|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
In a surreal volley of letters, each released to the news media as soon as it was sent, Mr. Boehner rejected a request from the president to address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m. — the same night that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled.
In an extraordinary turn, the House speaker fired back his own letter to the president saying, in a word, no. Might the president be able to reschedule for the following night, Sept. 8?
For several hours, the day turned into a very public game of chicken.
By late Wednesday night, though, the White House issued a statement saying that because Mr. Obama “is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy,” he “welcomes the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8.”
The president had sent in the first volley with his request for a speech next Wednesday night, when Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is scheduled to debate his fellow would-be Republican presidential nominees for the first time.
“No, of course not,” the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, replied when a reporter asked if the timing of the president’s speech had been meant to play havoc with the Republican debate plans. He said that “one debate of many was no reason not to have a speech when we wanted to have it.”
Mr. Boehner was not budging.
“As the majority leader announced more than a month ago, the House will not be in session until Wednesday, Sept. 7, with votes at 6:30 that evening,” the speaker wrote. “With the significant amount of time, typically more than three hours, that is required to allow for a security sweep of the House chamber before receiving a president, it is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening, when we can ensure there will be no parliamentary or logistical impediments that might detract from your remarks.”
Mr. Boehner did not specify what votes were scheduled for 6:30 that evening that could not be moved. The House calendar shows that members are expected to vote on the “suspension calendar,” generally minor bills like naming a post office.
Congressional historians said Mr. Boehner’s move was unprecedented.
“The Senate Historical Office knows of no instance in which Congress refused the president permission to speak before a joint session of Congress,” Betty K. Koed, associate historian with the Senate, said in an e-mail.
Perry panic has spread from the conference rooms of Washington, D.C., to the coffee shops of Brooklyn, with the realization that the conservative Texan could conceivably become the 45th president of the United States, a wave of alarm centering around Perry’s drawling, small-town affect and stands on core cultural issues such as women’s rights, gun control, the death penalty, and the separation of church and state.
“His entry in the race is a signal and a wake-up call,” the Rev. Al Sharpton told POLITICO.
Perry, Sharpton said, “is looking to go to the O.K. Corral and start shooting. … Rather than the left get caught sleeping, we better load up, because he is bringing it.”
For Democrats, the pre-Perry GOP primary process was hardly for the faint of heart, as the other candidates have jockeyed to show who dislikes Obama the most. But even as the primary is fought on conservative turf, liberal leaders say they and their constituents see Perry as far worse than your average, hated Republican, and indeed as bad — if not worse — than his hated predecessor in Austin, George W. Bush. And progressives who might have had a hard time getting worked up about Mitt Romney find themselves struggling for superlatives with which to express their fear of a President Perry.