Tuesday night’s State of the Union address by President Obama will likely be the most watched State of the Union address in the state of Iowa – not because Iowans are interested in all of the government handouts the President is proposing, but because Iowa’s newest U.S. Senator, Joni Ernst, has been selected to give the Republican response.
Ernst’s selection to give the response is not just a huge honor, but another indication that her national prominence could not be any higher than it is right now. Ernst’s meteoric rise from a rural southwest Iowa state senator to a United States Senator, who after two weeks on the job will deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, is nothing short than amazing.
However, there is a catch. While being selected to give your political party’s response to the State of the Union is a huge honor, it is also been the most difficult speech for politicians to deliver.
Need proof? Name one lawmaker who has given the response that benefited from it politically or professionally. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan and Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers have been the most successful lawmakers of late, but their speeches were not all that memorable.
It’s the bad speeches that are memorable. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s 2009 response to President Obama’s first appearance in front of Congress knocked the shine right off of Jindal, who was, at the time, one of the brightest stars in the Republican Party. In 2013, Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s message was good, but the delivery and awkward gulp of water was all that is remembered.
So, as Senator Ernst prepares to address the nation tomorrow night, it is my hope that she just lets it rip. Here’s what I mean.
First, accept the fact that you are not on equal footing with President Obama. He gets to speak live in front of every member of congress, his cabinet, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only does he get to speak from the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives, but he gets an introduction that is second to none.
Second, don’t feel that you must deliver a policy address like President is required to give. One of the reasons that responses to the President’s State of the Union fail is because they never stack up to the speech people just watched. Furthermore, most people are not all that interested in policy. What they are interested in is politics.
There are a number of reason’s why Senator Ernst was selected to give the response. She’s a fresh face, she’s female, she has a military background, she won a seat many thought was unwinnable for Republicans, but mostly people just relate to her. The decision regarding who should give the response is a political one, and perhaps the speech that is to be delivered should also be political in nature.
I think the worst thing Ernst could do is deliver the same old speech where she basically rolls out the Republican priorities for the next year. Instead she should give the viewers what they want – a political response to President Obama.
President Obama has already shown his hand. His plan to deal with the Republican controlled congress is to propose a bunch of new government entitlements like “free” sick leave, “free” community college, “free” broadband, and “free” child care. It’s clear that President Obama is once again attempting to pit the American people against Republican by labeling the GOP as the party of no.
Ernst is the perfect person to call out President Obama for his wanting to increase the size of government and spend money we simply don’t have. On the campaign trail, Ernst often talked about the sacrifices her family had to make because she grew up poor. She simply needs to explain that the President is so out of touch that he thinks what this country needs is more spending and higher taxes.
Obama is behaving like an estranged parent who thinks he can make up for it by lavishing expensive gifts on his children despite the fact that he can’t afford them. Off course there are plenty of Americas who would love some of the benefits that the President has proposed in the past week, but our government can’t even afford all the entitlement programs it’s already promised to people.
Ernst and Republicans need to deliver a dose of realty to the American people tomorrow night. It might not be exciting or fun to tell people that he need to set priorities, spend wisely, and tighten our belts, but it is exactly the type of message that is necessary to hear. More than anything, Ernst needs to be herself tomorrow night. So many politicians try to do too much in these types of situations. If Ernst is herself, she will be just fine.
I also wouldn’t mind it if Ernst finds away to tell the American people that this was the second to last State of the Union address that President Obama will give. Talk about giving people hope!