President Obama has been promising for a while now to lay out, in a major speech, his latest job-creation ideas. Early today he checked his day planner and decided that September 7 at 8 p.m. EST is the perfect date and time for this speech, which will come in the form of a rare address to a joint session of Congress. This just so happens to perfectly coincide with the next GOP presidential debate (and the first one to include Rick Perry), which will also be held on September 7 at 8 p.m. EST, at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
Amusingly, White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed this afternoon that the timing was totally unintentional:
Carney said that the speech is not intended to overshadow the debate. “No, of course not,” he said. “There were a lot of considerations. Once you want to do a speech to Congress and you have to deal with congressional schedules and there are many other factors here one debate of many that is on one channel of many was not enough reason not to have this speech at the time that we decided to have it.”
Anyone could smell this bullshit from a mile away, and it looks like Speaker of the House John Boehner's olfactory senses are in good working order. In a letter to Obama, Boehner responded to Obama's request with a suggestion of his own: Thursday, September 8, actually works a lot better for, uh, mundane logistical reasons completely unrelated to the GOP debate:
Boehner said that since the House wouldn't reconvene until 6:30 on Wednesday, and because it takes hours to complete the security sweep necessary for a presidential address, "it is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks."
Obviously, both sides here are lying through their teeth. Nobody is admitting it, but this scheduling tug-of-war revolves 100 percent around the GOP debate, and whether Obama will be allowed to frame it in the way of his choosing. As the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza observed this afternoon, Obama may have picked Wednesday not so much to overshadow the GOP debate as to set up a contrast "between a sitting incumbent spending his time trying to find solutions to the big problems facing the country and a motley crew of Republicans fighting amongst themselves as they all try to run to the extreme ideological right."
It's unclear whether Obama privately got the okay from Boehner before he went public with his initial request. According to NBC's Luke Russert, Obama only gave Boehner fifteen minutes' notice about his request, while Politico's Glenn Thrush hears from an administration source that the "date/time of Obama address was 'cleared' with GOP before it went public."
Whatever happened behind closed doors, this whole exercise in political posturing is fairly pointless. The hoped-for contrast between Obama and the GOP field will be just as clear, and probably even clearer because anyone who is interested will be able to watch both events if Obama is forced to give his address on Thursday, the day after the debate. In other words, the final outcome of this battle of disingenuous motivations really doesn't matter.
Update: Thursday it is! In an email sent to the press Wednesday evening, Jay Carney said the White House is now totally fine with the 8th:
"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."
This post has been updated from an earlier version.