Carrie already has suggested that perhaps another presidential speech isn’t exactly what the economy needs right now. She is not alone. Here is James Taranto’s response to the news of yet another speech:
Are you sitting down? If not, you probably should be, because we have some stunning news: Barack Obama is giving a speech next week.
Following in the footsteps of POTUS, I can’t resist adding my perhaps superfluous words to the discussion. Like Carrie and others, I am mystified as to why the president is making such a big deal about yet another speech. Further perplexing (as Carrie has noted) is the White House’s choice of venue (a joint session of Congress) and date. The White House originally requested Sept. 7, the same night of the long-scheduled Reagan Centennial Debate, to be hosted by the Reagan Foundation, for the GOP candidates. (Rick Perry will make his first appearance as a GOP debater that night.)
White House spokesman Jay Carney is to be commended for keeping a straight face while insisting that this scheduling conflict was just a a coinkidink. In a minor showdown with the White House, Speaker John Boehner forced the president to reschedule. I am wondering if the president and his supporters will use this as a pretext for portraying Boehner as disrespectful of the office of the presidency. On the other hand, as Carrie notes, even some Democrats weren’t pleased by the White House’s handling of the matter.
But about that joint session….
Joint sessions are held on “special occasions:” the State of the Union address is delivered in a joint session. Franklin Roosevelt responded to Pearl Harbor before a joint session of Congress. George Bush went before a joint session after Sept. 11. Admittedly, we are in a crisis but this is another speech by a president who is prone to talk at us with the slightest provocation. If the speech is a dud, and increasingly the president’s speeches are not parting the seas, the whole affair could take on the same mildly comic effect as when the president bestrode the winds recently at the National Weather Service.
Still, I can see some uses of the joint session: the president, for example, could propose some costly new program and, if the GOP sits on its hands, he might try to portray them as obstructionists (he is apparently planning to run against Congress). This indicates that the president is indeed going to use the speech as a way to position himself against Congress:
Within minutes of agreeing with congressional leaders Wednesday night on an address to a joint session next week, President Obama flashed out an email to millions of supporters criticizing the chambers, their members and vowing to pressure them to enact his as yet unspecified job creation ideas. “It’s been a long time since Congress was focused on what the American people need them to be focused on,” the Democrat charged in an email with the subject line: “Frustrated.”
The setting is, of course, grand and it may be that the president is counting on it to restore his luster, especially if the speech is a masterpiece. Politicians have a habit of turning in brilliant performances when they are in tight spots. Perhaps Obama will reclaim the mantle of the orator, and only Congress is a worthy setting.
Unfortunately, however, leaked accounts of what will be in the speech sound like it’s going to be same old same old. ABC News: “Obama to Seek Stimulus Funds-But ‘You Won’t Hear the S Word.'” Jared Bernstein, who recently left as Vice President Joe Biden’s top economic advisor, is quoted:
“He’ll want extend the payroll tax holiday. He’ll want to extend unemployment insurance. He’ll have some ideas for infrastructure. Maybe something to help repair the schools – that’s an idea that a number of us have been pushing – a program called FAST: Fix America’s Schools Today, which could get hundreds of thousands of construction workers back to work repairing the backlog of maintenance in the nation’s stock of public schools.”
Far be it from me to ever be critical of a tax cut, but extending the payroll tax is not going to create new jobs. It is simply too small to matter that much and employers know it is likely to be ephemeral if President Obama gets a second term. The school repair project sounds like something from the Roosevelt (Franklin) era, as is probably intended.
If President Obama wants to make a speech worthy of a joint session, Tony Blankley knows what he should say (“Obama’s Economic-Policy Last Chance”):
President Obama’s post-Labor Day “jobs” speech will be his last chance to launch an economic policy with any chance of manifesting its effect – both economic and political – before the November 2012 elections. He has three options. In order of descending likelihood, they are: a timid hodgepodge of previous proposals, a bold left-of-center initiative or a turn to a free-market “nuclear option.”
It’s that nuclear option that is the most fascinating (and most unlikely). He could decide to embrace all the major Republican, Tea Party free-market ideas – marginal business and personal tax-rate cuts (leading to a net tax cut); big discretionary spending cuts to be implemented before the 2012 election; genuine long-term reductions in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security costs written into law now; major deregulation, including Environmental Protection Agency rules, Dodd-Frank financial burdens and nanny-state consumer regulations; unlimited oil- and gas-drilling and shale-fracking authorization; permanent extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts; repeal of the double tax on American corporations’ foreign profits; limits on unemployment insurance extensions; and withdrawal of his big union initiatives, such as the National Labor Relations Board’s opposition to the Boeing Co. building a factory in South Carolina.
Now, that speech would justify a joint session of Congress.
But, as Carrie indicated, this joint session is being called to witness a campaign speech.