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  • A View From Inside The Chamber: The Best Seat In The House

    I knew the state of the American people was all right even before President Obama walked into the well of the House of Representatives to give what turned out to be an at time hectoring, at other times gloomy, State of the Union speech. You see, I was very fortunate to get a seat at the speech tonight. A rather good seat. And Providence struck again when John sat next to me a good 45 minutes before the event.

    John is a veteran who made it to the U.S. Capitol from Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland. It was also his first time at such an occasion, and we chatted about our good fortune at this once in a life-time opportunity. I had noticed John amble in, his dignity intact but his leg not functioning well just yet (hopefully just yet). I had paid no attention at first, as I continued picking out worthies out of the crowd (“Hey, there’s Joe Biden!”) until he told me where he was living these days. Then I noticed the Purple Heart. “Which war?” I asked. “Afghanistan,” he answered simply.

    He told me about how it happened, how sudden it had been, and how he’d never forget that day in Kandahar back in July. He told me the past six months had been a blur as the doctors continued working on him. I thanked him for his sacrifice, and for keeping our country free, and told him my children prayed for the soldiers and the whole country did. “Heck, no sacrifice,” he said. “I’d give a part of my leg again. I’d do it, no problem, for this,” he said, spreading his arms wide at the Congressmen below. “Democracy is worth keeping safe and the country is worth keeping safe. We know we’re fighting for democracy. We didn’t have to do this. We enlisted because we believe in our country.”

    Can we win in Afghanistan, I asked. He didn’t pause a second. “Yeah, if we have the resolve of the country behind us. We need the country,” he said.

    He was the real McCoy, I reckoned, and given our surroundings I had to ask him if he ever thought of running for office. He chuckled. “Nah. I’m too rough around the edges for this town. I speak the truth and too plainly.”

    I was getting misty-eyed at that point and began telling John that no, Washington needed more people like that, when the sergeant-at-arms pronounced the words that had delighted me for decades of watching these speeches on TV, “Madame Speaker, the President of the United States.”

    The speech for the next hour fell flat, I thought. The President was scolding for much of the night, not an uplifter. He chided Republicans, or Washington, for all his ills. “No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there,” he carped at one point. “No wonder there’s so much disappointment.”

    In fact, there was so much hand wringing that I wondered at one point if I wasn’t indeed witnessing a truly historical moment—Obama’s Malaise Speech. I think that epiphany came when he talked about the deficit. Not the budget deficit, “but the deficit of trust.” He complained, in fact, that “deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.”

    But the President did not blame his actions for any of this. No. In fact, the best parts were when he showed incredible moxy, as when he railed against earmarks after signing a stimulus bill that included about a gazillion of these pet projects. Or, when the same man who last week hired his campaign guru David Plouffe to help him fix his political problems, nagged his opposition that not every day is “election day… we cannot wage a perpetual campaign!”

    At the end, though, what struck me the most was how little sway the President of the United States held. Republicans laughed at him and he could only glare, or complain futilely about their mocking. “That’s how Washington works,” he said at one point, showing frustration. When he threatened, “I want to see a jobs bill on my desk without delay,” he sounded more like a long-forgotten college professor demanding that a homework assignment be turned in on time.

    He rightly took a half hour before he started talking about health care, picking just about the time when the highest number of congressmen were looking at their blackberries, and he plead with those in front of him to “take a second look” at the bill the American people had already rejected.

    After it was over, John and I chatted some more. I asked him what he thought of the speech. “I thought it was great,” he said. “I liked seeing how the two sides reacted differently to the same parts of the speech. I think it’s that split that makes democracy and our country work.”

    Which was why after such a gloomy speech I left the chamber with renewed hope in our country.

    (Heritage Vice President of Communications Mike Gonzalez was in the chamber for tonight’s speech. For more on the State of the Union, visit Heritage on Facebook and Twitter and read reaction from Heritage analysts and experts here. You can follow Mike on Twitter @Gundisalvus)

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    22 Responses to A View From Inside The Chamber: The Best Seat In The House

    1. Brian Towersey Pebbl says:

      nearly everything this speech called for was more of the same asking for bipartisan but rejecting it at the same time…the President's idea of bipartisan is for the right to accept him and his ideas and not to look or judge anything else. This speech was a sad commentary on who we have elected to lead us.

    2. Ben C. Ann Arbor, MI says:

      Thank you Mike for the insights. Yes, "John" is exactly the type of person we need in Congress – a "no spin" person – shoot from the hip kind of guy. Sadly, the only one that seems to come close is Scott Brown and school is still out on him. We need to see how he votes in the Senate.

      Obama is a master at smoke and mirrors but ultimately its his actions, or lack of action, that speaks louder than words. So far Obama gets a zero in my book for understanding the lessons of history and taking actions that actually work.

    3. Jackie Murray, Coeur says:

      It continues to amaze how the president and most of the congress continue out of touch with those who put them there.

    4. teabagging doc Cleve says:

      How arrogant to call out the Supreme Court and suggest that he can reverse the recent ruling negating part of McCain Feingold. Wake up America, this is a bona fide 60's radical calling the shots!

    5. Pingback: Must Know Headlines 1.28.2010 — ExposeTheMedia.com

    6. Joy in California says:

      After reading numerous commentaries on (most of which were fairly critical of) the SOTU speech, I feel I missed nothing in not seeing & hearing it live (but would love to have caught Alioto's "not true" and Michelle's "glowering" [thanks to her unfortunate eyebrows]). Obama is on a fast-track to be Jimmy Carter 2 (or just Obama 1) and the sooner he is put out to pasture, the better! Meantime, I was transported by the Encore Production of Live from the Met Opera "Der Rosenkavelier" at my local multiplex – truly a sublime experience! And what a contrast to that "other" drama in Congress (with no good music, either)!

