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Obama speech: Why was the timing so complicated?

The Obama speech, on his long-awaited jobs plan, will take place before a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8 – before the NFL kickoff, the White House says.

White House spokesman Jay Carney responds to questions about the flap over the timing of President Obama's address to Congress next week, during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 1.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Never in the history of the republic has Washington looked so foolish. OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but certainly, the kerfuffle over the timing of President Obama’s big speech on jobs to a joint session of Congress has twisted the capital in knots in a way that is downright baffling.

White House spokesman Jay Carney spent nearly his entire briefing Thursday fielding questions on the Obama speech. He called the timing flap a “sideshow,” “irrelevant,” “small stuff.” The president will deliver the speech next Thursday evening, and he’s fine with that, Mr. Carney said.

Then he made a crucial point: “I can assure you that, for all you football fans, he will be completed before kickoff between the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers.”

Next Thursday night, it so happens, is the opening game of the 2011 National Football League season – in some households, almost a national holiday.

Just to back up a bit, the White House announced Wednesday that Mr. Obama would lay out his long-awaited jobs plan in a speech before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 7, starting at 8 p.m. It just so happens that, at the exact same moment, the Republican presidential candidates will begin their next debate. And Texas Gov. Rick Perry will be taking part for the first time.

House Speaker John Boehner came back with, in effect, “not so fast, that conflicts with official business.” The White House said, OK then, the speech will be next Thursday night.


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