Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union Reaction Falls Along Party Lines

Politics Daily
Andrea Stone

WASHINGTON -- Reaction to Tuesday night's State of the Union address, the most-wired ever and perhaps the most measured and mild in memory, echoed a predictable plethora of previews and prebuttals that fell along party lines.

Republicans, led officially by their resident budget guru and in an unsanctioned response from their tea party wing, recited their vision for smaller government through spending cuts. Democrats offered their endorsements of the president's plan and called for bipartisan buy-in from the GOP.

Over all lay a gloss of civility brought on by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson that saw lawmakers cross the aisle in a wonkish version of date night on the Hill. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott -- arguably the most conservative and liberal members of Virginia's congressional delegation -- sat with their shoulders literally touching, each smiling as Obama spoke.

Cameras showed Gifford's empty chair in the chamber but Obama made clear that change was bigger than a seating chart. "What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow," he said in a line that brought the first of a handful of standing ovations.

Viewers at home liked what they heard, according to a CNN poll that found 52 percent reacting positively, up from 48 percent a year ago. Another instapoll by CBS News found a whopping 92 percent who watched the speech approved of the president's proposals and six in 10 -- perhaps buoyed by the sight of Republicans and Democrats sitting side-by-side, said they expect more bipartisanship in the future.

A quick dial poll by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg also found broad approval across the political spectrum. Among the strongest positive reactions, he said in a conference call with reporters, came when Obama spoke about health care, saying "instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and move forward."

Still, the mixed seating diffused reaction in the chamber. That appeared to sap energy from the room and contributed to what some analysts viewed as a flat delivery by the usually rhetorically gifted president.

"I thought there were some great platitudes. Like tip of the hat to small businesses. Nice to hear," said freshman Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo. But, he added, "the words didn't always match the comments that move many of us when we talk about getting the economy moving."

Obama did get one laugh from crowd. Speaking about the need to streamline government, he said, "Then there's my favorite example: the Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in when they're in saltwater. And I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

With emotions cooled, there also was little drama.

No moment matched that of last year's State of the Union when Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words "not true" when Obama criticized a court decision on campaign financing. Alito was one of three justices who did not attend this year.

Still, even as the president spoke warmly of the person "who began by sweeping the floors of his father's Cincinnati bar" and now presides as Speaker of the House, John Boehner's staff was blasting "real-time" fact checks about Obama's "job-destroying spending spree." Democrats sent their own "fact checks" questioning House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan's response.

"Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment, where if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century," said Ryan, speaking from a House hearing room and sporting a large black and white ribbon on his lapel like those worn by most lawmakers to honor the victims in Tucson. "Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked -- and it won't work now. We need to chart a new course."

Noting that, "Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified -- especially when it comes to spending," Ryan said lawmakers "owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you -- to show you how we intend to do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs."

Ryan was followed a few minutes later by Rep. Michele Bachmann, whose rogue response upset some Republicans who worried Ryan's message would be muddled.

In an animated online message aired by CNN, Bachmann offered a stark contrast to the more measured Ryan in a talk she said was "not meant to compete" with the official response. Just back from Iowa where she gauged support for a possible presidential run, Bachmann used props to make her point about "an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt at President Obama's direction; unlike anything we have seen in the history of our country."

There was a chart showing the growth of unemployment with red bars representing the Bush years and bigger blue bars under the Obama administration. There was the famous World War II photo of the flag being raised on Iwo Jima to symbolize how America pulled together to beat back an aggressor. And, of course, there was a blow-up of the Constitution.

"Last November many of you went to the polls and voted out big-spending politicians and you put in their place men and women who have come to Washington with a commitment to follow the Constitution and cut the size of government," she said. "And I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn here in the House of Representatives."

Other reactions to the speech ranged from the measured to the mercurial.

Among the reviews by the president's allies:

- "Tonight we heard a blueprint for how to move our country forward by investing in what works and cutting what doesn't. We heard a vision for keeping America a global economic superpower by out-educating, out-innovating and out-building our competition. To get there, we'll have to set aside our differences and reach across the aisle," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Republicans have a responsibility to work with us to create jobs instead of wasting time with pointless political stunts."

