At one time, opposition parties had to demand air time for responses to presidential speeches given to joint sessions of Congress. Those mainly consisted of State of the Union rebuttals, because Presidents don’t normally ask for joint sessions except to speak on matters of high moment, such as declaration of wars or celebrating the end of them. Now, however, the rebuttal speech has become such a pro forma event that a waiver sends a message all its own (via the Drudge Report):
Boehner spokesman Mike Steel said Obama’s proposals on Thursday “will rise or fall on their own merits,” suggesting a GOP response was not needed.
“Republicans are, and have been, entirely focused on job creation. Every member of Congress, and — more importantly — the American people, will provide a reaction to the president’s address,” Steel said.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said there will be “plenty” of response to the president’s speech on Friday, but told Fox News he suspects the reason there’s no formal response is “the speaker doesn’t expect to hear much to respond to.”
In the early days of demanding opposition party responses, the accusation was that rebuttals were petty political acts. Now, according to Nancy Pelosi, refusing to rebut the President is an insult:
Pelosi said the party’s “silence” would “speak volumes about their lack of commitment to creating jobs.”
“The Republicans’ refusal to respond to the president’s proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people,” Pelosi said.
It’s now disrespectful to refuse to disagree with Obama? That takes “dissent is patriotic” to a whole new level, doesn’t it?
Boehner has played this well. He maneuvered Obama into a Thursday night address just before the NFL season opener, which means that fewer people will bother to tune in Obama and his demand for Porkulus II: Economic Boogaloo, and fewer would have stuck around to watch a designated Republican remind people that Obama’s “new” plan failed in 2009 when he had three times the funding for it. By waiving the response, Boehner bolsters the impression that Obama won’t be saying anything new at all, thus hardly requiring a response anyway.
Boehner also knows that the Republican presidential hopefuls will garner a lot more attention with their rebuttals than he will from a House anteroom while Green Bay and New Orleans kick off. Why not let the headline-grabbers make the case that Obama’s simply recycling his failures instead of formulating a new economic approach? Republicans in the House will have plenty of time to rip the proposal apart when it comes to Congress — assuming, of course, that it ever does come to Congress. Obama’s deficit reduction plan outlined in an April speech is still only seen on the sides of milk cartons in Washington DC.
What do you think? Disrespectful, masterful, or something in between? Take the poll: