In about 10 hours, President Obama will stand on the House floor and deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. In the meantime, the pre-speech chatter is dominated by Republicans telling us all the reasons they’re not going to like what the president has to say.
This quote, from Sunday-show favorite Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), struck me as especially interesting (via Greg Sargent).
“I see this as the president returning to the theme of class warfare,” said Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois. “It may have been effective in 2012, but I don’t find it to be effective anymore. I think, frankly, he’s out of ideas if he is unwilling to work with Republicans, and I think he is unwilling to work with Republicans.”
For a three-sentence, throwaway line, there’s actually a couple of important angles to this.
The first is this notion that the president is “out of ideas.” Obviously, the opposite is true – Obama intends to talk up all kinds of new and noteworthy policy initiatives, including free community college, an expansive broadband initiative, a national effort on paid family leave, and a big middle-class tax break.
But Kinzinger didn’t say specifically that Obama’s “out of ideas,” rather, that the president is “out of ideas if he is unwilling to work with Republicans.” What an interesting phrase – Obama is capable of having an innovative and effective agenda, but only if it’s comprised of ideas Republicans like.
For that matter, given that GOP lawmakers have spent the last six years refusing to compromise with the White House on anything, at times even opposing ideas they support the moment the president announces his agreement with Republicans, Kinzinger’s entire argument seems a little silly.
But then there’s the “class warfare” laziness.
The funny thing about this to me is that Republicans can’t seem to make up their minds about what kind of arguments are permissible. Yes, Kinzinger’s correct that Obama is prepared to focus on the growing wealth gap, economic inequalities, the concentration of wealth at the very top, and the fact that the recovery’s prosperity has not been broadly shared. And yes, the predictable, knee-jerk response from the right is to complain about “class warfare.”
But whether congressional Republicans are comfortable with this or not, it was Mitt Romney who told RNC members last week how concerned he is that “the rich have gotten richer” and “income inequality has gotten worse.” It was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who complained about a year ago, “Right now, the top 1 percent in this country, the millionaires and billionaires the president demagogues so much, earn a higher share of our national income than any time since 1928.”
Is it “class warfare” when a Democrat notices these national challenges, but sound thinking when a Republican notices? Or does it only count as “class warfare” because the president has presented a credible proposal to do something about it?