President Obama State of the Union

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address was as pitch perfect as the rebuttals were tone deaf. Incivility in our public discourse has been blamed for the great divide in our nation but the speech and the responses have proven that the greatest divide in America is the class divide. Not in the “haves” and the “have-nots” sense, but in the “high-brow” and “low-rent” meaning of the word “class.”

If you’re like most normal human beings, you pay very little attention to the trials and tribulations of politicians—especially if they’re not your representatives. But at the same time you’re missing out on some truly incredible political theater. No worries. The blessing and curse of the Internet is that every misstep, flaw and foible is read, viewed, Tweeted, shared, Dugg, liked, linked and Stumbled over and over for the world to see. Because most of you are busy, allow me to save you precious time by sharing with you America’s newest punch line: Michele Bachmann. If you haven’t done so already, Google her.

For a good laugh—or to throw up in your own mouth—watch her recent speech in Iowa where she declares that it’s high time we recognize the Founding Fathers for “working tirelessly” to end slavery. Yes, those “slave-owning-blacks-are-only-3/5ths human” Founding Fathers who died long before the Civil War. Tea Party activists and the pundits they adore love twisting history to match their own ridiculous vision of the world. Sorry, Sarah. Goodbye, Glenn. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is winning hearts and half-baked minds from sea to shining sea.

As the Tea Party’s official designee to rebut the State of the Union, she was awesome. Her speech starts off like an infomercial—as if she’s really selling tea—with Bachmann excitedly exclaiming, “The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good!” Then she spends a few minutes blaming President Obama for taxes, unemployment, the deficit, bed bugs in New York City hotels, shark attacks off the coast of Florida, death, pestilence, and the Kardashians. Then she closes by using a classic Tea Party device: inserting an historical non sequitur. In the closing seconds, between calls for lower taxes and reducing the national debt, she sandwiches in a reference to the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima as the symbol of “America coming together to beat back a totalitarian aggressor.” Because, you know, that’s a lot like balancing a budget.

That’s why the Tea Party is so freaking awesome. Without offering any specifics, Tea Partiers get to call for government reform and spending reductions as long as they mention some notable figure or event from American history. The Tea Party is like your uncle who constantly mispronounces words and uses them incorrectly in sentences…but with conviction.

The official Republican response, calmly delivered by Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, was cautious but critical. Ryan is being touted as a budget-focused policy wonk; presumably someone who can walk the line between hard-line Tea Partiers and old-school Boehner Republicans. But while he too avoided much of the acidic rhetoric and hyperbole that has colored the debate between Democrats and Republicans, he offered nothing in the way of specific reform. The grand idea of the Republican Party is to reduce the size of government, narrow the deficit and get the economy back on its feet through tax breaks.

But the tax breaks were already given. The expensive aspects of health-care reform are still three years away and the largest provisions of the bill—extending benefits to children and the elderly and preventing insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions—are actually extremely popular with the public. Moreover, the president spoke like a CEO during the address, and pushed Congress to reform tax loopholes and limit subsidies to oil companies so we can lower the corporate tax rate in America. He spoke about “winning the future” and the need to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world,” and lauded companies such as Google and Facebook.

Everyone was short on details, but coming legislation will tell Americans everything we need to know about the intentions of our elected officials. First, let’s play a little game. The following points came from either the State of the Union address by the president or the rebuttals from Rep. Michele Bachmann and Rep. Paul Ryan. Circle whom you think the idea is attributed to:

1) “Take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

2) “Lower the tax rate for the first time in 25 years without adding to the deficit.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

3) “Freeze annual domestic spending over the next five years.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

4) “Medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

5) “We must defeat determined enemies, wherever they are.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

6) “I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC.”

a. Obama b. Bachmann c. Ryan

If you answered Bachmann or Ryan for any of the above, you guessed wrong. These were the declarations of our president, a Democrat—the scourge of the nation, if you’re to believe the nonsense coming from the Tea Party. That’s the funny part about the debate in our country at the moment. We are aligned in so many ways and divided on only a few. That’s not to say that within those few points, there aren’t a couple of doozies. There are. But on many of the issues, our common ground is bigger than these jackals who prey on our fears want us to believe.

It’s impossible for any thinking person to agree with everything a sitting president believes and espouses. As such, it should also be impossible to disagree with every word that escapes his lips as well. I thought his State of the Union performance was light on detail but struck most of the right notes. He was informed, conciliatory and passionate. But what sets him apart from the field is class. And I like it.

Author: Jed Morey

Jed Morey is the publisher of the Long Island Press, LI's Cultural Arts and Investigative News Journal. The Press has a monthly circulation of 100,000, and, welcomes more than 500,000 unique visitors every month. He serves on the board of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Nassau County, as well as the President's Council of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Long Island. In addition to the contributions on this blog, Morey authors a column for the Long Island Press titled "Off The Reservation" and is a staunch advocate for Indian rights. The column was voted Best Column in New York by the NY Press Association in 2010 and third overall in the nation among alternative publications by the Association of Alternative Weeklies in 2012. Morey lives in Glen Cove with his wife, Eden White, and their two daughters.

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