CBS's Plante More Sympathetic To Obama On 'Speech Spat' Than O'Donnell

CBS's Bill Plante hyped the supposedly "testy confrontation" between President Obama and Speaker Boehner on Thursday's Early Show over scheduling a presidential address to Congress: "This may prove that there is no argument too petty in today's Washington." By contrast, on Wednesday's CBS Evening News, Norah O'Donnell placed more blame on Obama for giving Boehner only a "15-minute heads-up."
       
Plante began with his "petty" line during his report just after the beginning of the 7 am Eastern hour, and added that "it was the timing of the President's speech that became the subject of a testy confrontation between the President and the Speaker, and the Speaker won." An on-screen graphic trumpeted the "speech spat: Obama & Boehner spar over jobs address."

 

After summarizing the White House's initial plans for a Wednesday address, the journalist continued that "there were two problems with the date the President wanted. There's a Republican presidential debate at the same time he wanted to speak, which the White House shrugged off as coincidental."

Plante later highlighted how a "senior Democrat...accused the Speaker's office of childish behavior" after Mr. Boehner cited how the House of Representative isn't returning to session until 90 minutes before the time proposed by the President. Near the end of the report, the CBS correspondent did concede that for Mr. Obama, "the big risk, of course, is that the job creating initiatives the President is expected to offer may not seem big enough to warrant all the hype."

Over 12 hours earlier, O'Donnell led CBS Evening News with her report on the dispute over the President's speech before it had been resolved. But she quickly spotlighted how "White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to defend the timing of the speech, which would occur at the same time as the Republican primary debate." The correspondent then played a clip of her skeptical question to Carney:

Norah O'Donnell, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgO'DONNELL (on-camera, from White House press conference): Would you describe that timing as coincidental?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is coincidental. You can never find a perfect time. There are major events that occur on television. There are, you know, other issues you have to deal with, as well as congressional scheduling and the President's scheduling.

O'Donnell also later noted the time the House had planned to go back into session, but added that "furthermore, the House and Senate must vote to allow for a joint session of Congress," and moments later, explained the apparent break in protocol:

O'DONNELL (on-camera): Scott, normally the timing of such a speech before Congress is settled behind closed doors. The protocol in the past has been for the White House to clear the request with the Speaker before it has been announced. But tonight, Speaker Boehner's office says that they were given just a 15-minute heads-up from the White House. Now, the White House says that the Speaker's office raised no objection to the date.

The full transcript of Bill Plante's report from Thursday's Early Show and Norah O'Donnell's report from Wednesday's CBS Evening News:

09/01/2011
07:01 am EDT
The Early Show

JAN CRAWFORD: We're going to turn to the latest political fight in Washington and another setback for President Obama. He's going to be delivering this much-anticipated jobs speech to Congress next week.

But just setting the date for that speech turned into a hot potato, as CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante tells us. Bill, good morning.

Bill Plante, CBS News Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgBILL PLANTE: Well, good morning, Jan. This may prove that there is no argument too petty in today's Washington. It was the timing of the President's speech that became the subject of a testy confrontation between the President and the Speaker, and the Speaker won. The President will now give his jobs speech next Thursday.

PLANTE (voice-over): The White House announced yesterday that the President would unveil his jobs program in a speech to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday evening at 8 pm, when he plans to call on the Congress to pass new job initiatives.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA (from Rose Garden speech): There is work to be done. There are workers ready to do it, and that's why I expect Congress to act.

PLANTE: But there were two problems with the date the President wanted. There's a Republican presidential debate at the same time he wanted to speak, which the White House shrugged off as coincidental.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY (from press conference): You can never find a perfect time. There are major events that occur on television. There are, you know, other issues that you have to deal with, as well as congressional scheduling and the President's scheduling.

PLANTE: And House Speaker John Boehner told the President that Wednesday night wouldn't work because the House isn't scheduled to return from recess until just an hour and a half before Mr. Obama wanted to speak. A senior Democrat called the logistics excuse laughable, and accused the Speaker's office of childish behavior. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the President's prime antagonist in the fight over raising the debt ceiling, was in a more accommodating mood, declining to get into the debate over the scheduling of the speech.

REP. ERIC CANTOR, HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, listen, I know the President's very focused on what we're focused on, which is trying to create an environment where we can see growth and jobs come back. So, I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say.