- "House Democrats remain committed to putting people back to work and getting our fiscal house in order," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House budget committee. "When Republicans put forward ideas that help create jobs, reduce the deficit, and strengthen the middle class, they will find willing partners -- but when they try to turn back the clock and put special interests back in charge, they will find a vocal opposition."

- "The President left no doubt tonight that he's staked out the center of American politics, with his call for economic growth, fiscal discipline and a bipartisan spirit of national unity," said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic think tank. "With this speech, the President declared himself a pro-growth Democrat, one who sees American companies and entrepreneurs as a creative force to be unleashed, not a problem to be constrained."

- Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, welcomed Obama's vow to streamline federal agencies. "Identifying, reforming and eliminating the redundancy and waste in government is an area in which there should and will be common-ground," he said.

- "I had hoped to hear the President outline real solutions to fundamentally tackle our national debt crisis and help clear the way for urgently needed job creation," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. "Instead, we heard him talk about more 'investment,' which is what most Floridians I know would simply call more government spending."

- Matt Kibbe of the conservative group FreedomWorks said if Obama was serious about promoting job growth, "he'll roll back the job-killing policies his administration has promoted over the last two years, starting with Obamacare and continuing on to tax hikes on small business and wasteful 'stimulus' spending."

- For America chairman Brent Bozell, whose group advocates repealing the health care law, said, "The speech was nothing more than bad acting on a big stage," adding that "the president continues to cover his ears and press his leftist agenda of more spending and bigger government."

Bachmann's response to State of the Union
CNN Politics

Washington (CNN) -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, responded to President Obama's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night from the Tea Party Express headquarters. Here is a transcript of Bachmann's speech.

Bachmann: Good evening. My name is Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota's 6th District.

I want to thank the Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD for inviting me to speak this evening. I'm here at their request and not to compete with the official Republican remarks.

The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation, and it's an honor for me to speak with you.

Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our president, unemployment was 7.8%, and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion. We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit and implement real job-creating policies.

Unfortunately, the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money. The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8%. Not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months, the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4%. It hasn't been lower for 20 straight months. While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs.

Let me show you a chart. Here are unemployment rates over the past 10 years. In October of 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3%. In 2008, it was at 6.6%. But just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1%. Today, unemployment is at 9.4% with about 400,000 new claims every week.

After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money that we don't have. But instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we've ever seen before in the history of the country.

Well, deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush, but they exploded under President Obama's direction, growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion.

Well, what did we buy? Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which lightbulbs to buy and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health care bill. Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job-creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether, unless, of course, yours is one of the more than 222 privileged companies, or unions, that's already received a government waiver under Obamacare.

In the end, unless we fully repeal Obamacare, a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care might be forced to rely on government-run coverage. That could have a devastating impact on our national debt for even generations to come.

For two years, President Obama made promises, just like the ones we heard him make this evening, yet still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices, and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing.

Well, here's a few suggestions for fixing our economy. The president could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system. The president could support a balanced budget amendment. The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more. And the president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, like medical malpractice reform and allowing all Americans to buy any health care policy they like anywhere in the United States.

We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burden on job-creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.

But thanks to you, there's reason for all of us to have hope that real spending cuts are coming, because last November, you went to the polls, and you voted out the big-spending politicians and you put in their place great men and women with a commitment to follow our Constitution and cut the size of government. I believe that we're in the very early days of a history-making turn in America.

Please know how important your calls, visits and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress is responding, and we're just beginning to start to undo the damage that's been done the last few years, because we believe in lower taxes, we believe in a limited view of government and exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world.

Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who can say that we won't see a miracle again? The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, and yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young GIs over the incursion against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.

Our current debt crisis we face today is different, but we still need all of us to pull together. But we can do this. That's our hope. We will push forward. We will proclaim liberty throughout the land. And we will do so because we, the people, will never give up on this great nation.

So God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

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