NYTimes Paints Speaker Boehner as Having Issued 'Unprecedented' Refusal of President's Request

The September 1 Times portrayed House Speaker John Boehner's request that President Obama delay his speech to Congress by a day as an "unprecedented" refusal of a presidential request and evidence of poisonous partisanship in Washington, D.C.

"Speaker Says No, So Obama Delays Speech" is how the Times's September 1 front page headline spun the short squabble over the timing of President Obama's upcoming speech before Congress on his job creation plan. "Spat Over Which Day to Address Economy," added a subheadline.

The online version opted for a headline that went lighter on the loaded language: "Obama Moves Jobs Speech After Skirmish With Boehner."

For their part, Times writers Helene Cooper and Jackie Calmes ginned up the perpetual lament of partisan discord in Washington, before going on to portray President Obama as the bigger man for amending his initial wish to speak to Congress next Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern:

WASHINGTON — Any hopes that a kinder, gentler bipartisan Washington would surface once Congress returns after Labor Day were summarily dashed on Wednesday when President Obama and Speaker John A. Boehner clashed over, of all things, the date and time of the president's much-awaited speech to the nation about his proposal to increase jobs and fix the economy.

In a surreal volley of letters, each released to the news media as soon as it was sent, Mr. Boehner rejected a request from the president to address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m. — the same night that a Republican presidential debate is scheduled.

In an extraordinary turn, the House speaker fired back his own letter to the president saying, in a word, no. Might the president be able to reschedule for the following night, Sept. 8?

For several hours, the day turned into a very public game of chicken.

By late Wednesday night, though, the White House issued a statement saying that because Mr. Obama 'is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy,' he 'welcomes the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 8.'

Cooper and Calmes later went on to present Boehner's rejection of the September 7 speaking request as an "unprecedented" departure from decorum:

Congressional historians said Mr. Boehner's move was unprecedented.

'The Senate Historical Office knows of no instance in which Congress refused the president permission to speak before a joint session of Congress,' Betty K. Koed, associate historian with the Senate, said in an e-mail. 'Permission to speak in a joint session is given by resolution of the House and Senate, and arrangements are made through the leadership offices of each chamber.'

Of course, Obama wasn't "refused" permission to speak, as the text of Boehner's letter made clear, in which the Speaker "respectfully invite[d]" the president to "address a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday, September 8, 2011 in the House chamber, at a time that works best for your [President Obama's] schedule."