Editor’s note: Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen has joined the Washington Post Opinions team as a contributor and will be debating Republican strategist Ed Rogers in the second incarnation of The Insiders. You’ll be able to find their daily exchange on this blog, along with the contributions of veteran Insider Carter Eskew. After brief introductions below, Rogers and Rosen assess the State of the Union address. Rogers: Obama was flat. Rosen: Obama’s was innovative and ambitious — especially compared to the Republican responders.
Ed Rogers writes: Hilary and I know each other the way people in Washington do. We’ve spent time together in “green rooms” before TV appearances, we’ve spoken on panels together, we’ve shared some business clients, and we have many mutual friends. I think we respect each other as experienced drivers in the fast lane of American politics. But our differences are real. On PostPartisan, I expect Hilary to whack me when she thinks I deserve it. I won’t hold back myself. We know that Washington is full of partisanship right now, and we won’t make that go away. But hopefully if you read us, you may gain a better understanding of why things are the way they are. We will try to be honest, interesting and useful to the debate.
Hilary Rosen writes: Ed Rogers is a legend in Washington – a true GOP master. There isn’t much that this Jewish, lesbian, liberal woman has in common with him politically, but I sure do respect the dues he has paid and the knowledge he’s gained on his journey to success. And I am proud to be alongside him as an “Insider.”
Ed Rogers on the State of the Union
If you had been in a coma for the last four years, you had no idea what had befallen America, and you listened to the president’s speech tonight, you might think that President Obama’s government has been moderate and successful. In reality, there is a consistent chasm between what Obama says and what has actually happened. He didn’t run on a platform pledging annual deficits of more than 1 trillion dollars a year. He never promised to deliver more than 11,000 people a day to the food stamp rolls. But that is where he has taken us.
And the chasm between what Obama says and what actually happens was fully illuminated in the Capitol tonight. With all the talk about responsible budgeting and deficit reduction, you could forget that the president and the Democrats haven’t passed a budget in four years.
Almost everything the president said was predictable. Importantly, he didn’t say anything that might shift the momentum of the coming budget sequestration. Perhaps he is resigned to let it happen.
Politically, I think he has a blind spot regarding global warming. Voters don’t want their power bills to go up. Period. Yet the president is determined to punish Americans for the cheap energy they use. He threatened Congress with his own cost increases if it didn’t pass its own ASAP.
Obama didn’t mention the diplomacy and agreements with foreign leaders needed as the first step to counter global warming. He never does. He is determined to pursue pointless, punitive actions against Americans, and he renewed that call tonight. Republicans should welcome this battle.
All in all, it was an okay speech. Not as good as I had anticipated. Not much new, and there were no new memorable lines. Is the Obama administration coasting? Is there any fresh energy in the place? I didn’t feel it tonight.
Hilary Rosen on the State of the Union
President Obama laid out lots of great ideas tonight. And they were all things that are completely doable if people work together. I liked his opening message to Congress, when he quoted John Kennedy and said it was his job to report on the state of the union and their job to improve it – with him.
Pre-school for all kids, mortgage assistance, affordable college and infrastructure investment. None of these issues used to be partisan in Congress. It is in recent years that successes in Washington through bi-partisanship are a sharp weapon in election fights. President Obama urged legislators to think bigger on those issues that they all agree need to be addressed.
Then came the big issues: Budget, immigration and gun control. Bi-partisan groups in Congress are already working on these problems. But the Republicans who are working with Democrats are already taking grief from their colleagues for their aspirations.
There will be lots of policy analysis about the substance of the president’s proposals. They are broad, innovative and ambitious. Ed Rogers will dismiss them as predictably liberal. Of course, the reality is that they used to be issues that Republicans cared about solving.
Why are Ed and the Republicans focused on criticizing the president tonight? Because they are hoping that no one does a political analysis of the evening. A political view of the night tells a very different story than a night of talk about solutions to our nation’s problems.
A political analysis requires open eyes -– and ears. And when I opened mine, I heard not one, but two opposition speeches. One came from the official Republican Party, given by Sen. Marco Rubio, and the other came from the Tea Party, given by Sen. Rand Paul. You might think that they would focus on the president’s speech. In fact, they were only focused on each other. The war within the Republican caucuses in the House and Senate embodied by the competition between these two senators provided a depressing side show to the president’s calling. Actually, it was more than depressing. It was embarrassing. Couched in their own pretense that they wanted to cooperate with the president were he only “reasonable,” they went on to justify their intentions to block action on important measures by blaming — in effect — reasonableness.
It may be possible to pick off a few Republicans on a vote-by-vote basis on some issues in Congress over the next year. But until the GOP comes to grips with the war within itself, the factions will continue to put their ambitions first and their country last.
Obama talked about the important issues tonight. And then he laid out solutions that are thoughtful, moderate and fair. They deserve a vote.