September 2, 2011

JOHN PODHORETZ: The White House Mess:

We will little note nor long remember Wednesday’s breathless kerfuffle, with the White House deciding to schedule a speech in front of a joint session of Congress without actually asking Congress first — and planning for it during a long-planned Republican debate.

The White House spin doctors told some fibs, realized they looked petty and unseemly, then backed off and moved it a day. This won’t even rise to the level of a Jeopardy question in a year’s time.

But supporters of President Obama outside the White House have every reason to be terrified by what happened on Wednesday — and I choose the word “terrified” carefully. For the incident suggests that the White House’s sense of how things work has grown dangerously distorted. And if this White House is broken, it’s not good for anyone.

It’s broken, all right. And we’re broke. And there’s a connection. . . .

Related: Politico: White House Furious Over Speech Delay: “The White House was well aware the president’s speech would conflict with a planned Republican debate sponsored by POLITICO and NBC to be held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The debate would be broadcast live by MSNBC and live-streamed by POLITICO. CNBC and Telemundo will re-air the broadcast. Yet the White House did not see this as an obstacle.”

That’s because they’re inept. And what’s the consequence? “The White House did not want to give in and look weak, but what was the alternative?” Um, competence? Well, no. . . . Despite the Politico spin of this failure as something that the House Republicans did to Obama, this is a case of tactical overreach by the White House political shop. They thought Obama could upstage the Republican debate, and that the House Republicans would roll over for the awesome majesty of the Presidency. But the diminished Obama Presidency isn’t looking very majestic these days, and this peeved foot-stamping isn’t helping, and merely serves to underscore the White House political operation’s incompetence. (By complaining about Rush Limbaugh and the Tea Party, they just further the Obama-diminution process while building up his opponents.) They miscalculated, and it blew up in their face. Whining to the press that they were outmaneuvered won’t improve things, and no capable political operative would imagine that it could. But then, why should we expect more competence from the White House political shop than we’ve seen from the rest of their operation?

UPDATE: Reader Jim Somers writes: “Glenn, the Administration’s handling of the jobs speech scheduling is, I think, quite revealing of the degree to which they don’t get what’s going on. First, trying to pre-empt and one-up the GOP debate was sure to anger Republicans and make them even less willing to work with the president on jobs legislation. Is the President aware that the Democrats no longer control the House, and thus need GOP cooperation to pass a bill? Second, this was really kind of a sad, nostalgia-driven attempt to go back to something that Obamaniacs thought was just really awesome during the ’08 campaign – the ‘Barack Block’, where anytime Obama gave a speech, the networks would cut away from anything else they were covering – a McCain speech, a Hillary speech, whatever. In fact, Josh Marshall’s original TPM blog post, when it was first announced that the White House wanted the speech at the same time as the GOP debate, was simply titled ‘FWAAMP’, which I think was supposed to be sound of the President big-footing the GOP. No doubt Marshall thought it would be like, totally awesome to get back to the days of the Barack Block. Those days are gone forever – you should just let ’em go.”

As I said, he’s much diminished. Not least by this kind of behavior.

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