Terrance Heath

The Best of the Worst GOP Responses to the SOTU

Filed By Terrance Heath | January 30, 2014 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Cathy Mcmorris Rodgers, Ileana Ros-Lethinen, Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Republican response, State of the Union


How many Republicans does it take to respond to the State of the Union address? The flurry of GOP responses to the State of the union reflect both the party's disarray and the growing distance between the GOP and the majority of Americans.

This year, our Republicans delivered major responses to President Obama's State of the Union Address. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R. WA) gave the party's official response. She wasn't alone. "Shutdown architect” Sen. Mike Lee (R,UT) delivered the tea party response, Sen. Rand Paul (R, KY) delivered the “Rand Paul response,” and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lethinen (R, FL) delivered a response in Spanish.

Granted, when it comes to speechifying, Barrack Obama is a tough act to follow. But why so many Republican responses? If Republicans were hoping to avoid the "State of the Union Rebuttal Curse," then it was a success in that none of the official or self-appointed GOP "responders" delivered a Jindal-style fumble, gave a Bachmann-esque speech to the wrong camera, or came down with a case of "Rubio Cottonmouth."

Great. Nobody fumbled the ball, but none of the Republicans scored any touchdowns either.

  • Rep. Rodgers' speech was a repetition of what we've already heard from Republicans. "Republicans have plans," said Rodgers, to improve everything from education to transportation, and create jobs as well. But Rodgers offered no substance about those "plans." Beyond that, Rodgers repeated the same old anti-Obamacare rhetoric. The only surprise was that Rodgers admitted that "we shouldn't go back to the way things were," instead of focusing on repeal, but then reverted back to defending the present status quo.
  • Rep. Ros-Lethinen's speech was essentially a Spanish translation of the leadership-approved GOP talking points in Rep. Rogders' speech.
  • Sen. Lee brought some of the bombastic deliver that’s expected of a tea party rebuttal. Lee championed the great American tradition of "protesting against a dysfunctional government," invoked the Boston Harbor Tea Party of 1773, and railed our "inequality crisis," and the "immobility of the poor who are being trapped in poverty by big government programs." But Lee didn't offer any solutions to the "inequality crisis" or the "immobility of the poor"; like raising the minimum wage or demanding the corporations pay livable wages, so that the working poor don't have to rely on welfare programs to pay for food, shelter, medical care, etc. Instead, Lee took on to the "inequality Godzilla" that he thinks Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is.
  • Sen. Paul, speaking for himself, cribbed from Ronald Reagan for his opening line: "Government is the problem, not the solution." From there, Paul's speech could have been the "Cliff's Notes" of conservative rhetoric. He resurrected Solyandra as proof that "big government" can't do anything right, and repeated the debunked conservative line that government "doesn't create jobs."

Those were the more-or-less official Republican responses to the State of the Union address. Things only got crazier from there.

  • In what could be called the "prequel" to the GOP's rebuttal, Sen. Ted Cruz (R, TX) took to the Wall Street Journal to declare "the president's persistent pattern of lawlessness" -- referring to the president's promise to do what he can without Congress -- as part of an "imperial presidency" that "threatens the liberty of every citizen."
  • Rep. Randy Weaver (R, TX) got the ball rolling last night with a tweet accusing the president of lying and referring to him as "Kommandant-In-Chef" [sic] and a "socialist dictator."
  • Rep. Steve Stockman (R, TX), who brought Ted Nugent to the State of the Union as his guest, got up and walked out during the president's speech. Stockman told the Dallas Morning News that he walked out because he thinks "the president is further abusing his constitutional powers," by promising to issue executive orders.
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R,SC) took a break from tweeting pictures of himself posing with "Duck Dynasty" cast member Korie Robertson, to warn reporters that "The world is about to literally blow up," because of President Obama's Iran policy. (Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz said the president's threat to veto an Iran sanctions bill was "perhaps the most dangerous line" in the whole speech.)

And then there were the rest of the tweets.

Republican strategist Mark McKinnon explained this cacophony of conservative craziness to the New York Times

"There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline," said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist who has become an outspoken critic of his party. "And because there's a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition."

The only thing the various Republican responses to the president's State of the Union address accomplished was to illustrate the GOP’s state of disunity and put the party's fault lines display.

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