Home > Politics > State of the Union and the Response: Two Speeches- Both Worked

State of the Union and the Response: Two Speeches- Both Worked

Ah- the race that could have been; President Obama and Mitch Daniels

The audience was tired, looking at their blackberries and I-phones, some seemingly sleeping- and the President’s speech was not particularly inspiring- but it suited its purpose- a tactical address that framed the choices Americans will be making at the polls in November.

Using the military as an example of how Americans can work together to get things done was pretty smart, in my view.  For one thing, it enabled President Obama to bring up the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden at both the beginning and end of his speech.  There are reports of focus groups with Republicans and independents last night that show the President has a very strong hand to play on his foreign policy and anti-terrorism successes.   

As if to underscore the point, the President was surely aware at the time he was giving his speech to the nation that U.S. Navy SEALS were pulling off yet another daring rescue mission, this time saving two hostages (one of them American) from the clutches of pirates in northern Somalia.

Meantime, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in the Republican response, delivered what I think was the best of these that I have ever heard.  It was an intelligent, well-written speech complete with grace notes offering a tip of the hat to the President’s foreign policy successes (bin Laden again) and even kudos to the Obama family for being a positive role model.  

Daniels even had words of criticism for his own party for having contributed to a divisive political atmosphere.   But he was tough in criticizing the President for “dividing” the country along class-lines.  Mostly, he articulated core conservative principles without any of the overblown hyperbole you hear from the likes of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich about Obama as a socialist destroyer of all that is good about America.

On MSNBC last night, Chris Matthews also liked Daniels’ speech and said he now gets why so many Republican party leaders wanted him to run for the White House.  He seems level-headed, gracious, intelligent and it looks like he understands it’s possible to vehemently disagree with President Obama’s policies without getting personal, without questioning his love of country or having to paint him as the evil, threatening “Other.”

A Daniels- Obama race would have been, I think, less dirt and more light.  It would have offered an important, honest debate about the kinds of choices we need to consider in regard to the nation’s future.

And while there is new polling that finds some 33% of Republicans would be in favor of a late entry into the GOP race- Daniels has definitively ruled himself out so it looks like we’re all going to have to endure what the poor voters of Florida are going through this week ahead of Tuesday’s primary there; Super-Pac, money-fueled, wall-to-wall mud fights and character attacks instead of honest policy debates.    

Absent the unlikely entrance of a class act like Daniels,  it would appear we’re heading for a nasty fall campaign filled with much of the same as we are seeing in the Sunshine State right now.

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