John Feehery: Speaking Engagements



Posted on January 28, 2010

Point, Counter-Point

The President finished strong in his first State of the Union speech, but then he ran into Bob McDonnell, who reminded independent voters why they have been turning against Mr. Obama over the last 6 months or so.

As the President entered the House Chamber, he consciously turned to his right for most of his walk down the center aisle, as if to say to the Republicans, “Hey guys, I am not so bad.”

He didn’t have Hillary Clinton to kiss as he marched closer to the rostrum (she decided to stay in Europe), but he turned back to his left as he got closer to the teleprompters.

His speech followed suit.  He continued to feint right, but he couldn’t help himself as he faded to the left.

He talked about how his stimulus bill cut taxes (really? I must have missed that memo), but then he hinted how he was going to tax the so-called rich and the bankers and a bunch of other people he hasn’t named yet.

He talked about clean coal and nuclear energy, but he said – under his breath --that we still need to do his climate bill, which will sharply raise taxes on energy consumption and production.

He said that he was willing to listen to any good ideas on health care, but he then said we should pass his health care bill, poste haste.

He blamed Bush for his contributions to the debt (fair point…Bush’s policies did increase the debt), but then he didn’t accept responsibility for his contributions.

He reminded the Democrats that they have huge majorities in both the House and Senate, and yet he still blamed Republicans for stopping his agenda cold in the Congress.

He said that he respected the separation of powers, and then mischaracterized the Supreme Court decisions on campaign finance (foreign contributions are still banned under the law).

The President finished strong.  He was especially poignant when talking about the kid from Louisiana who sent the White House his allowance so Mr. Obama could give it the folks in Haiti.  That was a nice moment.

The response kind of woke us up from the lulling sentimentality of the Obama finish.

McDonnell wasn’t secluded in a Capitol ante-room, and he didn’t descend down the steps of a Southern Governor’s mansion.  He had real, live people of many different hues sitting in the audience of the Richmond Capitol, and they seemed pretty enthusiastic.

The new Virginia governor was a bit hurried at first, but the crowd slowed him down by applauding often until he could get a rhythm.  He hit his stride when he made the case that the federal government was doing way too much at way too high a cost in  liberty and in treasure.

He hit the issue of energy security head on, in a more forceful way than Obama did.  He put the issue of Miranda rights for terrorists back on the table.  He talked about litigation, taxation and regulation as the real killers of jobs in this country.

In many ways, he gave traditional Republican talking points, but he did it in an appealing and understandable way.

Obama faked right, as he often does, but ultimately ended up going left, as he usually does.  McDonnell didn’t do much faking at all, which made his address more authentic, in my book.

Where Obama was slippery, McDonnell was straightforward.  It was point/counter-point.  The Virginia governor held his own, and blunted some major momentum of a strong ending from the President.