President Obama agreed last night to House Speaker John Boehner’s preference that he address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, rather than while the Republican presidential candidates debate at the Reagan Library on Wednesday the 7th.
Obama’s attempt to leave the pretenders to the bully pulpit in his presidential shadow drew questions and criticism from a number of quarters, especially in regards to whether he was unnecessarily elevating his critics to the presidential level. He might have elevated them, even now with additional publicity for the debate, but I’m not sure it’s such a bad time to do that.
Here’s the timing: Wednesday night the GOP candidates will be trying to out-conservative each other in a mad dash to please their party’s ascendant fringe. They will be dishing the rhetorical red meat, taking no prisoners and brooking no compromise. [Check out editorial cartoons about the Tea Party.]
At some point, months from now one of them will emerge as the nominee and will (presumably) try to tack back toward the center to try to appeal to swing voters. So why let them introduce themselves to the general public at a time and in a manner of their choosing? Better to have the independents’ first introduction to the GOP nominee come when they are vying for Tea Party approval. If Rick Perry or Mitt Romney or Michele Bachmann is bound to share the presidential spotlight anyway, better they do it when they're consciously trying to seem like partisan hacks rather than when they're consciously trying to seem presidential.
Let that contrast stand opposite the can-do chief executive trying to rise above partisan acrimony to solve the biggest problem facing the country.