While it's possible that President Barack Obama's major jobs speech Thursday night before Congress and a national television audience may be more political than substantive, as Louisiana Republican Senator David Vitter suggests, he and other conservatives planning to boycott it are out of line.
Vitter, especially, is out of line, since he's skipping Obama's 7 p.m. EDT speech to watch the New Orleans Saints kick off the NFL season at the Green Bay Packers at 8 p.m. EDT. He ran for office to serve the United States, not support his home-state Saints. Vitter could certainly do that by recording the game and watching it later.
Even House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, agrees -- telling reporters Thursday morning that all Republicans in his caucus should attend the president's speech as a matter of political respect.
He is the president of the United States, and I believe that all members ought to be here, Boehner said, according to The Hill. It doesn't mean they're going to. Remember, I'm just the speaker. I've got 434 colleagues who have their own opinions, and they're entitled to them. But as an institution, the president is coming at our invitation. We ought to be respectful, and we ought to welcome him.
Some Republicans, including the Senate's Mitch McConnell, say media leaks which have already detailed many aspects of Obama's jobs plan he will unveil in tonight's speech are merely, the president's apparent determination to apply the same government-driven policies that have already been tried and failed, said McConnell, in a speech to the Senate.
Obama's jobs proposals could cost $300 billion, according to media reports, including about $100 billion in spending on construction of roads, bridges, and other major infrastructure projects, and money for cash-strapped states to spend to keep teachers, police and other officials from being laid off.
Such speeches as Obama's tonight before a joint session of Congress are rare. It's been positioned by the White House as a State of the Union type of affair, but some Republicans haven't bought into that fanfare. Republican congressman Joe Walsh said, for instance, that speeches by the president before joint sessions of Congress should be saved for special occasions.
You can't lead this country by speeches, Walsh said in a CNN interview.
That's true, but the American people certainly want something done, considering unemployment remains above nine percent two years after the official end to the recession. Not that Obama will unveil the answers -- but that's the political debate the should follow between the public response and Washington's elected officials.
The U.S. is cash strapped with a $14.5 trillion deficit, and perhaps more spending in light of that reality is not the best path forward. But as president of the United States, Obama should be afforded the political courtesy and respect of all in Congress. Republicans should heed the words of Boehner and skip football or other distractions and sit in on the speech.
After that, they can say whatever they want about Obama's plan. But they should hear it first, in person.