The main part of the evening — the president’s proposed agenda for 2014 — was largely uninspiring. Playing the realist, President Barack Obama is dialing back the ambitious rhetoric that so stirred Americans during his first campaign for president in 2008.
Using the excuse of a brick wall of opposition from his rival party, Obama promoted presidential executive orders as policy work-arounds to counter a do-nothing Congress. Over the past five years, Republican lawmakers have demonstrated they are largely disinterested in working with the president.
No less than four Republican members of Congress, representing various factions of the Grand Old Party, offered televised rebuttals to Obama’s remarks. Other than opposition to the president, the four lawmakers offering a rebuttal weren’t on the same page. Two speakers (Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky) spoke from a Tea Party perspective. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., crafted a message for Spanish speakers. Lastly, there was the traditional rebuttal from a member of the party opposite the president’s. This year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington was appointed for the job.
McMorris Rodgers told Americans she’d “like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision.” A little quiet from forces within her own party would have made that easier.
We’ve long since accepted the divided nature of U.S. politics. On full display Tuesday was a deeper divide that pits Republicans against each other in a war of attrition.
The chaos must be infectious. Following Obama’s speech, a Republican congressman from New York was so unhappy with a reporter’s question that he threatened to toss the questioner off a balcony. Rep. Michael Grimm punctuated his threat by telling the reporter, “I’ll break you in half. Like a boy.”
The state of our union? Angry, on edge and, from the look of things, unable to tackle big issues facing the United States.