Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Question for Conservatives

Addressed to conservatives, as always, but this time everyone is welcome to play along, since it's only to conservatives by circumstance, not ideology.  The State of the Union response is a hopeless task; poor Bobby Jindal is still, I think, recovering from his fiasco. So: time to think creatively about this. Is there any way to make a SOTU response good TV? Or is it really just a pointless task -- and if so, should the out-party just not bother?


  1. I'm starting to think it's pointless. Nowadays you have panels of pundits on every news outlet covering the speech before, during, immediately after, and again the following morning. We see interview after interview with Congressional figures who were there. There's plenty of opportunity for the out-party to get their talking points out, and it's through TV-friendly media folk, not awkward Bobby Jindals.

  2. "Is there any way to make a SOTU response good TV?"

    Of course there is: see Jim Webb's response in 2007. He explicitly did not try to cover every issue he expected Bush to cover, instead focusing on just two: the war and growing economic inequality. Helps that he is a writer to begin with -- the quality of most other responses is pretty lackluster.

  3. I'd like to see what question you pose to liberals this week, if any, but I do have something to say about this question.

    Though SOTU responses do not have a reputation for success, Jindal's seems to have reached a new low, a kind of cautionary tale for anyone seeking to take on such a task. But I wonder if that has so lowered the expectations that it will actually be easier in the future. (And is it at all relevant to point out that the speech he was responding to was not technically a SOTU? Everyone seems to ignore that point.) There was no reason to think a 37-year-old one-year governor could necessarily take on a president who was a fine public speaker with a gift for explaining policy. But at the time, Republicans were scrambling for an antidote to Obama, so they had their eyes out for any young, promising, charismatic (and probably minority) conservative. Remember that Jindal was spoken about as a potential contender for 2012 despite his age. (Remember this cartoon?) But then why have they chosen another young, new guy? Why don't they get some old party hack like they used to?

    P.S. @Scott. It also helped that the president he was responding to was extremely unpopular and spiraling into failure.

  4. @Kylopod

    Thanks for the cartoon. I hadn't seen it before. It's priceless.

  5. I also thought Webb gave a very good response. It lacked the ceremonial trappings of the SOTU but he spoke directly to the TV audience about two issues of concern to voters free of political boilerplate.

    Webb was the exception. Most of the responses are more like Jindal. They repeat the party's talking points and bore the viewer. The recent response from Bob McDonnell, where he spoke in front of an audience of GOP state legislators, reminded me of a late night infomercial. If the GOP response touts keeping the Bush tax cuts as the key to creating jobs the base will be pleased and the majority of voters will think the GOP is clueless about the economy.

    I think it would be better not to give a response if you don't have anything serious to say about the voters top concern.

  6. I will say that one thing they need to change is the amount of hype that goes into it. I guess on some level there are those out there have the expectation that the opposing party's response should be as momentous and awe inspiring as the President's State of the Union. I happen to think that's an unrealistic expectation, it's hard to match the ceremonial grandeur of the Presidency, no matter who is giving the speech.

    I read some post on another site that suggested that a good idea would be to not have someone like Jindal give the speech. Have some established figure in the Party, with a suitable amount of gravitas and national respect, give the speech.

    As a final note, I really think that this kind of thing is really unnecessary for Republicans, emphasis on them because they have a more popular forum for disseminating their views and critiquing the Democrats. Fox News makes a much better Republican response than any one individual.

  7. Not much to add, but I'd say this comment thread makes some great points.

  8. Based on advance copy, the Republican response this year will not only be pointless but may also be counterproductive. This is because Obama's speech looks like an exercise in triangulation.

    There's an expectation that the SOTU response will be a rebuttal modeled after parliamentary debate. Responding to triangulation in such a manner comes across as quibbling.

    I mean, if your opponent steals a swatch of your turf, is it really a winning strategy to say "Well, President Obama advocated a 13.1% cut of such-and-such tax on working Americans, while we ideologically believe in a 13.8% cut..."

    ...isn't it way better just to call him a Marxist/Fascist/Internationalist conspirator over on Fox News and call it a day?


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