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.
"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.
It seems like ages ago, but it was just September when much of the country was in the midst of a real freak-out over the Ebola virus. Many Republicans, seeing the African outbreak as a campaign issue, immediately started running attack ads intended to scare people, while some in media seemed a little too eager to label Ebola -- let's all say it together -- "Obama's Katrina."
But one of the more memorable political moments came when Republicans expressed outrage that the White House had not yet named an "Ebola czar." President Obama eventually agreed and asked Ron Klain to oversee and coordinate the federal response to the virus, which led to even moreRepublican outrage.
Too often, it seems as if we're not supposed to reflect on instances in which GOP apoplexy turned out to be ridiculously wrong, but Michael Grunwald's new interview with Klain is a reminder that the Republicans' freak out last fall was not their finest hour.
GRUNWALD: When you were first announced, the immediate reaction, particularly on the right, was: "What a joke! Democratic hack!" There was the Twitter meme of people with more health care experience who were better qualified to be the Ebola coordinator, with pictures of George Clooney in his ER uniform and various Simpsons characters. What was your reaction to that?
KLAIN: I've been around public life long enough to know that you're going to take some licks if you're in the public spotlight. I think people maybe had a misperception of what was needed. We had great medical advisers; the president was getting great advice from Dr. Fauci, from Dr. [Tom] Frieden, who runs the CDC [Centers for Disease Control], from a panoply of other medical experts. I think the White House was looking for someone to come in and do the very unglamorous, bureaucratic coordination it takes to produce a response of this size. I think folks here knew I had done that with the Recovery Act and saw this as a very similar kind of project. It was taking a 14-or-15-agency response, a lot of great people, and making it all work together, figuring out where the seams were, figuring out what policy decisions needed to get made. But I understand the public perception was a little different, and, you know, that just is what it is.
Yes, and "what it is" serves as an example of the right having a breakdown for no particular reason.
Last week, at chairman's Reince Priebus' insistence, the Republican National Committee unveiled a schedule of party-approved debates for the 2016 presidential nominating contest. In all, between August and February, would-be Republican presidents will meet for nine debates, a third of which will be hosted by a Fox network.
With this hurdle cleared, party officials will now have to decide who gets to participate in this limited series of events.
Reince Priebus, Republican National Committee chairman, says that potential presidential contenders will have to poll above certain levels to earn a spot in the GOP debates.
In a radio interview on the "Hugh Hewitt Show" Monday, the conservative host asked Priebus how the debates would work if there were 20 candidates vying to be heard.
"You can't do 20 people," Priebus noted, conceding what is plainly true. He added, "You have to have certain thresholds in place, so you have to be at 1 percent of the vote in Iowa, and that threshold can move like a slide rule based on the proximity to the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primaries, just like it did before."
That's probably a responsible approach, though I think this may be trickier than party officials might like.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), as expected, traveled to London yesterday and delivered a striking set of remarks, arguing among other things, "It is startling to think that any country would allow, even unofficially, for a so-called 'no-go zone.'"
To briefly recap, far-right voices have pushed a line, amplified by conservative media, that in Britain and elsewhere, there are Muslim-majority communities in which non-Muslims -- even local law enforcement -- simply do not go. In reality, these "no-go zones" do not exist, a point even Fox News conceded over the weekend.
Jindal nevertheless continues to pretend the far-right myth is real, adding that "Islam has a problem." In his remarks yesterday, referring to Muslims, the Louisiana Republican and likely presidential candidate went on to say, "[I]t is their problem, and they need to deal with it."
After the speech, Jindal told NBC News that he supports "legal immigration," but added, "[I]n many ways, you're looking at folks that want to come and, in some ways, they want to overturn our culture they want to come in and almost colonize our countries."
In a separate interview with CNN, Jindal continued to push the "no-go zones" argument, prompting a British interviewer to say, "You have to have proper facts to back that up. I've lived here a long time; I don't know of any 'no-go zones.'" The Republican replied:
"Well, I did say 'so-called no-go zones.' I think that the radical left absolutely wants to pretend like this problem is not here. Pretending it's not here won't make it go away."
Remember, Jindal's the one who said he wants Republicans to stop being "the stupid party."
Not too long ago, a president would deliver a State of the Union address... and that was it. Much of the country would see the speech, pundits would talk about it, and either the political world would respond favorably or it wouldn't.
In the 1960s, Republicans decided it wasn't entirely fair for a president to have all the fun, and the official State of the Union response was born.
But in the Obama era, as GOP politics went off the deep end, the number of speeches on the big night proliferated. Last year, in addition to President Obama's actual SOTU, there was an official Republican response, an official Republican Spanish-language response, a Tea Party response, Sen. Rand Paul's (R-Ky.) self-indulgent response, and a "prebuttal" from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) because, well, why the heck not.
This year, the fact that Republicans tapped Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) for the party's official response seemingly negated the need for competing conservative voices -- Ernst is, after all, one of the most frighteningly right-wing senators in a generation. Why bother with a Tea Party response if the Republican address will be delivered by arguably the most radical voice in the Senate?
Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) will deliver the tea party's response to President Barack Obama's 2015 State of the Union address, the Tea Party Express announced Thursday.
"2015 marks a year of new beginnings for the Tea Party movement," Tea Party Express executive director Taylor Budowich said in a statement. "These new Tea Party members of Congress are brimming with ideas to make America economically stronger with opportunity for all to realize the American Dream. We are honored to present Florida Congressman Curt Clawson, the first Tea Party Express victory for the 2014 cycle, as someone committed to making Congress deliver for the American people."
To appreciate what makes the selection interesting, consider the impression Congressman Clawson has made over the course of his brief, seven-month career on Capitol Hill.
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