This is stupid!
Another episode of the comedy that is Washington politics played out yesterday; and the nation is all the worse for it.
The President respectfully informed Speaker John Boehner that he would like to address a joint session of Congress on September 7, 2011 for the purpose of addressing the country’s economic crises and offering his plan to create jobs. In an unprecedented refusal, the Speaker politely declined the President’s request and suggested that he address the Congress the following day; September 8. What followed were a series of accusations and excuses that sounded very much like a grade school food fight.
The real issue was the scheduled Republican Presidential Debate that is to be held on September 7. The President thought he could use the power of the presidency to Bigfoot the debate. The Speaker was having none of it.
In the end the President backed down…again. The President will address the joint session of Congress on September 8 and go head to head with the NFL’s season opener featuring the Packers and the Saints.
Either the President was arrogant enough to feel that Boehner would acquiesce to the power of the Presidency or naïve enough to believe that the Speaker’s intransigence would have somehow weakened over the summer recess. Either way, the President made a serious error in judgment and came out looking weak and defeated for it.
The President has been hyping this address for weeks. He was going to present his big plan to put people back to work. His base was encouraging him to “think big and be bold.” In the end he ends up saying: “no problem, we’ll just push it back a day and compete with the NFL.”
The Republicans do not respect this President. More importantly, they do not fear him. They will give him nothing. Why this President continues to act as if the Republican tiger will someday change its stripes is mind boggling.
So what should he have done?
First of all he should have known that the Republicans were not going to allow him to give his address on the same day and at the same time their candidates were to be showcased on national television. He could have picked another day. We have been waiting for him to present a major jobs initiative for almost three years…what’s another few days. But he chose to attempt a cheap political trick and came out looking bad. Why pick a fight that you know you can’t win.
But now that he stepped into this mess he should not back down. He should make his speech from the Oval Office or better still, the steps at the foot of the capital. He should give address at exactly the same time as the Republican debate. With the capitol rotunda as a backdrop he should address the American people saying something like: “I believe that our nation is in crises. I had asked Speaker Boehner to be allowed to address the people and their elected representatives about my plans to jump start the economy and put people back to work. However, the Speaker and my opponents have chosen to put party and politics ahead of country and have refused my request. Therefore I am speaking to you tonight from outside the capitol building.” Then he should put forth a mammoth jobs plan to repair our infrastructure and schools paid for by repealing the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and closing the loopholes that allow big corporations to pay zero dollars in taxes. The optics of the President of the United States having been refused entry into the people’s capitol, standing outside fighting for the things he believes in…the things that people sent him to Washington to accomplish…would send a powerful message, invigorate his base and rally disillusioned independents.
Would such a massive proposal ever pass in Congress…of course not? These people cannot even agree on a time and place for a speech. So what has the President got to lose? At least he could campaign on his efforts and point out once again that his opponents put party and ideology first. He would certainly have the readymade commercial to make his point.
The President needs to take the obstructionist tactics of his opponents and use them as a tool to bury them. Fighting power with power is the only thing Washington understands. But almost three years into his term this President has yet to demonstrate the ability or the willingness to punch back.
The Republicans do not respect nor fear this President. He has no one to blame but himself.