…by Meg White
The place Meg puts the stuff she wrote
Poor Bob McDonnell. President Obama Beat Him at His Own Game
Categories: Commentary, Politics

by Meg White

For all the griping and nastiness we’ve seen in Washington over the past year, you wouldn’t have known it to watch the State of the Union event yesterday. Oh sure, Obama’s speech had some “grow the hell up” moments directed at both sides of the aisle.

The president started out asking his fellow politicians “to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; to give our people the government they deserve.” At that point, the camera cut to Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) shifting in their seats and scowling at the other side of the aisle.

But when it came to the actual rebuttal speech, the mood was different. From the similarities of the speech Obama gave to the one by the Republicans’ chosen rebuttal-giver, newly-minted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, one would think we’re living in a one-party system. Maybe the GOP is actually taking Obama’s renewed call for bipartisanship (yeah, he asked for that again) seriously this time. After all, McDonnell did start out with a call for unity:

We want results, not rhetoric. We want cooperation, not partisanship.

The similarities were even at the visual level. The GOP was quick to place McDonnell in a presidential-like venue; the Virginia House chamber as designed by Thomas Jefferson, complete with women and minorities clapping and cheering him on was a clear improvement from Bobby Jindal’s widely panned attempt at a rebuttal one year ago.

McDonnell’s speech had a built-in admission that “it’s not easy to follow the president of the United States.” But he probably wasn’t expecting the problem to be that the president stole the majority of the GOP’s talking points.

The party of “drill, baby, drill” should at least expect to maintain its autonomy on energy policies. McDonnell has this slam dunk written into his speech (emphasis mine):

We are blessed here in America with vast natural resources, and we must use them all.

Advances in technology can unleash more natural gas, nuclear, wind, coal, and alternative energy to lower your utility bills.

Here in Virginia, we have the opportunity to be the first state on the East Coast to explore for and produce oil and natural gas offshore.

But this Administration’s policies are delaying offshore production, hindering nuclear energy expansion, and seeking to impose job-killing cap and trade energy taxes.

Listening to McDonnell on energy, it seems like he didn’t even hear Obama’s speech. In it, the president promised:

…to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies.

As you can clearly see, Obama promised all the energy goodies McDonnell whined about not being able to get (after the fact).

McDonnell’s comments lauding the free market and tax cuts for businesses fell flat after the president announced his plan to give $30 billion in repaid bank bailout money to community lenders so that they can extend credit to small businesses, along with a $1 million small business tax credit and the elimination of all capital gains taxes on businesses.

And McDonnell’s attack on regulation seemed to come out of nowhere after Obama’s main point on that was simply that we need a consumer protection agency, something that Republicans will hopefully soon be too ashamed to oppose.

Other fiscal attacks on the administration from McDonnell seemed pretty deflated after Obama touted his previous tax relief and promised more of it. Obama’s stated goal to double exports within the next five years by pursuing more free trade agreements would have sounded downright Republican, if it weren’t for the precedent set by President Bill Clinton in that arena.

At other points McDonnell appeared to choose favorites from the Democratic platform, apparently not realizing that Obama already used those lines that night. For example, McDonnell insisted that “a child’s educational opportunity should be determined by her intellect and work ethic, not by her zip code.”

This was less than an hour after Obama said, “In this country, the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than on their potential.”

Pretty similar. Though, at least they’re not asking if our children is learning.

Of course, if you want to connect to the kids these days, and I’m sure there were at least one or two watching last night, you’ve got to mention the Internets. Unfortunately, while I don’t think McDonnell was joking when he said, “We welcome your ideas on Facebook and Twitter,” he sure got a laugh.

Tough room.

Nor was Obama joking when he boasted of posting all White House visits online, or when he called upon Congress to set up a Web site making all earmarks transparent and accessible from one unified Web site.

But let’s be real. The Republicans couldn’t expect to compete with the new administration on Web 2.0 initiatives. But at least McDonnell didn’t mention MySpace.

In the end, while it may be fun to have a laugh at poor old McDonnell, the real concern is the notion that a Democratic president would use his State of the Union address to articulate conservative values. Because that’s not funny at all.


Do you have something to say about the speech? You can comment on this story below, or add your two cents about the State of the Union at this BuzzFlash Discussion page.

Originally published at BuzzFlash.com.

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