Remember when Tip O’Neill rejected Reagan’s request to address the House?

posted at 7:43 pm on September 2, 2011 by Allahpundit

James Freeman does.

The June 24, 1986, edition of The Wall Street Journal featured a story headlined, “President’s Bid to Address the House On Nicaragua Is Rejected by Speaker.” That’s right, no quibbling over the date and time, just a flat-out rejection. In that case, President Ronald Reagan wanted to address the House before its critical vote on funding for the anti-communist “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua. Then-Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neil said that he was willing to host a Reagan speech if it was expanded to include the Senate in a joint session, or he would allow the President to speak to the House alone if the President would also agree to take questions from lawmakers. Otherwise, there would be no Reagan speech in the House chamber. Reagan already had the votes to prevail in the Senate, and Mr. O’Neil wanted to avoid having the spotlight turned on the House, which would make him and his colleagues accountable to the public if Contra aid were rejected.

Both Speaker O’Neil then and Speaker Boehner this week were on very solid Constitutional ground. The president has no more right to take over the proceedings in the House, or to invite himself in, than does the speaker have the right to commandeer the president’s time and attention within the White House.

In other words, like Obama, Reagan was playing a political game. He wanted to bring public pressure to bear on the House to vote his way on funding, so he asked for a House-only speech. O’Neill understandably didn’t want his party to be put on the spot so he came up with two “compromise” options to avoid it — either Reagan could take heat off the Democratic-controlled House by speaking to a joint session or he could let them turn the tables by peppering him with questions in lieu of the speech. Like Obama, Reagan backed down. Unlike Obama, Reagan’s game at least was aimed at achieving a policy end. Obama’s game in trying to bigfoot the Republican debate was aimed at his own reelection, the idea being to draw a contrast between the can-do post-partisan jobs-focused incumbent and the squabbling attack dogs in the GOP presidential field who do nothing but criticize poor Bambi. Go figure that Boehner wasn’t eager to let Congress be used as a prop for The One’s campaign. Also unlike Obama, Reagan’s request here wasn’t unprecedented. It is extremely unusual for a president to address one chamber of Congress, but it’s been done before. To my knowledge, no president has ever attempted to schedule a joint address as a means of counterprogramming a key event in the opposition’s presidential selection process. If I’m wrong about that, let me know and I’ll update.

One more thing. Given O’Neill’s clever procedural maneuvering around Reagan’s request and his own willingness to use unorthodox procedures, is there any reason to think he wouldn’t have done what Boehner did if it would have secured an advantage for House Democrats? If he was willing to let Reagan appear before the House on the condition that he engage in “open dialogue” with House members, why wouldn’t he have asked Reagan to wait a day before speaking to the House if that would have served his ends? Or maybe the better question is, why didn’t Boehner follow O’Neill’s lead and do something really unorthodox by offering to let O speak on Wednesday night so long as he took a few questions afterward? If Obama wants to schedule his speeches about grave national matters with a partisan end in mind, then let’s get that partisan end out in the open and have a free-for-all Q&A in front of the cameras. Think The One would go for that? I assume he’d back down just like Reagan did. After all, what’s the point of trying to grandstand and lecture the other party when they get to talk back?

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Boehner actually did Obama a favor. Saved him from looking like a petty jerk.

RBMN on September 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I assume he’d back down just like Reagan did. After all, what’s the point of trying to grandstand and lecture the other party when they get to talk back

That’s not the way he rolls.

Mason on September 2, 2011 at 7:48 PM

Was it because Reagan was black?

cynccook on September 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM

History doesn’t seem to be our best suit.

Kini on September 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM

I thought the Fairness Doctrine was going help us forget these complicated things.

pedestrian on September 2, 2011 at 7:52 PM

then let’s get that partisan end out in the open and have a free-for-all Q&A in front of the cameras.

I actually think that would be quite instructive and productive. By the way, with how obviously partisan this move was, and with the developments of today, I wonder if CK still thinks Boehner was wrong. Because, from where I stand, Boehner played this very very well.

Weight of Glory on September 2, 2011 at 7:53 PM

Well, Reagan was a Republican. So wouldn’t it stand to reason it was only fair for Tip to say no to him. It’s different when it’s a Dem president. Sheesh. I thought everyone knew this?

Dems do what they want, and Republicans are supposed to dutifully roll over, take it, and thank Dems for the privilege.

capejasmine on September 2, 2011 at 7:54 PM

I really do like the idea of making 0Bama wait while we give job interviews to fill his position.

pedestrian on September 2, 2011 at 7:58 PM

What Boehner should’ve done is grant the request on the condition that President DDD provide copies of his specific written job’s plans 72 hours in advance, along with the draft legislation to attain them. He then could’ve added, “Otherwise, Mr. President, the House has actual legislation that it needs to be working on. The House, sir, is not a manufactured stage with Greek columns and a sound system set on God-reverb.”

TXUS on September 2, 2011 at 7:59 PM

I wonder if CK still thinks Boehner was wrong. Because, from where I stand, Boehner played this very very well.

I’d say he played it well, too.

Offering legitimate reasons why Obama couldn’t have what he wanted rather than making it pointedly about Obama trying to upstage the debate helped make the Obama Administration look petty and incompetent at the same time.

Especially considering how they sent a letter to the Speaker’s office 15 minutes before announcing the speech to the press without actually confirming the time in private beforehand.

teke184 on September 2, 2011 at 7:59 PM

I love it when you find out all the hubub from the left is a bunch of crapola.

Like Warren Buffet and his company owing billions, but lecturing us on paying taxes.

Or AlGore telling us to think green when he plows his gargantuan body mass around the planet in a fleet of S-Uuuuu-Veees.

Wretched hypocrites all.