PLANTE: But Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann had a different view.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, 2012 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (from speech to the Tea Party Express): Now, does this show maybe a little insecurity on the part of the President? Either, A, he wants to distract the American people, so they don't watch him; or, B, he doesn't want the American people to hear what the next president of the United States is going to say about the President's job plan. (crowds cheers and applauds)

PLANTE (on-camera): Well, the White House wants the speech to be in front of Congress for a very important reason. To them, the President is setting the stage for running against the Republicans on Capitol Hill. The big risk, of course, is that the job creating initiatives the President is expected to offer may not seem big enough to warrant all the hype. And there's one other thing: there's no longer a conflict with the Republican debate on Wednesday. Now, the President is up against the opening of the NFL season on Thursday night. So far, the NFL hasn't complained. Jan?


CRAWFORD: All right. Bill, that's that [New Orleans] Saints/[Green Bay] Packers game we're all waiting for. CBS's Bill Plante at the White House- Bill, thanks.

 

08/31/2011
06:30 pm EDT
CBS Evening News

SCOTT PELLEY: Good evening. With unemployment stuck above 9%, there was some hope that Congress and the President might return from vacation and put aside political bickering. But it appears they are picking up right where they left off. Today, just choosing a date for the President to address Congress turned political- more on that in just a moment.

But first, let us show you Los Angeles, where the lines of the unemployed continue to grow today. You're looking live at a jobs fair, where folks told us they are desperate for leadership in Washington.

Today, the President asked to address a rare joint session of Congress next week, so he could lay out a jobs plan. We have three reports tonight on the jobs crisis. First, Norah O'Donnell at the White House.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Scott, tonight we don't know when the President's major jobs speech is going to occur. President Obama had asked to speak on Wednesday evening, but the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said no, and suggested the President delay his speech by a day.

O'DONNELL (voice-over): President Obama said today our nation faces unprecedented economic challenges, and formally sent this letter to the congressional leadership, asking to give his major jobs speech next Wednesday, September 7. He wrote, 'It is our responsibility to find bipartisan solutions to help grow our economy.' But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to defend the timing of the speech, which would occur at the same time as the Republican primary debate.

O'DONNELL (on-camera, from White House press conference): Would you describe that timing as coincidental?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is coincidental. You can never find a perfect time. There are major events that occur on television. There are, you know, other issues you have to deal with, as well as congressional scheduling and the President's scheduling.

O'DONNELL (voice-over): This afternoon, Speaker Boehner said that, in fact, the congressional scheduling would not work, because the House is not in session until just hours before the President requested to speak. Furthermore, the House and Senate must vote to allow for a joint session of Congress. So, the Speaker responded with a letter to the President, suggesting he delay the speech until Thursday night. 'It is my recommendation that your address be held on the following evening,' he wrote.

O'DONNELL (on-camera): Scott, normally the timing of such a speech before Congress is settled behind closed doors. The protocol in the past has been for the White House to clear the request with the Speaker before it has been announced. But tonight, Speaker Boehner's office says that they were given just a 15-minute heads-up from the White House. Now, the White House says that the Speaker's office raised no objection to the date. Scott?

PELLEY: Norah, stand by for just a second, as we turn to CBS News political analyst John Dickerson. John, sounds like we have a failure to communicate.

JOHN DICKERSON It's a much darker atmosphere than the last time the President spoke to a joint session of Congress, when members of Congress, instead of sitting with their political party, paired off- Republicans sitting with Democrats- as a sign of bipartisanship. We're a long way from that now, and we're a long way from jobs in the economy, the topic of the President's address, and the issue both parties say is so important. This is a grim opening to what was already expected to be a tough fall, with another big budget fight over cutting 1.5 trillion [dollars] from the budget, a debate that will be about the size and scope of government. And it's kicking off with a spat about scheduling.

PELLEY: And Norah, back at the White House, how does the President intend to move forward from here?

O'DONNELL: Well, they're going to have to negotiate just when this speech is going to occur. But already, the President has signaled that he is going to use Congress as a political foil, that he will lay out significant proposals to jump-start the economy. And he has said that if Congress does not go along with that, he's going to blame Congress in this next year's election. Scott?

PELLEY: Thanks, Norah.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center