That our politics is broken is a truism at this point. Still, it’s instructive to identify the breaking points. Roger Simon, Politico’s chief political columnist, writes about the Obama/Boehner showdown-over-the-speech-over-the-debate. Granted it’s one reporter’s take and it quotes unnamed sources, but the article is notable in that it illustrates virtually everything that’s wrong with American politics.
Simon’s words are in italics, my comments in bold…
It seemed like a trivial matter: On Wednesday, House Republicans forced the president to delay his speech to a joint session of Congress by one day. 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.”
Does anyone really need further confirmation that the House GOP, whose mission is to politically destroy President Obama, will do anything to “muck up” the White House?
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 Obama presidency in a nutshell: unclear on what to say, but crystal clear on when, how and where to say it — i.e. politics and process over (principled progressive) policy.
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.
Politicians on vacation while America endures an epic jobs crisis.
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.
How vacuous are those calls for bipartisanship?
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.
The White House doesn’t view Boehner as a political enemy? Even after he helped hold the country hostage over the debt ceiling?
Then things quickly unraveled. … 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.”
No question Boehner would obey Rush. The foundation of modern Republican politics is built on the deception, propaganda and rage spread and stoked by hate-mongers like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck, Coulter and O’Reilly.
At which point Boehner’s office announced that Boehner had never agreed to the Wednesday date, that Congress did not get back into session until 6:30 p.m. on that day, that various votes had to be taken, that security had to be arranged and Obama should push his speech back a day to Thursday. Which just happened to be the evening the Green Bay Packers were meeting the New Orleans Saints in the NFL season opener. Which meant Obama would have to move his speech up an hour or so before the kick-off at 8:30 p.m.
Ah, America, where a football game takes precedence over a presidential address aimed at tackling an economic calamity.
The White House did not want to give in and look weak, but what was the alternative? An Oval office speech instead? “You can’t speak for 40 minutes from the Oval Office,” the source said. How about the East Room? “He’s going to speak to an empty East Room with just the Teleprompters and staff there? No,” said the source.
Rule #1 of political power: If you don’t want to give in and look weak, don’t give in and look weak.
In the end, the White House felt it had no choice but to give in on the date, and Obama sent an email to his supporters with the subject line: “Frustrated.”
An email with the subject line “Frustrated.” Need I say more?
“It’s been a long time since Congress was focused on what the American people need them to be focused on,” Obama said in the email. “I know that you’re frustrated by that. I am, too.” Obama said he was going to put forward “a set of bipartisan proposals to help grow the economy and create jobs” and he was “asking lawmakers to look past short-term politics and take action on that plan.”
That “bipartisan” word again.
It was, perhaps, not the friendliest message, but the White House was not in a friendly mood. Some Democrats were attacking Obama for once again “caving in” to Republicans, though others thought that it was an inconsequential matter. The White House is viewing it as very consequential, however. “It is a big deal,” the source said. “It shows the House Republicans will do no outreach, nothing.”
The White House gets tough on Republicans by sending an email about being ‘frustrated’?
And who does the White House believe was really behind treating the president so shabbily? “At first, I didn’t think it was Boehner, but his caucus,” the source said. “But maybe not. Maybe it is him.”