President Obama probably wishes he could have scheduled root-canal surgery instead of delivering that State of the Union. Speaker John Boehner kept a poker face but, occasionally, he did look like he couldn’t believe this guy. I mean, President Obama actually had the nerve to call for the closing of Gitmo.
Like millions of other Americans, Vice President Joe Biden looked as if he was having a hard time paying attention. Biden came to life, however, when the president announced that the veep is going to oversee a review of job-training programs. Wow! And that was one of the bigger ideas of the evening.
As expected, the Democrats applauded, but it was perfunctory until the president got to the one subject that really turns Democrats on: women as victims in need of more government. That got them to their feet! One female Democratic representative — I’m terrible with faces so I won’t name her — who had looked positively moribund suddenly jumped up and became animated. Takeaway: The “war on women” is just about the only thing Democrats have going for them, and we’ll be hearing a lot about it in the midterms and beyond. Infuriatingly, the president cited the erroneous 77-cent gender wage gap, which has been repeatedly debunked.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who delivered the Republican response, arguably missed an opportunity to set the record straight on that score. (The 77-cent gap, beloved of Democrats, has been debunked by the Independent Women’s Forum – my employer — feminist writer Hanna Rosin, the Labor Department, and others.) Nevertheless, McMorris Rodgers was Tuesday night’s biggest winner. She had what is generally considered the impossible task of delivering the response from the party that doesn’t control the White House.
Many good men have failed at this task. McMorris Rodgers succeeded — in part because Barack Obama was not a hard act to follow last night. She was hard-hitting on Obamacare. She deftly managed to work in the personal biographical details that are important for a politician emerging into the national spotlight but can be cloying. McMorris Rodgers projected energy and optimism, a welcome contrast to the president’s air of defeat.
The great orator, by contrast, looked like a drowning man most of the evening, as did quite a few Democrats caught on camera.
— Charlotte Hays is the author of When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? and the director of cultural programs at the Independent Women’s Forum.