Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Washington Watch: "Obama (Gently) Smacks-Down Congress"

President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Jan. 28, 2014 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Barack Obama delivered his 5th State of the Union (SOTU) address with a style and tone reminiscent of his early presidential campaign years. He spoke of unifying themes and appealed to our greatness as a nation. The Republicans seemed confused as to when to applaud and stand, and tellingly kept their seats even when the President spoke of popular issues such as salary fairness for women and accessible health care for all.  

Barack Obama, as only he can, spoke in generalities while still getting in the ‘digs’ to the other side. This was not a red-meat speech…nevertheless, it was a chastisement. A good orator can do this. They can tell you off without you even realizing you've been told off. 

Make no mistake...the President told off the GOP-led House during the SOTU; and he did it while smiling the whole time.

The President’s speech signaled, with carefully chosen words, that he is prepared to go it alone. It was expected that he would say that he will use Executive Action whenever possible to bypass the GOP-controlled house. However, he didn't say this directly. Instead he used subtleties - pointed phrases that were surrounded by feel-good text.

From the beginning, when he referred to Boehner as a ‘son-of-a-barkeep’ it was evident that this would be a speech of carefully crafted one-liners. Most of the pundits, and Boehner himself accepted the comment as flattery, signifying how far Boehner has come. Probably. However, while the Speaker of the House is indeed the son of a bar owner, the use of that phrase reminds people of Boehner’s recent statement to Leno that he likes wine and cigarettes AND it ties him to the other son-of-a-______ phrases. Did the White House 'play-the-dozens?' Will the phrase have legs? Will bloggers and journalists start referring to Boehner as ‘that son-of-a-barkeep?’ Is this an inside joke within the Administration? the barkeep line was probably innocent, but let's look at other major quotes from the speech that spoke directly to our gridlocked Congress.

“America Does Not Stand Still and Neither Will I”
"But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I'm eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do."
“I’ll Act On My Own” 
"We'll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer. That can happen. But -- but I'll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible."
"Congress Finally Produced..."
"Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year's severe cuts to priorities like education. Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way."
 "Congress Should Undo the Damage"
"Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones. And that's why Congress should undo the damage done by last year's cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery."
"Congress Can Help"
"I'll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas." 
"If Congress Wants to Help”
"It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs. And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs." 
"This Congress Needs to..."
"I'm also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it's more effective in today's economy. But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people."
"Congress....Give Them That Chance"  (The long-term unemployed)
"Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance.  Give them that chance. Give them the chance. They need our help right now, but more important, this country needs them in the game."
"As Congress Decides What it's Going to Do"
"And as Congress decides what it's going to do, I'm going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need. It is right for America. We need to get this done."
"You Don't Have to Wait for Congress to Act"
"To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say, you don't have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on. And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example."

"Congress Needs to Get on Board"
"In the coming weeks I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook -- our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty. Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board."
"If this Congress Wants to Help"
"MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in. And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class Americans, offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everybody in this chamber can."
"With or Without Congress"
"Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day. I have seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, and police officers all over this country who say "we are not afraid," and I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans in our movie theaters and our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook."

There it is. A smack-down with a kid glove for the GOP-led House and their son-of-a-barkeep leader.

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