Washington Report – Reality Disconnect
The annual State of the Union speech is the unofficial kickoff of the legislative season in the nation’s capital. Once a brief report delivered by letter, the speech has taken on all the theatrics of a major Hollywood production. And Barack Obama certainly loves any production that features him as the star.
In the speech, the president is expected to set the tone for the congressional debates that will follow throughout the year. It is intended to serve as a barometer of reality more than ideology, recognition of the power held by the respective parties, and a nod to the potential for compromise between them. Bill Clinton best exemplified this tradition with his 1996 assurance that “the era of big government is over.”
Coming off a disastrous election in which his policies were widely repudiated, and facing a Congress where his party has been forced to surrender the reins of power, one would assume the president would offer a conciliatory address. One would expect to hear a speech that outlined broad areas of agreement within which to pursue a range of mutually acceptable results.
Instead, Obama came out swinging from the far left. The economic centerpiece of his speech revolved around proposing a long list of new and increased taxes to pay for a host of social spending. He first declared an economic recovery, the signs of which are few and far between to most. Then he began to dole out the goodies. Not content with having nationalized health care, nor with overseeing a 15 percent increase in the number of Americans on food stamps, he now proposes that two years of college should somehow be free. He then celebrated lower gas prices that are due to increased exploration and production, which his administration has done everything in its power to block.
You didn’t have to watch the entire speech to realize it was completely disconnected from reality. And apparently many of us didn’t bother, since the speech pulled in the lowest TV ratings in 15 years. But the captive audience in the room, the Members of Congress, will have to figure out how to deal with this president for another two years. They will have to be the voices of reason to work with an administration that has apparently become completely disconnected from reality.
That’s why it’s critical for lawmakers to have real-world exposure to our community. And the single best place for that is our annual convention. This year, we were proud to host a substantial delegation of lawmakers – some old friends, and some new faces. They all gathered for an informational briefing on the issues that SCI is facing in the year to come. Let’s run down the list in no particular order.
Perhaps best known to the SCI family is Rep. Don Young, the Republican House Member representing Alaska. Also joining us from the Land of the Midnight Sun was Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who has helped lead the Senate effort to pass a comprehensive Sportsmen’s Bill.
The Show Me state was well represented. Rep. Billy Long, Republican from the 7th District, was joined by his district-next-door colleague Rep. Jason Smith, who represents the 8th. Rep. Jeff Duncan came to represent the Palmetto State of South Carolina, where the Republican represents the 3rd District.
From the nearby Volunteer State of Tennessee, we were visited by Republican Rep. Stephen Fincher, who represents the 8th District. Rep. Matt Salmon, the Republican representing the 5th District of Arizona near Phoenix, also came to visit and learn more about our community. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the Republican from Utah’s 3rd District, was also in attendance, taking a break from his new duties as chair of the Oversight Committee formerly chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa.
Finally, in the Ex Officio category, we were joined by former Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia, who came to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of diligent service on behalf of hunters everywhere. We are very appreciative to all of them for taking the time out of their schedule to visit our convention. Once we’re all back in Washington, we will all have our work cut out for us in trying to advance the hunters agenda.