Granted, neither instance was pretty, and the competition was subpar, but Aaron Rodgers and Paul Ryan (who could maybe be taken for brothers), topped the Bears and President Obama. Us flatlanders are left bowing in deference to our cheddar-fueled neighbors.
The conventional wisdom is that the President has a slam dunk with the State of the Union. On optics, this is entirely true. He’s in an ornate chamber, being interrupted by almost farcical applause, spouting platitudes about why we’re (and thus, he is) awesome, and, with just a few nudges can be on the path to even awesomer awesome (it wasn’t always this way). By contrast, the response is someone all alone in a room, speaking to a camera in silence, sometimes awkwardly (see Jindal, Bobby).
But on content, the SOTU is always the same (here are some old ones). One of the keys is saying the our spending is out of control, that the federal government is too large, and that we need to change our approach to things. These are followed by proposals to spend more, expand the size of the federal government and keep our approach to things exactly the same. And then say something about the children and how we’re going to end our dependence on foreign oil. Both parties do this. In fact, you could probably go back at least the George H.W. Bush, and the speeches since, I don’t know, 1990 or so, would be interchangeable.
Here’s where the response can earn points back. Usually, they don’t, because they try to be a Bizarro SOTU, hitting the partisan flipside of whatever the President just said. But Paul Ryan kept it simple. He could’ve kept it even simpler – to be honest, if he’d walked out and said “We’re out of money. We should act like it, or at the very least acknowledge it. I’ve got a plan to do just that,” and walked off the stage, I’d have tipped my cap. Contrast that with the President, who says we need “a government that lives within its means” but then goes on to say we’ll send almost everyone to college, we’ll give 80% of Americans access to high-speed rail and we’ll fight terror “from the Afghan border to the Arabian Peninsula to all parts of the globe.” These things are not free. They are certainly not within our means, since our means are essentially zero right now.
A few anecdotes about why we should essentially reboot the Works Progress Administration (OMG Korea has internet and the Chinese are building NEWER AIRPORTS) later, we arrive at the notion that “we cannot win the future with a government of the past” – a statement we could get more excited about if it had not been preceded by several paragraphs describing a (now, with internet!) stale approach to government.
So, Paul Ryan, it wasn’t tackling Brian Urlacher in the open field, but it was something, I suppose.