Simple logic: When your opponent’s in the process of making a mistake, get out of his way. Krauthammer’s theory is that letting The One address Congress that night would have made him look petty (or rather, pettier than usual) while setting up the GOP field for a sweet Obama pile-on at the debate immediately afterwards. I’ll add another reason — by sharing the headlines with the Republican primary the next morning, the political reach of the speech would have been minimized. That’s especially true if two of the candidates get in an argument or something else worthy of cable-news rotation happens. O’s taking a bigger risk by trying to compete with the debate than he would be by giving the speech on Tuesday night.
Even so, I disagree for two reasons. One: The debate won’t be any more of an Obama pile-on after the speech than it would be if there was no speech at all. Perry and Romney are going to hammer O on jobs because that is, after all, their core message. And then they and Bachmann are going to hammer each other because they are, after all, competing for the nomination and looking to weaken each other. If the debate follows the speech, maybe you’ll get 30 minutes of Obama-bashing instead of 20 minutes. Not significant. Two: I actually don’t want Obama to have to compete for media attention on this. My expectations for the speech are sub-zero but the risk of a new recession is so grave that if the president wants our full attention on it, he should have it. It’s easily the biggest challenge facing the country right now; if a joint address to Congress is a step towards legislation that’ll start the economy growing again, then let’s do that without any political distractions. Of course, if The One thought the same way, he never would have asked to speak opposite the debate in the first place. So why did he? Read this post if you missed it a few hours ago.
According to Chuck Todd, the White House and Boehner’s office are chatting now about a new date and time. Stay tuned. Click the image to watch.