When President Obama announced he wanted to deliver his latest speech on the economy to a joint session of Congress on the same night as a GOP presidential debate, House speaker John Boehner politely requested the administration wait one day. Obama acceded, to the chagrin of the left and the New York Times.
Reporter Jennifer Steinhauer devoted a full story to the squabble in Friday’s edition, focusing almost solely on the supposed “disrespect” shown by Republicans to poor, put-upon President Obama: “G.O.P. vs. Obama: Disrespect or Just Politics?”
While most of those fights stemmed from deep policy divides, the relentless acrimony between President Obama and Congressional Republicans also seems strikingly personal, almost petty.
And Democrats worry that Mr. Obama, hampered, too, by his own inexperience and dispassionate style, is increasingly weakened by what they fume is a party that fundamentally disrespects him and his office. They fear the outcome as Congress and the White House face off on a host of new issues: the national deficit and finishing this year’s budget, reauthorization of a controversial federal aviation bill and the fate of the cash-strapped Postal Service. The relationship was foreshadowed in 2009 when Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, yelled “You lie!” during a presidential address to Congress -- a remarkably rare outburst on the House floor. Since then, Congressional Republicans have turned down requests for White House meetings, refused to return the president’s call and walked out of budget talks.
Hmm. Just how "rare" is it for presidents to be mocked in speeches to Congress, and when does the Times decide to make an issue of it? The Times hid its indignation quite well when President George W. Bush got disrespectful hoots and hisses from Democrats for mentioning Social Security reform in his 2005 State of the Union address.
Then, on Wednesday, Speaker John A. Boehner became what historians say was the first ever to tell a sitting president that no, he could not deliver an address to a joint session of Congress on the date of his choice. On Thursday, Representative Joe Walsh said in a Twitter message that he would fly home to Illinois rather than serve as “a prop of another one of the president’s speeches.”
It seems they simply do not like the man.
Steinhauer eventually confessed that even some Democrats found Obama’s unilateral decision on the speech timing a bit rude, before playing the tired race card.
There is the persistent and deeply uncomfortable question of race. Many African-Americans, including black lawmakers, and even white Democrats, have complained that some of the disrespect for Mr. Obama stems from distaste among some whites at the idea of seeing a black man in the Oval Office.