Having just returned from the back of the moon (otherwise known as Hurricane Irene), with no power or phone for five days and still no Internet (I’m writing this at the local ambulance corps on my laptop), I’m a little behind.
The kerfuffle over the president’s request to speak before a Joint Session of Congress is quite a remarkable display of political incompetence. Even the New York Times calls the administration “maladroit politically, to put it mildly.”
First, the White House doesn’t bother to clear the date and time before making a formal request. Then it says it’s a “coincidence” there’s a Republican debate scheduled for that exact moment, a statement absolutely no one believes. If it were true, why wouldn’t the speech have been set for 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m? The later hour is the usual one for events like this, as it allows people in the Pacific Time Zone to get home.
Then, having learned to their astonishment that Congress is a co-equal branch of the federal government when the Speaker (for the first time in history) turned the request down, the White House backed down and accepted the next night. Then it learns (talk about being on the back of the moon) the NFL season starts that night.
So, the time has now been set for 7:30 p.m. That means people will be in the middle of dinner in the Central Time Zone, in the middle of rush hour in the Mountain Time Zone, and still at work in the Pacific Time Zone, severely cutting into the potential audience.
In any case, why does Obama want a venue previously always reserved for matters of the highest state? Is this speech going to be the equal, historically, of FDR’s request for a declaration of war against Japan, or George Bush’s speech following 9/11?
That’s hard to believe. Of course, this White House seems to believe this president’s mere idle thought is sacred text. But they are going to have a lot of people not listening at all and a lot of others thinking to themselves as the president walks down the aisle of the House chamber, “This had better be good.”
Will it be good enough to stem the steady draining of public support and even respect for this administration? I wouldn’t count on it.