Flap over Obama’s speech date and time settled

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The White House dismissed Thursday the flap about the date of President Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress as irrelevant “political gamesmanship,” even as some Democrats said the president’s advisers mishandled the episode.

“The sideshows don’t matter,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “We’re not interested in inside-the-Beltway political gamesmanship. The president wants to call on Congress to act. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Mr. Obama originally announced that he would deliver a highly touted major address to Congress about jobs next Wednesday, the day House members return from vacation. But the White House gave Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, scant notice before announcing the time and date via Twitter. Mr. Boehner wrote back to the president later the same day and asked Mr. Obama to reschedule the address, citing “logistical” concerns and scheduling problems.

The original date chosen by the president also conflicted with a scheduled televised debate of Republican presidential candidates at the Ronald W. Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California. Some Republicans accused Mr. Obama of playing politics by trying to trump the debate, which will be the first one to feature Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Even Democratic strategist James Carville said the White House mishandled the matter.

“I do think this is a really big debate, and I think the White House was out of bounds in trying to schedule a speech during a debate,” Mr. Carville said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Given a “choice between watching a debate and the speech, I would have watched the debate and I’m not even a Republican or even close to being a Republican,” Mr. Carville said.

On Thursday, as cable TV talking heads in both parties accused the White House of bumbling, Mr. Carney said the president seemed unfazed.

“I spent a great deal of time with him this morning, and it never came up. Honestly,” Mr. Carney told reporters.

He said the president is focused on creating jobs and confronting a stubbornly high unemployment rate of 9.1 percent.

“The economy matters,” Mr. Carney said. “The American people matter. Jobs matter. And that’s what we’re focused on. If Thursday’s the day, Thursday’s the day. We want to give the speech.”

But next Thursday could have posed another conflict, though not of the political kind — the opening game of the NFL season, featuring the past two Super Bowl champions.

<t1>Within six minutes of each other Thursday evening, the White House press office and the speaker’s office sent out notices that the president’s speech will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday. That means the president will be finished speaking before the scheduled 8:30 p.m. kickoff between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.

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