For about twenty years, I have been consistently underwhelmed by the Democratic Response to the SOTU’s of Republican presidents. Under Reagan, they were lame and even subservient. Under Poppy Bush, they tended to be smug and/or weakass lists of potential policy initiatives. In the first 5 years of our Junior Emperor’s Regnum, they’ve ranged from whiny to supportive to outright toadying just before the invasion. They have been, iow, responses less to Junior’s SOTU than to the polls.
Last night, Virginia’s new Senator, James Webb, may have been looking at the polls as well, but even if he has been, what he saw wasn’t the excuse for yet another shopping list of policies but an opening to present Democrats as they used to be: tough-minded champions of the unrich. He took full advantage of the opportunity, and kudos (major) to Pelosi for choosing him. It was a gutsy call that was widely criticized (Webb is said to be a bad campaigner and worse orator, about which more later), but she was absolutely right on: this was the best speech, content-wise, of any Democratic SOTU response in the last quarter century. (Full text here.)
These things often start with a nod to bipartisanship, a “hoping we can work with the president on issues common to both sides” kind of thing, and Webb’s was no different except for the tone of it. Instead of an emphasis on the “we would hope to be able to work with you” stuff, Webb turned it around and very firmly put the emphasis on “we hope you’ll work with us”. It was subtle but the message was pretty clear: “Playtime is over. The grown-ups are in charge. Get with the program or we’ll do it without you.”
To say that was refreshing is an understatement. Continue reading