It was a historic sight. No Democratic president in the last century has addressed a Congress dominated by so many Republican lawmakers. At his State of the Union speech Barack Obama looked out into an audience filled with people who have just one goal: to oppose him!
The last time a US president delivered a State of the Union address in front of such a large number of Republicans was in 1930. And that was President Herbert Hoover, also a Republican.
Anyway, despite Republican expectations, Obama didn't seem to be humbled by November’s electoral defeat. More so, he seemed confident and empowered with the new situation.
It was especially tangible when the incoming Republican majority did not applaud Obama’s remarks regarding the economic recovery. “That’s good news, people,” he remarked, as Republicans inside the chamber looked on impassively. Reluctantly, one or two began to stand up or offer a tepid applause, following the lead of the new Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.
Then, at the end of a nearly hour-long address he concluded: “I have no more campaigns to run,” Obama said, in what was intended to signal that his remaining focus will be on governing rather than electioneering. Republicans mocked the remark with applause and Obama shot back: “I know ’cos I won both of them.”
Those two unscripted remarks showed his confidence. The rest of his speech was a litany of liberal policy prescriptions. None of them were new, and all of them are opposed by Republicans.
Obama avoided any triumphalism over his executive order on immigration and climate change that could have enraged Republicans. By his own admission, he focused on broad principles rather than specific policy ideas.
In the first part of his speech, Obama put forward policies that he knows Republicans won’t support and in the second part, he talked about the need for Democrats and Republicans work together.
The roughly 300 Republican representatives and senators didn't like it at all. One of the first to emerge from the House chamber was Florida senator and potential Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio, who was visibly incensed at the president’s call to lift the Cuban embargo.
Cuba was just one of dozens of issues on which Republicans reiterated their disagreements with the President. Republicans in the “spin room” opposed Obama’s approach to nuclear negotiations with Iran, rejected his interpretation of the science of climate change and opposed his redistributive tax policies.
They think the speech was partisan in content and that his call to work together was hypocritical.
Most of all however, Republicans think Obama needs to remember that he’s lost the election.
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