It was that rare event when the GOP response surpassed the actual State of the Union. It was what a sane Republican critique of this presidency would be. It began with a grace note on Obama’s courageous assault on bin Laden and the quiet dignity of his family life – avoiding the personal demonization of a well-liked president. There were several shrewd and helpful criticisms of his own side. And there were only a couple of off-notes. I don’t believe the administration has divided Americans or sought to. I don’t think it’s fair to describe a stimulus in a potential depression as wasteful or irresponsible.
But by reminding us of the debt, and the deep need to tackle it, he reminded us that conservatism at its best is about bringing us back to reality. And the president’s maddening refusal to tackle the long-term debt and entitlement insolvency in the Bowles-Simpson opening – and his decision to keep these themes buried under a wave of new tax breaks in his speech tonight – gave Daniels an opening, where he outclassed the man who just left the stage.
Here’s the video of Daniels’ response (via):
I’m going to forgo my usual snark, although I’m tempted, and just go by the transcript (via):
In three short years, an unprecedented explosion of spending, with borrowed money, has added trillions to an already unaffordable national debt. And yet the president has put us on a course to make it radically worse in the years ahead.
In our economic stagnation and indebtedness, we’re only a short distance behind Greece, Spain, and other European countries now facing economic catastrophe. But ours is a fortunate land. Because the world uses our dollar for trade, we have a short grace period to deal with our dangers. But time is running out if we’re to avoid the fate of Europe and those once-great nations of history that fell from the position of world leadership.
The routes back to an America of promise and to a solvent America that can pay its bills and protect its vulnerable start in the same place. The only way up for those suffering tonight, and the only way out of the dead end of debt into which we’ve driven, is a private economy that begins to grow and create jobs, real jobs, at a much faster rate than today. Contrary to the president’s constant disparagement of people in business, it’s one of the noblest of human pursuits. The late Steve Jobs — what a fitting name he had — created more of them than all those stimulus dollars the president borrowed and blew.
There’s a second item on our national must-do list: We must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue. But after half and three- quarters of a century, respectively, it’s not surprising they need some repairs. We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.
It’s not too hard to pick apart any political speech. Were I to go through Obama’s SOTU, I could find plenty to disagree with, especially in the realm of foreign policy. Some parts of Daniels’ response are not too bad and Andrew Sullivan does disagree with certain elements, which you can see if you read his entire post. The big difference lies in the policies the two parties recommend.
Republicans, with the Ryan plan and any of the candidates‘ economic plans, are right where they’ve been for the past 30 years: tax cuts for the wealthy and less spending on programs for people who need it.
Mitch Daniels, in his response, makes no mention of the Bush tax cuts, passed in ’01 and ’03, that have done so much to create the debt which Daniels criticizes. Those tax cuts will do ever more to ensure such debt if the tax cuts are extended, as Republicans want.
Daniels was GWB’s OMB director, by the way. The Indiana governor, did to his credit, get right the fact that the Super Bowl is in Indy this year (go Pats!).
At day’s end, it really is like Atrios said, in a post titled “It’s Just Tone:”
For Villagers, Republicans are “moderates” if they’re reasonable dinner party guests.
Much as Andrew Sullivan might like to detach Republicans on whom he casts his hopes and dreams from their party and its orthodoxy, he can’t. That he continues to ignore this fact, as in the case of Paul Ryan and Mitch Daniels, is about as good evidence that you can ask for to indicate that Sullivan is not an honest arbiter.