From POLITICO -- January 25, 2012:
Congress makes an Easy Target for Obama
Barack Obama on Tuesday equated partisanship to a lack of patriotism.
By JONATHAN ALLEN and JAKE SHERMAN
Already down, Congress got kicked by President Barack Obama in the last State of the Union of his first term Tuesday night.
Republicans, wracked with worry about a soft agenda and dim prospects for escaping the “do nothing” label, sat fuming. Democrats clearly loved it.
Obama goes after Congress
The takeaway: Congress can’t — or won’t — do anything about its sorry state, even if the gridlock plays directly into the president’s political strategy.
“As long as I’m president, I will work with anyone in this chamber … But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place,” Obama said early in the speech.
In concluding, he equated partisanship to a lack of patriotism, telling lawmakers that “those of us who have been sent here to serve can learn from the service of our troops.”
In between, Obama all but called the institution corrupt, saying the “deficit of trust” between Washington and the rest of the country is “at least as bad” as that between Main Street and Wall Street.
“Some of this has to do with the corrosive influence of money and politics. So together, let’s take some steps to fix that,” he said. “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress, and I will sign it tomorrow. Let’s limited any elected official from owning stocks in industries they impact. Let’s make sure people who bundle campaign contributions for Congress can’t lobby Congress.”
Never mind that it’s already illegal for members of Congress to engage in insider trading or that influence-industry insiders bundled money for Obama’s election. It was a powerful, and largely expected, condemnation of an institution that is suffering through its worst approval ratings since polling companies started measuring public attitudes toward Congress.
His remarks landed like salt in Republicans’ open wounds, following as they did on the president’s controversial decision to make “recess” appointments of a new chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three members of the National Labor Relations Board when Congress had not agreed to an adjournment resolution.
Republicans know that there’s not much chance of moving an agenda now — particularly when the president sees no down side in attacking an institution that had a 9 percent approval rating in one recent poll.
“These speeches are all usually lots of rhetoric, long on promises, very short on follow through, and so we’ll if he follows through. Republicans, for our part, are prepared to work with him on tax reform, regulatory reform, reducing spending, energy security,” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said.
But will those items get done?
“I think it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The tough new tack by Obama — telling Congress he would act “with or without” it — thrilled Democrats, as did the president’s economic message on taxes and benefits for the middle class.
“Newt, Romney were on the spot,” Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said. “Because he came down for the middle class. Boom.”
He later added, “This is the beginning of the campaign, he just told you what he’s going to do for the next nine months. He’s going to pound the living daylights out of them.”