Stephanopoulos Shields Obama: Spreads Blame Around for Scheduling of Speech
Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Thursday attempted to spin the botched scheduling of a proposed Barack Obama speech to Congress as, generically, "politicians behaving badly."
Talking to his friend (and colleague from the Clinton White House) James Carville, Stephanopoulos framed the issue: "But, who could have predicted the fight over the timing of the President's speech? It seems like both sides in Washington, now, determined to get everyone hating them." However, even Democratic operatives, including Carville, have admitted the White House handled things poorly.
The Obama administration first proposed a speech on Wednesday, September 7 at 8pm. This would have conflicted with a nationally televised Republican presidential debate.
House Speaker John Boehner countered that the address to a joint session of Congress be on Thursday, which the White House agreed to.
Despite Stephanopoulos' support for a "plague on both your houses" spin, even Carville didn't buy it:
JAMES CARVILLE: And I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was, was out of bounds in trying to schedule a speech during a debate. I know- given a choice between watching a debate and speech I would have watched the debate and I'm not even a Republican or close to being a Republican.
On the Politico's Arena forum, former Democratic Congressman Martin Frost agreed: "The handling of this matter by the White House raises the question of whether they went to the Dick Cheney school of diplomacy."
Yet, Stephanopoulos still attempted to assist the Obama White House, offering equivalences such as this: "What a mess in Washington. Takes the White House and Congress all day long to even agree to a time for President Obama's big job speech next week."
A transcript of the September 1 segment can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And, boy, do we have a lot to get to this morning, including this latest chapter of politicians behaving badly. What a mess in Washington. Takes the White House and Congress all day long to even agree to a time for President Obama's big job speech next week. So we're going to have James Carville weigh in on that.
ELIZABETH VARGAS: One other Clinton administration, former official with the Clinton administration, called it late summer silliness.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's stay on to the jobs controversy. Now, James Carville, Democratic strategist, our GMA contributor. Thanks for joining us this morning, James. And we do know that almost any, anything having to do with jobs right now will be a controversy. But, who could have predicted the fight over the timing of the President's speech? It seems like both sides in Washington, now, determined to get everyone hating them.
JAMES CARVILLE: It does and the last thing that the White House needed was to appear to cave in to the Speaker and that's what happened. The last thing the Congress needed and the White House was to have a spat that looks like they couldn't resolve anything. I mean, there might be a good explanation for how this came down. I haven't heard it and I read everything I could before I came on the air this morning. I mean, this is, it's a tendency to say, well, it's just a little spat between the two and got it resolved 24 hours later. But I think this is just going to reinforce a lot of perceptions that are already exist out there. This is not a good thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And if scheduling a speech, it is this difficult it's pretty hard to see them getting an agreement on how to confront the jobs crisis which presents a real dilemma to President Obama when he gives the speech next week. I know he's getting advice on both sides. Some say come out with a huge, ambitious program that will appeal to especially to Democrats. Show your vision. Others say, no, grab more of a middle ground with more targeted proposals that might get bipartisan support. Which one makes sense to you?
CARVILLE: Well, they're not going to get any bipartisan in anything they propose. They can't get the payroll tax extended. So, you know, just go out and just document- it's not so much that the speech is important but the follow-up after the speech and this is going to have to be what they run the 2012 campaign on. This Congress is not going to pass anything that the President proposes. That's pretty clear. The Speaker Boehner said he got 98 percent of what he wanted in the last deal and the House Republicans are just not going to do it. So get whatever you do, get something that you're going to stick to and run on it in 2012. It doesn't matter if it's little or small, it's not going to pass.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And how about on the Republican side? They are having the big debate next Wednesday night. It will be the first debate for the new front-runners, really transformed the race, Texas Governor Rick Perry. Is it going to be time now for his opponent, especially Mitt Romney, to take him on a lot more directly?
CARVILLE: You know, we saw Pawlenty suffer as a result of one debate. I've never seen anybody take a hit as a result of a debate performance like that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: When he didn't attack Romney.
CARVILLE: When he didn't attack Romney. Exactly right. I think the stakes are high. I think the best solution that came up with that they should have done the speech the night of the debate and do the debate after the speech which is the sponsor of the debate offered to do. It would have been very interesting to see these Republican candidates respond in almost in real time to what the President said. Now they'll have a day to get ready and prepare for it. I thought that would have been a good solution to this and where no possible conflict with football or anything else but that's not going to happen. And I do think this is a really big debate and I think the White House was, was out of bounds in trying to schedule a speech during a debate. I know- given a choice between watching a debate and speech I would have watched the debate and I'm not even a Republican or close to being a Republican.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have ten seconds left. Palin this weekend. Does she get in or out? She's going both to Iowa and New Hampshire. Is this just more of the celebrity game or do you agree with Karl Rove she might actually get in this thing?
CARVILLE: You know what? I agree more with Karl Rove than not. But, I don't think Karl has any idea, neither do I. I'm not sure Sarah Palin has any idea, to be honest with you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Will she be a factor if she gets in?
CARVILLE: She'll be a factor in terms of generating interest. I don't think she will be a factor. She's certainly not going to win. Presumably she could hurt Perry some. That's what people think. I don't know that for sure. I can't wait to see the debate next week. It's going to be a barn burner.
— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.