The initial White House decision to have President Obama deliver his speech on Wednesday, Sept. 7, the same day as a Republican debate, means two things:
1. Obama is not serious about the proposals he will offer in his speech, and
2. To the extent he is serious, it’s to advance his political standing.
I’ve covered the White House for a long time, and I know how decisions are made there. The White House knew exactly what it was doing by putting Obama in the well of the House the same day as the GOP debate.
The Republican debate Wednesday is not just “one debate of many,” as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday. It is the first chance for the public to get a good look at Rick Perry, the man who currently leads the GOP field but who has yet to participate in a debate. This is an effort to steal Perry’s thunder, and no less.
But what’s been little noted is the cynicism of scheduling the speech on a night when another political event – the debate – is CERTAIN TO DETRACT FROM OBAMA’S OWN AUDIENCE.
Why on earth would the White House intentionally choose a date, of all the dates on the calendar, when fewer people than normal would be watching?
Because ultimately, Obama’s political aides decided that it would be worth deleting from Perry’s viewership, even if they lost millions of viewers for Obama himself.
This calculation makes clear the essentially political nature of the speech, which will now be next Thursday after White House aides backed down to Speaker Boehner’s insistence that they reschedule.
If your primary objective is to promote and advance an agenda, then you do nothing to detract from your message. But if you are not particularly serious about your proposals, and your main goal for them is political, then political calculations enter the equation, and you use the proposals to undermine your political opponent.
The relative ease with which the speech was switched to Thursday night shows that the White House had plenty of leeway in choosing when Obama could give this speech.
There was nothing preventing Obama aides from slotting him for another night.