Wednesday, January 26, 2011
President Obama pitches it right down the middle
President Obama delivered the State of the Union address last night, calling for bipartisan cooperation and for progress in areas where he believes Democrats and Republicans can find common ground.
The atmosphere surrounding the speech, coming as it did in the wake of the Tucson tragedy, was more somber and less partisan than has been typical in recent years. The ovations that typically interrupt the State of the Union address were less sustained, less boisterous, and certainly less politically pointed. Part of that, no doubt, was due to the suspension of the congressional tradition of dividing the House chamber along strictly partisan lines. So, for example, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) sat side by side in the audience.
In his remarks, the President repeatedly called for bipartisan cooperation. He made mention of various issues and solutions that might find appeal with each side of the left-right political spectrum. So, for Republicans, the President suggested that the health care reform bill that passed last year could be improved with "medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits." For Democrats, there were calls for investment in alternative energy research and funding for education and infrastructure improvements.
(My own liberal inclinations got a nice boost when the President urged against "subsidiz[ing] yesterday's energy." That must surely have made some of the black hearts in Big Oil board rooms skip a beat or two.)
This was certainly not the most rousing State of the Union speech I have seen. And, it seemed to me that the President went light on the soaring rhetoric. I felt the speech was a down-to-earth, practical statement: For this country to thrive, we need to work together. The President extended an olive branch and expressed a willingness to listen to Republicans.
Now, let's see if the GOP has enough integrity left in it to respond in kind.