It is so refreshing to go over to Fox News and hear someone speaking truth. In fairness it is one of their token Democrats saying it, but Joe Trippi points out that the GOP officials shown sitting with sullen faces during the State of the Union did themselves no favors. It’s one thing to respectfully sit silent when the President talks about climate change, those are core value differences. But failing to applaud for tax cuts and GOP hallmarks such as removing regulations to save money for dairy farmers is absurd. When the President moves to the Right in preparation for the general election, the Right needs to recognize that and applaud.
And, to paraphrase Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters, “When someone asks a Congressperson if they support a law banning Congresspeople from engaging in insider trading, say YES!” Boehner and the GOP decided to sit sullen as though this was an affront to their sensibilities to pass a rule preventing basic corruption. That doesn’t look good.
I’m not saying that the GOP should accept the President’s agenda, but if this is political theater then they need to figure out what role they want to play in the performance. Going into a general election where the popularity of the GOP’s only federal institution, the House of Representatives, is at historic lows, the GOP needs desperately to look at least as though they understand common sense. Obviously, Republicans can respectfully (or disrespectfully and disingenuously as the case will be) disagree with the specific proposals of the President and kill them in committees, but for the sake of the biggest highlight-reel producing political speech of the year, at least look like you agree with broad, non-controversial value statements.
This failure to understand the role of the opposition carries over to the response. The purpose of the State of the Union response should not be a red-meat attack speech as it has been framed in recent years, but the sober response of a friendly, smiling leader of the opposition to say, “hey, we all applauded the President’s broad vision back there, but we have fundamental differences on the specifics, but gosh darn we’re going to try our hardest to achieve those visions in the best possible way.” It makes you look rational and earnest. Yes, in the case of Republicans whose primary legislative goal is to defeat President Obama rather than enact substantive policy, this response would be an outright lie, but again, you are playing a part and this would at least excuse your inevitable obstructionist tactics by making it appear in the moment as an honest difference of opinion.
I don’t approve of this sort of cynical response, but if we’re going to have this speech televised and repeated in clips ad nauseum, the opposition needs to either get on board for real or take a lesson in PR.