It was a little tweet that started the big fight.
At five minutes before noon on Wednesday, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer took to Twitter with a 140-character announcement: "POTUS has requested a Joint Session of Congress at 8 PM on 9/7 to lay out his plan to create jobs, grow the economy, and reduce the deficit."
In a matter of seconds, Pfeiffer's online followers chimed in to note a scheduling conflict. The long-planned, twice-rescheduled GOP presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library was to begin at the same moment.
An afternoon of shenanigans ensued before the issue was resolved. Partisans revved up their partisanship. Political analysis begot political analysis. The debate's sponsors, NBC News and Politico, sent word that their show would go on.
The White House said the GOP debate did not factor into its planning. Nor, press secretary Jay Carney said, did any other television events, "whether it's the wildlife channel or the cooking channel."
"It is coincidental," Carney told reporters, adding: "There's one president. There's 20-some odd debates."
Of course, there can be only one debate that's Rick Perry's first debate. And that's why, with the Texas governor overtaking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney atop the national polls, so much attention is being paid to next week's forum.
Romney's campaign seemed to think the American people would easily pick between the two. "TV viewers have a choice between GOP candidates talking about the future of America or Barack Obama talking about the future of his presidency," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota appeared on the Fox News Channel to accuse Obama of "hiding his speech" and "trying to divert the American people away from hearing from the presidential candidates on what their assessment is of President Obama's job that he has failed to do for the economy."
Meanwhile, in New Hampshire, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was tweaking the final draft of his jobs speech, "Time to Compete," and wondering if his 5 p.m. rollout could somehow compete with the hullabaloo inside the Beltway.