We can't yet judge President Barack Obama's speech Thursday night before a joint session of Congress. But it's not too early to render a judgment on the run-up to the address: It's been amateur hour in the West Wing.
Eight days ago, Mr. Obama announced he would address Congress on the same evening that a Republican presidential debate was scheduled at the Reagan Library. White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed it was merely a "coincidence." But his denial was soon undermined by comments to reporters by unnamed White House aides, who made it clear they intended to have the president drown out the GOP debate.
In any event, House Speaker John Boehner rightly nixed the date, pointing out that Wednesday was Congress's first day back from its August recess and both the House and Senate must first pass resolutions inviting the president to appear.
Mr. Boehner was making an important point about institutional prerogatives. By setting the date and time of his own appearance, Mr. Obama was doing his best impression of an imperial president. A president addresses a joint session of Congress only at the invitation of the co-equal legislative branch. Mr. Obama didn't seem to care. Mr. Boehner reminded him why he should.
So the president was forced to cave. To add to his humiliation, Mr. Obama will now appear on television just prior to Thursday's marquee NFL matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints. It's somehow fitting that the president will be speaking before prime time.
Karl Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010). To continue reading his column in The Wall Street Journal, click here.