RICHMOND, Va. – America is in the grips of a unrelenting “middle class squeeze” as income and wealth inequality gaps reach record levels.
This debate will dominate politics at all levels this year in my view. It will be similar around the country.
But last night had a unique meaning for Richmonders.
Local Congressman Eric Cantor dominated the State of the Union speech last night.
Admittedly his name never got mentioned.
But the House Republican Majority Leader has been a leading thorn in Mr. Obama’s side since the President took office. Mr. Cantor only represents a small part of the River City, the voters mostly constituents for Democrat Bobby Scott.
The President likes Mr. Scott. But Mr. Obama, as we say in politics, holds Mr. Cantor in “maximum low regard.”
“President Obama’s patience with Congress is at an end” read the opening line in today’s Washington Post editorial on the Big O’s State of the Union address.
The New York Times story on the speech cites the President’s “with or without Congress” declaration to buttress his having “declared independence from Congress” last night.
The Richmond Times Dispatch did not have an editorial today on the State of the Union Address. Apparently they were sent home early due to the snow.
Earth to the RTD: You can actually type an editorial at home and send it to the newspaper printing plant by email. Instead we have another editorial claiming the Mayor’s Shockoe Stadium plan will cure poverty and educational disparity in Richmond.
Give me a break. How many times can they expect me to read the same urban legend?
So I therefore totally “get” the President’s frustration with Mr. Cantor.
Richmond’s Cantor-City Hall-City Council-School Board are enough to drive any objective commentator to take a snow day 24/7 365. Frustration doesn’t begin to describe it.
But to be fair, presidents and Congresses of both parties have been defiantly frustrated with each other over the years.
President Harry Truman ran against the “Do Nothing Republican Congress” in 1948 to pull-off perhaps the biggest presidential upset victory ever. Presidential frustration with Congress goes back to George Washington.
Congress gets frustrated with presidents too.
A Democratic Congress nearly impeached Richard Nixon in 1974, forcing him to resign over the Watergate Scandal. Lawmakers threatened to impeach Ronald Reagan over Iran-Contra. A Republican House of Representatives actually did impeach Bill Clinton over the covered-up affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. Fortunately the Senate had the good sense to reject the bogus impeachment.
Angry English Kings often refused to call Parliament into session or simply failed to abide their enactments. Parliament member Oliver Cromwell famously went nuclear in the 17th century against King Charles I. Forget impeachment, conviction or resignation, he and his Rump parliament posse defiantly cut off the King’s head to put an end to their frustration.
But an honest commentator must concede the president’s tone last night stemmed in part from the second term blues epidemic among modern presidencies.
I wrote about this modern historic course few years ago in a national column. Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43 had it. Arguably only Dwight Eisenhower didn’t but even this is close call.
Admittedly Mr. Cantor is not the House Speaker, supposedly the real power guy in the GOP-controlled chamber. But Cantor has relished being the House’s Go-To guy when blasting the Democratic chief executive.
Even if Cantor doesn’t have the most power now, he is expected to wield it shortly when Speaker John Boehner retires in the near future.
Last night the President threw down the Democratic gauntlet to the Cantorites on Capitol Hill. Politically speaking he needed to do it. Liberals are criticizing him for not blasting the Republicans hard enough. That’s silly talk really. But the President needed to respond. I want to see how his strategy works before saying anything further.
The official Republican response by an impressive Congresswoman surely hit a better note than the other “hell no” voices from those “my way or the highway” forces tearing up the GOP. Why it is always about “me” with those folks, never about “we?”
The speech tells me the President worries about the “second term” curse. He is looking for ways to set the political agenda, like a quarterback trying to seize the initiative back from the defense. Gridlock makes this difficult. Let’s see if Mr. Obama has found a seam in the GOP’s zone defense.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.