Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Poisoned Wells

We are having a weird fracas about the President's request to give a prime time address to a joint session of Congress on his economic plans.  I wonder to what extent Boehner is reacting to the hyperpartisanship and cynicism (and empty posturing) of Obama's response to the Ryan budget.  The House Republicans are not obligated to provide Obama with a propaganda platform at his convenience.  Rather than asking him to move the speech a day, they might think to tell him that if he has serious legislative proposals he should send them to the clerk of the House and the Congressional Budget Office to be scored and analyzed by budget experts who are not interested in his rhetorical flourishes.  If he wants to give campaign speeches he should do on his own time and in a venue paid for by his campaign rather than the taxpayers.  They might remind him that he is welcome to deliver the traditional State of the Union speech next year.     

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Discussions - 5 Comments

One hopes this is the beginning of a trend of the Congress reasserting its authority as the first among equals in the Federal government. The president is not a prime minister and has no business speaking in front of a joint session of Congress except for the most extraordinary of circumstances, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Further, Congress is vested with all legislative powers, the president has only the veto. It is time that Congress started telling presidents to stop writing legislation. Instead, when a President has suggestions for legislation, he can submit his suggestions in writing and then Congress can back to him at its convenience with legislation to sign or veto.

Why wouldn't this all have been worked out through aides well ahead of time?

My read is that Obama's folks wanted to step on the Republican debate and thought they could bull Boehner into okaying the joint session speech by announcing the date before they got Boehner on board. When Boehner pushed back, the White House didn't have a lot of leverage. They had no authority to order the House to issue an invitation and throwing a prolonged tantrum (rather than whining to friendly news outlets)looked to be mostly downside.

Yes, that seems to be the consensus. Yet the timing was so bad; absolutely flat-footed to propose the president speak the evening Congress gets back into town -- never mind the debate. I didn't listen to NPR or anything and so don't know how the Left is playing this. Do they whine about disrespect to the president? I suppose to the percentage of the population who are blind followers that might play. But as you say, the White House has no legal leverage in this, no leverage except public opinion. And for that this is just such a stupidly obvious ploy.

From here it looks like the Stupid Game kids used to play when I was in elementary school: all bluff and blunder, sound and fury signifying nothing. Obama's folks must have known Boehner would resist. The wonder is not that he did, but that they thought he wouldn't. There must have been some preliminary conversation about the timing and if there wasn't -- heck -- is this the best they can do up there?

This, from Charles Krauthammer, makes sense to me,

"I think the Boehner letter was probably ill-advised, because if he had just accepted this, the president would look small for stepping on the debate."

That's what I mean; what a stupid thing for the WH staff to do.

But then, this,

"Secondly, I think the Republicans could easily have moved the debate to 9 o’clock, and then had eight people on the stage with a gang-up on Obama — essentially the biggest response to a presidential speech ever done, rather than one person in a room with a camera, which never stands up to the majesty and the grandeur of a presidential speech in Congress."

That's politics in a media age.

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