PappyD61 on September 2, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Boehner actually did Obama a favor. Saved him from looking like a petty jerk.

RBMN on September 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Because now that he’s doing the same speech the next night he’ll look statesmanlike?

BKeyser on September 2, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Was it because Reagan was black?

cynccook on September 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM

Only half black.

ncborn on September 2, 2011 at 8:11 PM

*crickets chirping*
-lsm
instead its
boehner is disrespectful…race card, race card, race card
-lsm

cmsinaz on September 2, 2011 at 8:12 PM

If Obama wants to schedule his speeches about grave national matters with a partisan end in mind, then let’s get that partisan end out in the open and have a free-for-all Q&A in front of the cameras.

Like Prime Minister’s Question Time? Now that’s entertainment.

tgharris on September 2, 2011 at 8:12 PM

cynccook on September 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM

Thank you.

ctmom on September 2, 2011 at 8:13 PM

just infuriating the one-sideness that always happens with this lsm…

cmsinaz on September 2, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Tip O’Neill thought Reagan was black? I had forgotten that. I also forgot that the left demanded that Tip resign for showing such disrespect for The Presidency.

Basilsbest on September 2, 2011 at 8:23 PM

History is racist.

therightwinger on September 2, 2011 at 8:32 PM

If Obama wants to schedule his speeches about grave national matters with a partisan end in mind, then let’s get that partisan end out in the open and have a free-for-all Q&A in front of the cameras.

I’d like to kick him in his partisan end.

disa on September 2, 2011 at 8:36 PM

Ronnie/Tip > Obama

Good Lt on September 2, 2011 at 8:56 PM

I guess tough guy Tommy Christopher is unaware of this.

JammieWearingFool on September 2, 2011 at 9:02 PM

I can’t believe you haters won’t let Øbama have his nervous breakdown at Camp David in peace!!!!

ctmom on September 2, 2011 at 9:29 PM

Boehner actually did Obama a favor. Saved him from looking like a petty jerk.

No, it’s too late for anyone to do that. After the turndown Obama doubled down on being a petty jerk with his whining and pouting.

single stack on September 2, 2011 at 9:49 PM

I can’t believe you haters won’t let Øbama have his nervous breakdown at Camp David in peace!!!!

ctmom on September 2, 2011 at 9:29 PM

HA!

mizflame98 on September 2, 2011 at 11:28 PM

Boehner actually did Obama a favor. Saved him from looking like a petty jerk.

RBMN on September 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM

I think that ship has sailed.

oldleprechaun on September 3, 2011 at 6:51 AM

I love it when you find out all the hubub from the left is a bunch of crapola.

Like Warren Buffet and his company owing billions, but lecturing us on paying taxes.

Or AlGore telling us to think green when he plows his gargantuan body mass around the planet in a fleet of S-Uuuuu-Veees.

Wretched hypocrites all.

PappyD61 on September 2, 2011 at 8:04 PM

I (with no psychology training) call this the Savior Complex.

They loathe us, they are superior to us, they have an almost divinely-inspired mission to make us change our evil ways–but they cannot convince us without becoming like us.

Then they hate us even more, since our apathy has forced them to compromise their own values, and they will hate us so much more if our refusal to join them causes them to miss their eternal ‘reward’.

Too bad they behave more like Greek heroes than Saviors.

Maybe we’d all be better off if we gave them (the Gores, Buffets, and mission-based journalistas) a million bucks, a ham sandwich, a pint of blood and sent them back to their Mother Ship. So long as we walk them to the bus stop and make sure they don’t get off.

rwenger43 on September 3, 2011 at 8:38 AM

I give Boehner a gentleman’s C for this one.

If this speech is so important and urgent that it must be delivered before a joint session of Congress, he should have offered him Tuesday instead of Thursday.

Then we could have heard the brilliance of The One sooner and it wouldn’t have conflicted with the football game.

Boehner was too nice. He should have forced The One to speak before the GOP debate or offer a credible reason why he couldn’t.

Stephen Macklin on September 3, 2011 at 9:04 AM

Boehner actually did Obama a favor. Saved him from looking like a petty jerk.

RBMN on September 2, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Not really: Obama will just look like a petty jerk on a different evening…and the TV ratings will show that nobody wants to hear another Obama speech…on any evening.

landlines on September 3, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Tip knew the subheading for Reagans speech:

Support the Contras
So we can reinstate Jim Crow laws in the South

‘Cause that’s the subtext of every GOP policy position.

mankai on September 3, 2011 at 12:52 PM

……
If this speech is so important and urgent that it must be delivered before a joint session of Congress, he should have offered him Tuesday instead of Thursday.

Then we could have heard the brilliance of The One sooner and it wouldn’t have conflicted with the football game.
…….

Stephen Macklin on September 3, 2011 at 9:04 AM

The House and Senate were both still out on recess on Tuesday. Perhaps that rat that ran accross the steps in his rose garden speech would have shown up to listen to him. However, with just Obama present, a minimal security detail, maybe a few reporters and a janitor or two that still have their jobs, it would have saved money that we need elsewhere.

Franklyn on September 3, 2011 at 1:24 PM

Silly me for not assuming that their 3-day weekend is longer than our three day weekend.

Stephen Macklin on September 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM

Or maybe the better question is, why didn’t Boehner follow O’Neill’s lead and do something really unorthodox by offering to let O speak on Wednesday night so long as he took a few questions afterward?

Probably because even Boehner isn’t gullible enough to think Barry would actually honor such an arrangement after agreeing to it. He’d show up 45 minutes late and leave 10 minutes early.

Letting him run Obamaganda Speech #8951656453 against the NFL kickoff is just fine with me.

Cylor on September 5, 2011 at 3:26 PM