Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2011 3 Elul, 5771
W.H. furious over speech delay
By Roger Simon
Who cares? The White House cares. Very much.
“It is a big deal that the House said ‘no’ to the president from our end,” a White House source with intimate knowledge of what took place between the House and the president told me Thursday. “This confirms what we all know: They will do anything in the House to muck us up.”
On Wednesday, the White House staff did not know exactly what President Barack Obama was going to say in his major jobs speech, but it knew exactly where and when he was going to say it.
The location would be before a joint session of Congress in the august marble-clad chamber of the House of Representatives. And the speech would be next Wednesday night, when the House returned from vacation, and there would be maximum TV viewership.
The speech would be dignified, sober and important. But the planning turned out to be a mess, a mess that illuminates just how hyper-partisan politics have become on Capitol Hill at exactly the time Obama is calling for bipartisanship.
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. “With all due respect, the POLITICO-MSNBC debate was one that was going on a cable station,” the White House source said. “It was not sacrosanct. We knew they would push it back and then there would be a GOP debate totally trashing the president. So it wasn’t all an upside for us.”
And, at first, things seemed to fall into place.
At about 10 or 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, White House chief of staff Bill Daley called House Speaker John Boehner and asked that a joint session of Congress be assembled the following Wednesday night. The White House viewed Boehner as a political opponent, but not an enemy and the call was cordial, even pro forma considering such a request had never before been refused.
And, according to the White House source, Boehner said “okay” to Daley’s request for the Wednesday evening date. (Asked for comment, Boehner’s press secretary, Brendan Buck, said he had nothing to add to his statement of Wednesday that read in part: “No one in the speaker’s office - not the speaker, not any staff - signed off on the date the White House announced today.”)
Then things quickly unraveled. It turned out not everyone was as sanguine as Boehner with the notion that a Democratic president was going to step on a Republican debate.
At 11:55 a.m. Wednesday, the White House tweeted the news about the joint session. “And then Rush Limbaugh beat Boehner up,” the source said.
The conservative talk show personality was in his familiar state of high dudgeon. “This is a pure campaign speech and to give it the imprimatur of a speech before a joint session of Congress, there’s no way, he doesn’t deserve that,” Limbaugh said. “Boehner’s got to say no. Now, whether he will, I have no clue.”
A number of Republicans in the House and a few in the Senate did have a clue and they told Boehner that while they would allow the joint session – it was hard not to for both historic and political reasons – the timing had to be on their terms, which meant it could not conflict with the Republican debate.
The White House was not pleased. In reality, it believed, Congress really had never gone out of session, a parliamentary move that blocked Obama from making recess appointments. “And they had to arrange security?” the White House source scoffed. “As if they couldn’t do that! This was a political thing, a tea party thing, a Rush Limbaugh thing. They were all giving Boehner gas.”
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate