Between the Lines

Let�s face it.

Cable television commentators following an event like President Obama�s State of the Union address Tuesday night can simply wear a guy or gal out with all of their blather.

There seemed to so much focus on the seating arrangement, and how that seemed to damper the usual enthusiasm shown by members of Congress, and how Obama�s jokes weren�t funny enough.

It�s easy, with all of the attention on this trivial stuff, to forget some of what was actually said by the president.  Things like this:

�With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all � for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.

�At stake right now is not who wins the next election � after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It�s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It�s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

�But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children.  That�s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.�

I think one could argue that the president wasn�t highly specific in how we can best deal with the ongoing recession, the nation�s high unemployment rate, and other problems that seem to be plaguing us for quite some time now.

But if you really want to experience a lack in specificity, you only have to as far as our own Congressional delegation.

Here is our Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson�s response following Tuesday�s presidential address:

�The president is right � this has been a rough couple of years for our country as we have been struggling to climb out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. As such, our focus shouldn�t be a political test of wills, but working together to create jobs here at home and win the future as the President said. Americans have always been at the forefront of innovation and research, and we can continue to be with investments in education and infrastructure.

Of course, we must get our fiscal house in order. The president outlined a thoughtful approach for reining in our spending while continuing to make meaningful investments to spur growth in the private sector. I have long favored a return to PAYGO rules in the Congressional budget process. We must take a balanced approach to cutting spending and getting our deficit in line.

The president delivered a blueprint for the future, and the challenge will be to meet this vision in a tough budget environment. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the White House to meet that challenge.�

And here is Republican Sen. John Thune�s response:

�After presiding over a staggering 21 percent spending increase during his first two years in office, the president�s proposal to simply keep spending at its current level for the next five years is too little, too late. In just two years, the government has grown at 10 times the rate of inflation.

�The president called for new spending, although he repeatedly called it �investment,� but this is nothing more than increased Washington spending in the style of the failed stimulus. With a $14 trillion national debt that is growing at a trillion dollars every year,

we should reverse the out of control spending we�ve witnessed the past two years and begin to save taxpayer dollars.�

The president noted that the American people want Congress to work together to help solve the nation�s problems.

I wouldn�t recommend holding our breath until that happens. Judging from Johnson�s and Thune�s reactions, they were not only in the same room when Obama gave his address. It almost sounds like they weren�t listening to the same speech.

So much for the value of Republicans and Democrats intermingling at an event so routine as the State of the Union address.

It looks like more of the same gridlock awaits us all.

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