    7. woodward, ricky says:

      I thought the president seemed unaware of his words; like a Senator or Congressman on the floor spreading the condemnable weed killer at the wrong time of the season. The weeds seated by the folks who wanted change expecting a beautiful lawn and getting all crabgrass.

    8. philip says:

      Presdent useing the blame game again never his fault aways the republicans. Just may be he is at fault . He don't have any intenions to hear the people of america or the other sides ideaes. The only thing in his agenda is to turn america into a socialist country. We need to stand against this goverment action and stand for goverment of the people by the people for the people america dose want adictater. we want a presdent who stand up for america and it's princeables of freedom and lissens to the people.

    9. SB Owner Springfield Illinois says:

      I have 100% confidence in American workers, entrepreneurs, and business people. After the speech I continue to have 0% confidence in the president.
      The saved 2 million jobs flies in the face of reality, over 3 million lost since the stimulus plan, that was to create 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010, passed. Now the president wants another stimulus on his desk quickly? Utterly wasteful, and pointless.
      The people of Ma. rejected ObamaCare, Rassmussen reports 61% are opposed to it, and the president orders congress to keep working to pass what the people don’t want, especially small business. This does nothing for confidence and fuels the deficit of trust in government.
      Cap and Trade has been declared dead in the senate, and is rejected by the majority of Americans. The president doesn’t care, pass it anyway. Regardless the cost in millions more jobs. Tone deaf?
      The spending freeze falls upon the heels of a 24% increase in discretionary spending. This is for show only, it will accomplish little if spending is not cut.
      The speech was a doubling down on progressive policy, will do nothing to establish an economic recovery, control deficits, improve health care, or improve the peoples trust in government.

    10. darrell , california says:

      sad to say ,last nite the president disclosed the state of the union and unfortunatly it appears to me and most I concur with that we as a nation are being steered by a captain who doesn't know how to read the charts before him ,and too arogant to acknowledge his shortcomings. The state of the union is in serious trouble when it becomes a kingdom where the king who has done little but win a nobel peace prize for doing nothing is confident that his subjects have no buisiness airing their concerns. Pride goes before the fall so say the subjects ,as it falls on deaf ears.

    11. Adam Gimbel, New Yor says:

      Good article but I would update the analgy. BHO is more like a professor who insists on scheduling Saturday morning classes yet wonders why nobody attends. Quote Who's with me; Health care for all – rights for terrorists – Acorn is innocent – now believe my hoopla – rah rah rah Unquote

    12. Utah says:

      Thank you. Regardless of our struggles right now you put in focus that we always have hope in people.

    13. jill.hetherington@ma says:

      At least he is recycling. Only problem is it's recycled BS.

    14. Elaine Hart, Palmer says:

      His speech was more brazen than his previous speeches due to the lack of coverage by the Liberal media. What other president ever called out the Supreme Court for one of their decisions. Talk radio and conservative cable talk shows mention how much he's going agains the Constituion. WHY ISN'T SOMEONE DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

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    19. Buzz Priestley, Fris says:

      My blood pressure inordinately climbs when I see this astonishingly inexperienced President read or speak on television; my cynicism grows exponentially, and pessimism starts to flood my customary optimism. So I turned it and him off! It was a great time for a nap, but I woke up an hour later to hear him rebuking, lecturing, and occasionally demagoging away. My wife had come home from her college class, and was perhaps looking from some additional enlightenment in all the wrong places. For unrelenting optimists, however, good can always be found in the bad – the proverbial pony in the pile… I found it in your recounting of your conversation with John and his sacrifice, but more so, from his wisdom about how democracy works in spite of our differences, and no matter how much one group of politicians may be trying to bend, alter, or dramatically chance what our founding fathers intended – there is hope. I’ll share your and John’s thoughts with my students…

    20. Glenn, Santa Clara, says:

      Before 9-11, I was a political drone. I didn't pay too much attention but I have always voted Republican. Since 9-11 I have been interested and engaged in our political proccess because I want the American people to be safe and free! What I have discovered is that the GOP has lost its conservative roots- the founding principles. In the last election, candidate John Mc Cain was a perfect example. It seemed he was more interested in working across the isle than defeating the liberal assault on our freedom. That gave us Obama. On the flip side, the Demacrat Party has been hijacked by Liberalism which is counter- revolutionary.

      Two good books I would like to recommend are Liberty and Tyranny by Mark Levin. Mark has a firm grasp of these concepts and explains them well. Also try The Federalist Papers by John Jay, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.

      Now that I have seen the light, I am confidently spreading the good word of conservatism. It is the only way to defeat what is infecting our country today. God Bless the men and women in uniform and God Bless America!

      P.S. Sorry, no spell check.

    21. Ray, Hampton VA says:

      Mr. President, how long will you continue to blame Bush for your problems? How long will you continue to ignore the will of the people? You are an arrogant, narcissistic, socialist person who could not lead a thirsty horse to water, let alone lead a might nation such as ours out of a recession. More government spending will only take more money out of our pockets, causing more job loss and more unemployment! How stupid and ignorant can you be? You call for "earmark reform", yet you, sir, signed a stimulus bill with nearly 9K earmarks! Do you believe we are as stupid as you think we are? You set up a commission to study ways of cutting the deficit! Where did you study economics? A first year college student knows you cannot spend what you donot have! And, unless and until you wake up and cut taxes across the board, stop pushing your government takeover of health care, industry, and banking, this country will continue to flounder on your watch. Thank you, Mr. President, for ruining this great country with your arrogant, socialist agenda!

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