GOP lawmakers have already signaled their intent to oppose President Barack Obama’s jobs plan, but not wanting to be perceived as the ‘Party of No,’ they have locked in on a strategy to distract from Obama’s substance by obscuring it behind Washington drama.First there was the spat about the timing, when Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner went back and forth on a whether to schedule the Joint Session of Congress over the GOP debate or on Thursday. But now they seem intent on turning the speech into a test of which members of Congress show up.
One by one conservative Republican lawmakers announced they will boycott the speech because it is ‘too political’ — or said that they would in fact attend — repeating the State of the Union drama over which politicians would sit next to each other. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), and Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) have been some of the most vocal critics of Obama in advance of the speech, and have pledged not to attend.
Then on Tuesday, Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent a letter to Obama asking to meet with Obama before the speech — or at least to review a copy of Obama’s plan before he delivers it.
The administration, seeking to make a splash with Obama’s address and reverse weeks of bad press, has gone to great lengths to keep the substance of his plan out of the media. They have declined requests to brief members of their own party on the speech — and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama has no plans to consult with members or leadership of either party before Thursday.
For their grand finale, Boehner and Cantor declined the opportunity for there to be an official Republican response to Obama’s speech.
The move was too much for House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi to bear, and she told reporters as much — playing right into the GOP strategy.
“The Republicans’ refusal to respond to the president’s proposal on jobs is not only disrespectful to him, but to the American people,” she said Tuesday night.
The GOP strategy of misdirection, whether consciously or not, has Democrats and Obama off their game — at precisely the time they can least afford to be.
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