Thursday, September 1, 2011

it's all about ME!

Senior officials in both the legislative and executive branches have a regrettable tendency to view external events as a response to whatever they are doing or care about. In fact, that is rarely the case. Foreign governments make policies with highest regard to their own polity and their own goals. Politicians are so self-centered they treat almost every action by allies and adversaries as a response to themselves rather than in pursuit of individualistic goals.

As a result, these officials assume conspiracies when -- as is usual in human events -- inadvertence or incompetence is a more accurate explanation. I think that's what happened yesterday between the President and the Speaker of the House. I'll bet a middle-ranking White House aide who often deals with the Speaker's office called and said, "The President would like to make his jobs speech Wednesday evening,the first full day after the August recess." And the House official, on his own or after checking with someone else, said, "No problem." The Republican operatives chimed in, noting the competition with the candidates' debate in California, and the Speaker decided to say no. He then wrote a letter with logistical excuses making Thursday a better night.

Now maybe somebody in the White House thought, how clever of us to preclude coverage of the GOP debate. And maybe somebody in the Speaker's office thought, how cool to pit Obama against the first NFL game on Thursday and angry football fans. I suspect those were quite secondary considerations. This is a staff screwup that never should have happened, and never should have been escalated into "Obama vs Boehner!"

What's also regrettable is the media's tendency to see things in the same way. Those covering presidential politics assume the GOP debate was foremost in the White House calculations. Those covering Congress automatically view it through the Obama-Boehner lens. And the political commentators weigh in assuming politics was the only consideration and the only way to view the events.

As I look over the coverage of the incident -- here and here and here -- I see nothing that disproves my hypothesis and a lot that reinforces it.

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