The president was lucky to have not one but two GOP rebuttals, and they were equally strange and dishonest. Rep. Paul Ryan railed against the deficit without proposing even one specific cut. He didn’t talk about his own infamous “Roadmap,” maybe because most analysts have called it a budget buster, even though it essentially replaces Social Security and Medicare with vouchers. The Congressional Budget Office estimates Ryan’s plan wouldn’t balance the budget until 2063, and would add $62 trillion to the debt by then. Citizens for Tax Justice said Ryan’s Roadmap raises taxes on 9 out of 10 taxpayers and while slashing them for the wealthiest.
Wisely, Ryan talked about none of that. He promised to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with “fiscally responsible patient-centered reform,” but didn’t say word one about what it would entail. Most dishonestly, Ryan said Democrats had overspent “to the point where the president is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit,” ignoring the fact that Congress raised it seven times under President Bush. That’s your new chair of the House Budget Committee. (Update: Somehow I missed the best line in Ryan’s rebuttal, in which he worries we’re headed toward “a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.” I want to ask the 14.5 million unemployed Americans, and the millions more who are underemployed, how they’re enjoying their hammocks. Leave it to a Republican to come up with such vivid metaphors of leisure to talk about suffering. It’s the only way they can relate.)
Tea Party leader Michele Bachmann followed Ryan, and CNN chose to broadcast her talk while other networks didn’t. Bachmann has actually proposed budget cuts – eradicating the Department of Education and saving money (?) by repealing the Dodd-Frank Financial Regulation act. But she didn’t talk specifics in her SOTU rebuttal, either. Luckily, she didn’t get into American history, after her disastrous Iowa speechsugarcoating slavery and otherwise distorting the American past. (Note to Bachmann: George Jefferson was definitely not one of the founders.) She flashed Perot-style charts blaming rising unemployment solely on Obama, and ranted about 16,500 new IRS agents supposedly hired to enforce Obamacare (Factcheck.org has already debunked that myth).
Bachmann ended with a shot of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima (which she mispronounced) and compared it to Americans fighting the debt crisis. “We will proclaim liberty throughout the land,” she concluded. “We the people will never give up.” Unfortunately, she was looking at the wrong camera for the entire speech, so she always seemed to be looking over the viewer’s left shoulder (in my case, at my dog Sadie.) It was a little creepy.