Obama: The Dancing With The Stars President?

Not so long ago I actually had hope that Obama would restore some civility to government and provide the leadership necessary to solve many of the big problems facing our nation. Now I’m just hoping that on any given day he doesn’t decide to preempt Dancing With The Stars to engage an American public that I believe is tuning out elected officials from both parties.

Yesterday’s kerfuffle about when to schedule a joint session of Congress so the Prez can outline his jobs plan stands as a classic management and leadership fiasco. On again. Off again. Yes you can. No you can’t.

Ah, is DC fiddling while America burns? Just a thought.

OK. Call me cynical — or an asshat — but the White House pulled this stunt as a way to trump the Republican presidential debate previously scheduled for Wednesday. And for press secretary Jay Carney to say the scheduling overlap was a coincidence, well, liar, liar, pants on fire.

And, in any event, does this announcement about the latest Obama jobs plan really warrant a special joint session of Congress? I understand from a communications perspective that the Prez wants to control the message and the venue helps — but c’mon. This is an exercise in political theater. He could have made the speech from the Oval Office and saved the aggravation and embarrassment.

Anyway, here’s the perspective of someone who may actually know what is going on — James Downie, opining in WaPo, “Obama-Boehner speech spat should worry Democrats“:

When you thought Washington couldn’t get any lower, now the two parties are squabbling over when the president can speak to Congress. The White House asked if President Obama could address a joint session on Sept. 7 at 8:00 p.m., the same night and time as the next Republican presidential debate. House Speaker John Boehner, citing scheduled votes that would make a security sweep before the president’s speech impossible, asked the White House to move the speech to Sept. 8. Should this even be a story at all? No, of course not, but the whole episode should still have Democrats concerned.

Of the two, Boehner is acting less dignified. Citing a cluttered House schedule when he controls said House schedule is ridiculous, and citing the logistics of security sweeps on top of that is even more so, especially when Boehner’s rejection of the president’s request is historically unprecedented. Frankly, though, his actions aren’t surprising, given his antics during the debt ceiling debate.

But I’m more disappointed with the White House, because this spat sums up so well the image problems that Obama has faced since the start of his term.

● If the White House has spent months working to appear above the partisan fray – as they insist they have – then pulling a blatantly partisan stunt like this torpedoes all of that PR work.

●Pretending the timing was a coincidence has backfired with the press and pundits. Did the White House really think, when it sent Jay Carney to his press briefing, that people would swallow his line that the timing was “coincidental”?

●In the aftermath of the announcement, the narrative of the afternoon on cable news ran in part that the White House had not cleared the date with the speaker, with some outlets suggesting that Boehner’s office had only been given 15 minutes notice. If true, the White House was disrespectful and should rightly be admonished.

● Since Boehner’s rejection, several outlets have now reported (and the White House is now insisting) that the speaker’s office “raised no objection or concern.” Yet if that is true, that’s scarcely better news for Obama, because that means his staff somehow let the opposite narrative in this “nuh-uh, ya-huh” debate get a multi-hour head start. Now they’re scrambling to correct the record. If only there’d been some kind of press conference where these details could have been mentioned.

If this was an attempt to make Republicans look unreasonable, then, in almost every conceivable way, it failed spectacularly. And scheduling the speech during the GOP debate, even if Boehner had immediately acceded, is the one way the White House could guarantee a) that fewer voters would be watching and that b) viewers and pundits would pay less attention to the speech’s content and more to the theatrics around it. In other words, it’s the easiest way to lessen the speech’s chances at success. If this is a preview of Obama’s re-election campaign, Democrats should be very worried.

Also, the administration has been floating some trial balloons about what will be in Obama’s jobs package: tax incentives, proposals to rebuild schools and roads and so on.

But keep an eye out if a highlight of the plan involves green jobs. I’m never quite sure what that means beyond lawn care and tree trimming — but it’s one of the buzz phrases currently in vogue with the DC policy wonks and other miscreants.

Unfortunately, the track record for creating green jobs received a setback yesterday when a firm in California that received big bucks from the administration’s stimulus program announced that it was going belly up and laying off a thousand or so employees. Here’s more on a post from Doug Powers on Michelle Malkin’s blog.

Let’s hope that Obama does have a plan to create jobs that can work its way through Congress and get people to work in quality jobs sooner rather than later.

Until then, it’s just words — and the venue doesn’t really matter.


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