Category Archives: Republican rhetoric

Conjecture about the State of the Union Address

Another Sunday, another “politic’s day” for me, another “sport’s day” for others. I spent my Sunday morning and part of my afternoon with CNN and Meet the Press. I watched Candy Crowley and David Gregory and the Reliable Sources guy, Howard Kurtz, and Fareed Zakaria as they interviewed Democrats, Republicans, Senators, committee chairs, Speakers of the House or Senate, world leaders, economists and other political geeks. They love to interview controversial figures from either party and get our emotional juices flowing by discussing areas where disagreement is the greatest. Of course, Washington is too easy right now because every topic is controversial and the two parties don’t agree about anything. This particular Sunday comes right before the President’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, February 12th, so guests are asked to conjecture about the content of the President’s speech.

Usually there is one opposing view offered after the State of the Union speech. This year Marco Rubio was picked to respond to the President, but apparently, the Republicans feel he is too moderate so there will be a tea party response by Rand Paul also. Yay, us.

There seemed to be consensus that Obama needs to talk about jobs and the economy. There was no agreement about what he should do about these issues. Republicans insist that Obama needs to cut, cut, cut, even though the outcomes of austerity in Europe do not back them up and many economists disagree with this approach. They are done, they say, with raising revenues and will not even consider tax reform until budget cuts happen. They insist that the federal budget is like our household budget which it clearly is not. They insist that they have already written the bills that will fix the economy and that they are just waiting for Obama to come to them and bow before them and give them his blessing to unleash their brand of economic pain on middle class America. They talk about the solutions “they” have handed down to America, and by “they” it is clear that this work is a product of the GOP and is in no way bipartisan. They want Obama to do things the old way and glad hand his way into the hearts of our Congressional representatives and senators. They are extremely unhappy that Obama is still taking his case to the American people. So the GOP not only wants their policies but it wants the President to do business their way. Been there, done that. Obama spent four years doing that. Republicans have not changed at all; they have not mellowed. Obama has no reason to believe that he will be treated with any more respect from the Republicans than he encountered last time around. He is exactly right to carry on with taking his case to the people. He is not pursuing his own agenda; he is pursuing the agenda of the American people.

Republicans sounded, for a tiny unit of time, as if they would love to help reach some bipartisan agreement about immigration and gun control. It is amazing to see how quickly they backed off from this promising position when the details began to come under discussion. I do not think that Republicans intend to pass any policy except the ones they come up with themselves. I believe that, whether or not Obama’s strategies antagonize the Republicans, they are the only effective strategies he has and that they are exactly the right strategies for this moment in time. I am looking forward to Obama’s State of the Union address and I wish I was also looking forward to a true partnership between all of our politicians to keep the American economy moving in the right direction, to stop telling us that they will not do the people’s business because the people are wrong.  I was looking to them to help solve our immigration and violence issues also. Alas, I can see that this is not to be. However happy the GOP is to offer us new semantics, they are as married to their extreme politics as ever.
*The image of the President on Meet the Press is not from this past Sunday. It is from a series of historical photos on the official Meet the Press web sit. Many of these images are in black and white and many of them have a certain poignancy.

Restoring Trust

When you listen to Republicans being interviewed on any news show they always remind us that all our woes are Obama’s fault. Their newest litany is that Obama does not lead and that we need a President who will lead. I guess they are calling President Obama a wimp. To my mind, Obama’s behavior just proves how very smart he is.

The Republicans spent Obama’s whole first term signaling that he could not count on them in any way to help with any of his agenda; not health care, not finances, not anything. Obama got schooled. He’s a quick study. He tried to be bipartisan. He agreed to a Grand Bargain that would have angered many in his own party and yet he was jilted.  The Speaker of the House could not close the deal (a good deal) with the extreme Republicans in the House.

So here we are now with Republicans still trying to “pin the tail on the donkey” and Obama understandably leery about engaging in hand-to-hand combat. But Obama understands how to play a long game and that does make him a leader.

Republicans only have one item on their agenda and they tell us over and over how important it is. They chant “spending cuts” – “spending cuts” – “spending cuts”. Their rhetoric suggests fairly limited vocabularies. They also chant one variation on the theme, “cut entitlements” – “cut entitlements – “cut entitlements. They sound like a bunch of Romans at the gladiator pits. And the truth is no one has said that there will be no cuts. There have been some and I am sure there will be more. However, once you’ve made it clear that you are the party that does not bargain in good faith, don’t act surprised if no one will sit down with you.

Sometimes, in recent weeks you rephrase the entitlements chant by saying that “you want to make entitlements more secure” but the ideas that you have for doing this are almost exactly what they were when you were insisting these programs be cut. Do you understand at all why talk of cuts to our social programs might upset us? What if your health insurance, or retirement, or both were on the line? Retired politicians cost us larger amounts per capita than other retirees.

Perhaps the deadlock which has prevented us from responding to our financial dilemmas with any “big” approach offered by either side of the political spectrum has actually kept us steering a slow, but steady course that will eventually bring us out of the doldrums.

I’m not sure how Republicans could find a way to restore the President’s trust in their sincerity. If Republicans really want, as they now aver, cuts to social programs that will strengthen these programs for the future and tax reforms that will also strengthen the American economy then it sounds as if the Republicans and Obama and the Democrats are all on the same page, but I bet they still are not. I also bet that Republicans still believe that Americans are being “institutionalized” and will soon comprise a helpless class which cannot exercise any initiative and who have a parasitic relationship to our government that will eventually bring it down. We all do know people who may be parasites so we find ourselves shaking our heads in agreement, but our government also cares for groups with real needs; groups like children, the disabled, the elderly. If you can’t find a way to separate the parasites form those who genuinely need or deserve social programs then we hurt our society by taking an ax to all of it and letting all groups sink or swim on their own. Yikes! This does not have any hint of compassion or enlightenment about it. This just sounds greedy, short-sighted and inhumane. If Republicans can back off from this extreme position which has them insisting that we get rid of all social programs but that we keep a huge defense budget; if they can convince Democrats that they can be trusted to bargain in good faith, then I believe we could see some real progress on reform. However, I’m not sure I know how trust could ever be restored.