Opinion: Ah, Washington. Democrats and the GOP spar over a John Boehner speech that hasn’t even been given yet


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Here’s how far we’ve not come into the post-partisan era of the Obama-Biden administration:

Representatives of political parties once used to wait for opponents to speak before countering with their own set of contradictory talking points.


But now those few Americans who are paying attention to national politics in these fading few days of summer are being treated to what’s being honestly called “prebuttals.” So eager are they to fight, that U.S. political opponents are pre-reacting a day in advance to what they think the other guy is going to say. Prompting a pre-response to the prebuttal.

Knowing that Republican House Leader John Boehner has scheduled a major speech on the economy for Tuesday morning at Cleveland’s City Club, the Democratic....

...National Committee’s communications staff set up a Monday conference call with media representatives and Chris Redfern, the Ohio party chair, and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

They’re forced to anticipate what the GOP leader might say -- more of the same, they suspect and hope. But that’s not so difficult for political pros to discern. Even public polling shows that worried Democrats remain most vulnerable in this midterm election season on the poor economy and jobs situation, which both Joe Biden and the vacationing President Obama promised would improve this summer, but hasn’t.

Knowing this, Democrats would rather argue over, say, the religious freedom to build a mosque or a threatened return to past policies, while Republicans want to hold the majority’s feet to the fire of voter anger over the economy and jobs.

The little prebuttal strategy, of course, is designed to take the news edge off Boehner’s remarks this morning and to gain exposure for the Democrats’ points by piggybacking on his appearance. And on a slow summer news day it’s not so hard to get reporters’ attention. Trouble is, for even a casual observer of politics, it too is more of the same.

Here’s what Redfern said on the call:

John Boehner and his Republican allies have shown again and again that they are only interested in two things. One, stopping President Obama and Democrats from cleaning up the mess the created. And two, going back to the same, exact policies that got us into this mess to begin with. And that’s just what John Boehner will try to do tomorrow.

Republicans then issued a Monday GOP reaction to the Democrats’ prebuttal to the Tuesday speech that hadn’t yet been given. Here’s part of what Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said:

Tomorrow Leader Boehner will outline common-sense solutions to end the ongoing economic uncertainty, boost small business job creation, and end the spending spree in Washington.


They’ve already had the argument. Not until later this morning will Boehner deliver the actual remarks. And, if the usual pattern holds, Democrats will later issue a partisan fact-check denying select Boehner points and making their own. And Republicans will respond to them. And.....

(UPDATE: 5:54 a.m.: But then Boehner’s communications staff springs the trap. Having drawn their DNC opponents into helping to publicize the Republican speech, just before he speaks and in time for the morning news shows they leak the fairly dramatic news that the GOP leader’s remarks will call for the mass firing of Obama’s entire economic time for, in effect, engineering the prolonged period of unemployment. Which gets the debate back onto the economy where the GOP wants it.)

Everyone involved and watching knows it’s a pedestrian game. Which is a large part of the reason that only 19% of Americans say they approve of the job the Democratic Congress is doing. Among Republicans that approval rate is only 5%. Even among Democrats, however, congressional approval stands at only 38%, down from 55% one year ago.

Such predictable sparring is what the parties do, though. Why? Because despite what voters tell pollsters, it works. Americans in recent elections have re-elected about 80% of incumbent senators and 90% of House representatives.

We’ll see come the night of Nov. 2 if 2010’s voters remain as hypocritical as they’re so quick to say pols are. Or if this era of fear and frustration spurs a real change in ballot box retribution -- and, thus, perhaps even an end to predictable pathetic prebuttals.

(UPDATE: 7:25 a.m. Full text of Rep. Boehner’s remarks are now available over here.)

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-- Andrew Malcolm

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