I’m sure this is nothing more than a coincidence.
President Barack Obama will make his long-awaited speech about jobs Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress at the same time that the Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in California.
While the debate isn’t the first Republican debate of the cycle, it is the first since Gov. Rick Perry entered the presidential contest, and polls have shown him taking a commanding lead in the race for the GOP nomination. Political observers have said that the debate could provide crucial insights into how Mitt Romney’s and Michelle Bachmann’s campaigns plan to deal with Perry’s surging candidacy.
In his letter to House Speaker John Boehner requesting the joint meeting of both houses of Congress, Obama wrote that he will unveil a series “bipartisan proposals” that Congress can take up immediately to “rebuild the American economy.”
However, with a presidential address to a joint session of Congress scheduled on the same night, at the same time, it’s likely that any press generated from the debate would be drowned out by the developments in Washington.
Obama’s people probably think they’re being clever here. The images that will result from his speech and the debate will visually elevate him above all of the GOP’s candidates. But he also looks petty for bigfooting the debate in the first place. Rick Perry managed to dominate the Ames straw poll with his campaign announcement in South Carolina, but that was a one-off and a political masterstroke in which he earned media coverage opposite an event in which he didn’t campaign. Obama has “pivoted to jobs” 7 or 8 times already, and a year ago yesterday he even promised a big new initiative on jobs. If Obama presents zero new ideas in his joint session speech, and so far all the evidence says that that’s what he is going to do, he’s likely to accomplish two things: Irritate an even greater slice of the country while also stirring up more grumbling from Congress for having to attend his nothingburger of a speech.
And what happens if the GOP debate gets better ratings than his speech? That could happen, and would be a serious embarrassment to the president.
This was a bad move, borne of fear on Obama’s part. Having promised a jobs plan after his return from vacation, he fears delivering it before the GOP debate. That would allow them to use the debate time to shred it in unison. Going soon after the debate runs the risk of his plan looking flimsy and unserious after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who now leads in the polls and has a real jobs record to stand on, makes his first debate appearance on Sept. 7.