican Presidential debate cements his reputation as Campaigner-in-Chief. While the White House claims it's simply a 'coincidence,' the American people can see right through that excuse. The President has had months to get to work on the economy, but instead he chose to take a taxpayer-funded campaign trip and a cushy Martha's Vineyard vacation. If the President were serious about putting 'country before politics,' as he said in his request to speak to Congress, he wouldn't be caught in such a thinly-veiled political ploy. This is yet another reminder that the President is out of touch and out of ideas. The only job he seems to care about is his own."
Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked at the Wednesday briefing if the White House took into consideration the GOP debate when they picked a date for the speech.
"No, of course not. There were a lot of considerations that -- once you decide you want to do a speech to
Congress and you have to deal with congressional schedules and other -- there are other -- there are many other factors here. And obviously, one debate of many that's on one channel of many was not
enough reason not to have the speech at the time that we decided to
have it. "
My take: The Obama team knew--or should have known about the Sept. 7 GOP debate. The team figures that Obama will be cast as taking steps to create more jobs while the big GOP field squabble among themselves--or just, as Mrs. Reagan once said in another context, "Just Say No" to anything Obama proposes.