It appears that the umbrage some Republicans took at Obama’s speech — which aggressively defended the Democratic vision and caustically criticized the GOP worldview — shows no signs of abating. The latest: GOP Reps. Paul Ryan, Dave Camp and Jeb Hensarling are now complaining to the Post that Obama’s speech was a sneak attack:
The three Republican congressmen saw it as a rare ray of sunshine in Washington’s stormy budget battle: an invitation from the White House to hear President Obama lay out his ideas for taming the national debt.
They expected a peace offering, a gesture of goodwill aimed at smoothing a path toward compromise. But soon after taking their seats at George Washington University on Wednesday, they found themselves under fire for plotting “a fundamentally different America” from the one most Americans know and love.
“What came to my mind was: Why did he invite us?” Rep. Dave Camp said in an interview Thursday. “It’s just a wasted opportunity.”...
Afterward, Ryan was furious. The speech “was extremely political, very partisan,” he fumed.
This is deeply strange. For days, administration officials had been saying publicly that Obama was going to lay out a “contrast” of visions between Ryan’s and his own. What’s more, politics is supposed to be a clash of visions.
During the 2010 elections, Mitch McConnell — quite rightly, in my view — dismissed all the complaints that our politics had grown uncivil by saying: “I don’t think we have a collegiality problem. What we are in the middle of is a great debate about the future of the country.” McConnell has openly stated that his leading goal is to ensure that Obama is a one-term president. When he was challenged on that, he quite properly pointed out that what’s at stake is a battle of visions.
Throughout the first two years of Obama’s presidency, leading Republicans have regularly claimed that Obama is taking America towards socialism. Yet when a Democratic president stands up and aggressively defends his vision and worldview, and contrasts it sharply with that of his foes, something’s wrong. That’s not supposed to happen.
Obama’s characterization of the GOP vision was harsh. But so what? Politics is supposed to be an impassioned argument over what we all think the country should be. Is it possible to cross lines? Sure, but Obama didn’t cross any lines — in fairness, neither has Ryan — and no one was blindsided. No one was the victim of any sneak attack. We should want politicians who think their opponents’ worldviews are deeply wrongheaded to be free to say so in very vivid terms. Otherwise, what’s the point of it all?