National Commentary

Obama Compels a Sour GOP Response

nfbenton-mugPresident Obama in his State of the Union message said the following early in his remarks Tuesday night that summed up a lot very succinctly:

“We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis, shield families from ruin, and encourage fair competition. Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices. And in the past year alone, about ten million uninsured Americans finally gained the security of health coverage.

“At every step, we were told (by Republicans –ed.) our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits.

Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years. So the verdict is clear: middle class economics works.”

He then said that any efforts by Republicans to undo any of these things will “earn my veto.”

Looking to the sour faces on the Republican side of the aisle, he then broke from his script to exclaim, “This is good news, people!”

Sour faces, indeed. TV cameras didn’t need to pan the audience to see them. The unavoidably expressive puss of Speaker John Boehner, sitting right behind Obama, said it all.

Obama began at the outset of his remarks, “Our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our unemployment rate is now lower than it was before the financial crisis. More of our kids are graduating than ever before; more of our people are insured than ever before; we are as free from the grip of foreign oil as we’ve been in almost 30 years.”

As he said this, Boehner looked like he was sucking on a lemon. It didn’t get much better as Obama went on, although there were a few lame efforts at a polite applause for comments about war veterans.

The initial reaction from Republican spin-meisters after the State of the Union was predictable, more or less saying, “This is just the same old ‘tax-and-spend’ rhetoric,” and that it will all be ‘dead on arrival’ in the Republican-controlled Congress.

It is hard to fathom how stupid and self-defeating this kind of response from the GOP is, how the Republicans are so tone-deaf they can’t hear how what they are saying resonates with a general public eager to hear good news.

Notably, Obama’s popularity rating with the public has soared since the GOP sweep in November’s mid-term election. Since then, he said that he’d not stand by and watch Republicans tear his achievements limb from limb, and took the offensive with his own executive initiatives, beginning with immigration reform, and the public has responded increasingly favorably.

It has been the bitter intractability of the GOP that has contributed so enormously to public disdain with Washington, such that Obama’s recent breakaway has led to his spectacular popularity growth.

So against all the initiatives Obama outlined Tuesday, the best the GOP could say was it all boiled down to “more tax-and-spend.” How meaningless is that to the public! The obvious reaction from a struggling middle class to that? “Tax the rich and spend money on me? I’m all for that!”

Obama stood strong against the war mongers of the military-industrial complex, saying, “We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy; when we leverage our power with coalition building; when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents.”

The blatant GOP response came yesterday, when Boehner announced he’d invited the arch-conservative Israeli prime minister to address Congress next month after no consultation at all with the White House. Benjamin Netanyahu wants to torpedo the U.S.’s current negotiations with Iran in a way that would lead to the kind of war with that country the GOP was contemplating under George W. Bush.

Does this do anything but reveal to everybody the GOP’s slavish role in service to the merchants of perpetual war?

By forcing their hand Tuesday, Obama drove Republicans to reveal their true colors.