by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
January 22, 2015
OBAMA TROLLS THE REPUBLICANS IN STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- "I have no more campaigns to run," President Obama told a joint session of Congress on Jan. 20 near the end of his State of the Union speech.
The Republicans in the chamber tepidly applauded.
Then the President added, "I know, because I won both of them."
The Democrats in the chamber cheered loudly because they knew what they just saw.
They saw the President's "drop the bat, take a couple of slow steps out of the batter's box to admire the trajectory of the baseball you just crushed, and watch it sail into the center field bleachers as you begin your slow home-run trot around the bases" moment.
It was like that almost all night for President Obama. Six years to the day of his first inauguration, he reminded Americans that he can still swing a big rhetorical bat when it really matters.
The cynic may ask where this Obama was during the 2014 midterm elections. But it's tough to argue about where the country was in January 2009, and where it is in January 2015.
Six years ago, this nation was in its worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Today, the President said, "our economy is growing and creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999" as the nation has "risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth."
Republicans sat on their hands and refused to applaud as the President touted an improved economy where "America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and all advanced economies combined."
He reminded them of their obstruction when he said, "At every step, we were told 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 50 years."
Yes, the wages of working Americans has been stagnant or falling over that time. But freed from the need to run again for office, President Obama can push to give working Americans a leg up in today's economy, through tax breaks, paid sick leave, free tuition for higher education, and a higher minimum wage.
These are all ideas popular with a majority of Americans, and have virtually no chance of passing a Republican-run Congress.
Thankfully, President Obama finally figured out that he is not going get any help from Congress, and so he will use Executive Orders and any other tools at his disposal to advance an agenda that most Americans want.
The Democrats in Congress are also finally getting wise to the GOP act.
For example, Congressional Republicans have staked themselves to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport tar sands oil from Canada to refineries in the southern U.S. so it can be exported to foreign markets.
Their biggest reasons for supporting the pipeline are job creation and achieving energy independence. Both are untrue.
But when given the chance this week by Democrats to make those reasons true, Republicans rejected a proposal to mandate that only American-made steel be used in the pipeline, and ejected another proposal to require that the oil being transported across our Great Plains be reserved for U.S. use only.
That's why President Obama's speech was so effective. Americans had a chance to see where the 114th Congress's heart was, and it wasn't pretty.
Consider this partial list of things that Republicans did not offer applause for: An improved economy; the Affordable Care Act; acknowledging that climate change exists, and must be dealt with; equal pay for women; making voting easier for all Americans; not persecuting members of the LGBT community; net neutrality; tax cuts for working families.
It's not exactly news that Republicans hate all these things, but seeing a chamber full of Republicans sitting on their hands, refusing to even acknowledge the most modest of accomplishments by President Obama, speaks volumes about the GOP's legacy of obstruction over the past six years.
If the State of the Union address represents what the President hopes to accomplish in the last two years of his Administration, and the reaction to the speech represents what we will see from the GOP in response, the run-up to the 2016 presidential and Congressional elections could be quite interesting.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A. from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and is an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 30 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.