For GOP, Obama's 'Very Ideological' Speech Not Wearing Well
If President Obama's second inaugural speech did anything for conservatives, it was to reaffirm their suspicion of the president as an unreconstructed liberal with whom they won't find much, if any, common ground during his just started second term. A day after the president's speech, that view appeared to be hardening.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee who, at least now, is considered a strong contender for the 2016 GOP nomination, likely spoke for many conservatives Tuesday. In a Laura Ingraham Show radio interview, Ryan said he wasn't surprised that the president's speech didn't seem to be an attempt to reach out to political adversaries:
"That's what speech writers or historians usually note, that inaugurals are meant to be that: Campaign's over, bring everybody together and try to unify. That's not the speech we got."
"To be candid, I wasn't really surprised by the speech. The president is a proud and confident liberal progressive. He invoked the Constitution and Declaration at times, which is something everybody likes to hear, especially conservatives. But he invoked them sort of as a means to legitimize the agenda he has going forward, which is very partisan, very ideological, for sure. It doesn't surprise me that he did that because he's basically saying: 'I'm a liberal and I'm going to govern as a liberal and I won and, so there.' "
Ryan, chairman of the House Budget Committee, accused Obama of badly misstating the Republican position on entitlement beneficiaries, saying GOP policymakers don't label those who receive "earned entitlements" like Social Security and Medicare as "takers."
Instead, Ryan said, conservatives are talking about beneficiaries who receive entitlements like Medicaid — the joint federal-state program that pays for health care for the poor — which they didn't pay for through payroll taxes.
The guest host filling in for Ingraham didn't ask Ryan how he would label the middle income elderly who get their longterm nursing home stays paid for by Medicaid.
Meanwhile, Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit linked to Karl Rove's American Crossroads political action committee, was back in campaign mode Tuesday with a new video that sought to damn Obama by using the words of journalists and pundits who described Obama's speech as embracing a liberal agenda.
"If the media is calling Obama's policies liberal, what can we expect in the next four years?" is how the video ends.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wasn't as pointed as Ryan or American Crossroads. But the Kentucky Republican on Tuesday seemed dismissive of Obama's paen to entitlement programs as key to helping many individual Americans progress, calling Obama's sentiment "nice" in a speech on the Senate floor.
"It's nice to say, as the President did yesterday, that these programs free us to take the risks that make our country great. But if we don't act to strengthen and protect them now, in a few years they simply won't be there in their current form."
The conservative reading of Obama's speech, such as that by Nicholas Eberstadt, an American Enterprise Institute scholar, suggests why the president can be viewed as having antagonized Republicans.
The president's "argument is that we have finished discussing the welfare state," Eberstadt said in an interview Tuesday. "We are not in the 'if you have a better idea let me hear it' portion of the show anymore.
"It's also strikingly different from the previous Democratic president, from President Clinton, who talked about, 'mend it, don't end it,'" said Eberstadt who wrote a blog post taking issue with the president. "What's missing here is any notion that there's anything to be mended. No problems."
The reaction a day after the speech tracked pretty much with instant GOP reaction. Roll Call reported:
"Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, gushed about the civility of the ceremonial lunch Monday but indicated that his party's disappointment with the president's inaugural speech could boil over the next time he pays a call to the Capitol."
" 'Parts of it sounded more like a campaign speech and part of it was soaring rhetoric, which was positive, I thought, about getting together,'" Portman told Roll Call. He noted he is "absolutely" looking to the State of the Union on Feb. 12 — three weeks from Tuesday — to hear more details.