STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
Here's NPR's Tamara Keith.
TAMARA KEITH: Ross Baker is a professor of political science at Rutgers University.
ROSS BAKER: There's a kind of etiquette traditionally that says to leaders of Congress, it's a good thing to defer to the president. You know, he is the person elected by all of the people. And if he wants to speak at a particular time, he should really have that opportunity.
KEITH: In this case, President Obama sent a letter to congressional leaders saying he'd like to address a joint session at 8 p.m. Wednesday the 7th. It just so happens that is the exact time Republican presidential hopefuls were set to hold a televised debate.
KIRSTEN KUKOWSKI: Clearly, he wants to steal the show from the GOP presidential candidates when this debate has been on the books for quite some time.
KEITH: Kirsten Kukowski is a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee. And like a lot of people, she saw the president's timing as overtly political.
KUKOWSKI: All this president does is campaign. It's pretty clear that it's all politics, all the time.
JAY CARNEY: It is coincidental.
KEITH: That's White House press secretary Jay Carney, who insisted the president's choice of Wednesday night had absolutely nothing to do with the GOP debate.
CARNEY: This is about the president addressing the American economy, the need to grow the economy, the need to create jobs. This is the right time to do it, the right day to do it, given all the other considerations.
KEITH: Claremont McKenna political science Professor Jack Pitney says that stuff may matter to partisans, but most Americans will just roll their eyes.
JACK PITNEY: Ordinary citizens will think: What's the big deal? Why don't you just get the job done?
KEITH: When it comes down to it, Pitney says neither the president nor Speaker Boehner come out of this looking good.
PITNEY: This is a dispute between an unpopular president and an unpopular Congress, and it's very likely that the result will be to make both sides more unpopular.
KEITH: And Ross Baker at Rutgers says it's a huge distraction from the issue Americans care about and the subject of the president's speech: jobs.
BAKER: Certainly, if the president wanted a more welcoming audience in the House chamber, I think this makes it somewhat less likely. But candidly, I think that the chances of his getting a friendly reception, even without this particular disagreement, wouldn't have been very good.
KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News.
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