A Blink and the Backlash
by Jen Green
There’s a scene in the 1999 movie Office Space that represents the daydream of anyone who ever had a pesky, passive-aggresive, petty boss who takes himself (herself) far too seriously. It’s between Peter Gibbons and his boss Bill Lumbergh. Peter is a cubicle-dweller who has been hypnotised into believing he is blissfully happy and therefore does not need to worry about pleasing his abusive but cowardly boss Lumbergh. Lumbergh approaches Peter Gibbons desk to further pester him about an inane hoop-jumping company procedure. [The "Bobs" are two consultants hired by corporate to find out who needs to keep their job and who doesn't. They've taken a shine to Peter's refreshing honesty.]
Bill Lumbergh: So, Peter, what’s happening? Aahh, now, are you going to go ahead and have those TPS reports for us this afternoon?
Peter Gibbons: [wearing t-shirt and jeans, feet on desk] No.
Bill Lumbergh: Ah. Yeah. So I guess we should probably go ahead and have a little talk. Hmm?
Peter Gibbons: Not right now, Lumbergh, I’m kinda busy. In fact, look, I’m gonna have to ask you to just go ahead and come back another time [waves his hand dismissively]. I got a meeting with the Bobs in a couple of minutes.
Bill Lumbergh: I wasn’t aware of a meeting with them.
Peter Gibbons: Yeah, they called me at home.
Lumbergh stands there dumbfounded for a moment, then turns and walks away, stunned.
That moment from Office Space played out in Washington, D.C. last night. Playing the part of Bill Lumbergh–President Barack Obama. Playing the part of Peter Gibbons–John Boehner. First, allow me to qualify–just like the Peter Gibbons character in Office Space, Boehner is an “anti-hero,” meaning he lacks any of the characteristics of a true hero, but he’s made out to be the sympathetic figure in the story for whom we want to cheer because the other guy is so bad. In other words, John Boehner to a “T.”
Yesterday, Barack Obama tried to “announce” to the public his speech before a joint session about his elusive “jobs plan” would be on Wednesday, September 7 at 8:00 p.m. Three problems: 1) The President needs permission from congressional leaders in order to deliver the addresss. 2) The House isn’t in session until the 7th–and they were scheduled to take votes that evening. 3) And most significantly, the big Reagan Library GOP debate is Wednesday, September 7 at 8:00 p.m. Coincidence? I think not–especially when Obama’s press secretary Carney said “the administration would “welcome” a decision by debate hosts to “adjust the timing of their debate so that it didn’t conflict.”
As far as power plays go, it was blatant. And given Boehner’s history, I’m sure the administration thought it would work. One problem–they underestimated the power of tradition, money, and fear.
Can you imagine the backlash on Boehner, et. al, if he had allowed Obama to pre-empt a GOP debate, hosted by Fox News and Politico at the REAGAN LIBRARY? He might as well just write out the resignation letter now and call it a day. Pack up and go fishin.’ A president whose approval rating hovers around 40% on a good day versus Roger Ailes’ bankroll, the GOP establishment, the Tea Party, and the LEGEND that is Ronald Reagan? No contest.
After that, as they say, it was “on.” Lots of Republican folks got upset and the administration blustered back. But, in the end, with the popular wind at his back, Boehner pulled a “Peter Gibbons.” He basically told Lumbergh (aka Obama), “Nope, sorry. Not right now. We’re a little busy. You’re just gonna have to go ahead and come back another time. How about, say, the next day, same time? Work for you? Great.”
And what could the administration do but blink? Not much. Oh, they tried to temper the beatdown with the normal “for the good of the American people” and passing the blame spin, but c’mon. At this point, does anyone believe it?
So, for all you real men out there–if you felt a chill sometime between 8 or 9 last evening, it might have been because the POTUS and his administration, with his ridiculous, poorly-thought out powerplay, walked all over the “real man” grave and took a face plant.
Oh, and I almost forgot the best part of the story. Instead of pre-empting a bunch of GOP’ers duking it out for his job, now the president is going to head-to-head with the first game of the NFL season. Word is, administration is promising the speech will not (dare) to interfere with the 8:30 p.m. kick-off of the 2011 Super Bowl winning Packer Nation vs. the 2010 Super Bowl winning Saints. Who DAT?