Although every year the mainstream media tries to pump up interest in the annual State of the Union Address in Washington, this Tuesday night's speech by President Obama should definitely be Must See TV if you're interested to see how the President tries to finesse the new reality in Washington, as there are now nearly 70 more Republicans who will be part of the live audience to hear the speech than there was a year ago.
The majority of Americans who went to the polls last November strongly supported Republicans everywhere (except California), seemingly a rejection of the Democrats control of Washington even as the country slides out of its worst recession in over 70 years . But since the election Obama has showed that he can pivot to the center, as he made the most of the GOP's demands on maintaining the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of the public by cutting a deal that provided for other stimulative benefits that Democrats wanted.
Now, on a bit of a roll after getting the tax cuts and a number of other proposals passed in the lame duck session of Congress in December, Republicans, and the rest of the nation are waiting to hear if he'll continue the moderate tone in the SOTU, or not.
Two of the leading Republicans in Congress were asked about that on Sunday, and do really think Obama has moved to the political center?
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Fox News Sunday said now was not the time me to be "pumping up government spending in very many areas."
McConnell is considered an establishment Republican, and thus suspect in some Tea Party circles. He's tried to adapt, getting religion by getting on the anti-earmark bandwagon, but the huge question that he and his House colleague's will face upcoming in March is about whether to raise the debt ceiling, which tea partiers are adamantly against, but which Obama administration officials say could jeopardize the U.S.'s credit standing around the world if Congres doesn't follow through. Despite entreaties by FNS host Chris Wallace, McConnell refused to answer about how he'll handle that potentially perilous moment in time:
MCCONNELL: Well, the only one talking about shutting down the government is in your question. I mean, what we're talking about here is trying to get some results. The American people would like for us to get some results on spending and debt, and both of these actually provide a good opportunity, Chris, because it kind of focuses your mind on -- on the biggest problem other than unemployment that we have in the country.
WALLACE: Would you agree that failing to raise the debt limit would be an economic disaster for this country?
MCCONNELL: Nobody is talking about that at this point.
WALLACE: Plenty of people are talking about that.
MCCONNELL: What we're talking about here is using that as an opportunity to do something significant about the issue raised by the president's request to raise the debt ceiling, which is we're spending too much.
MCCONNELL: So why not use that as an opportunity to carry along with it some significant spending reduction.
WALLACE: I'm going to ask you one more time. Not saying that you're threatening in any way not to raise the debt limit, but would you agree with Timothy Geithner that failing to raise the debt limit would be a disaster?
MCCONNELL: What I'm going to say one more time is we're going to use it as an opportunity to do something significant about spending and debt.
Meanwhile, over on NBC's Meet The Press, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia took some aggressive questions from host David Gregory. Cantor mused if Obama had listener and learned from the "shellacking" that befell him and his fellow Democrats. But when Gregory characterized that Obama will be calling for a combination of some spending to keep the country competitive with the rest of the word, and also cutting the deficit, Cantor drew back:
REP. CANTOR: When the president talks about competitiveness, sure, we want America to be competitive. But then when he talks about investing, I think even someone from the White House this week had said that this is going to be a cut and invest White House. We want to cut and grow. Because when we, we hear invest, when--from anyone in Washington, to me that means more spending. And any...MR. GREGORY: Right. Well, well, let's just be clear. You don't believe that there's a balance that you have to get right in terms of investing in the economy to help it innovate, to become more competitive. That's not a vision you agree with.
REP. CANTOR: David, where--what I would say is the investment needs to occur in the private sector.
MR. GREGORY: Not by government.
REP. CANTOR: And, and for too long, and for too long now there's been uncertainty on the part of investors.
Cantor then made headlines when he said that everything - including defense and even cancer research, would be ripe for potential cuts:
REP. CANTOR: But I can tell you, we've always said this, too: Every dollar should be on the table. And I've said before...
MR. GREGORY: Including defense cuts.
REP. CANTOR: I've--absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: OK.
REP. CANTOR: I've said before, no one can defend the expenditure of every dollar and cent over at the Pentagon. And we've got to be very serious to make sure that they're doing more with less as well.
MR. GREGORY: But look at The Wall Street Journal, the piece by Dick Armey of Freedom Works, the tea party group. He said, "What Congress Should Cut," and the sub-headline says this: "Let's scrap the Departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development, end farm subsidies, and end urban mass transit grants, just for starters." Would those be on the table?
REP. CANTOR: Everything, David, is on the table. I mean, we've got to do with...
MR. GREGORY: Cancer research is on the table.
REP. CANTOR: We've got to--listen, we've got to do what families in this country are doing, what businesses are doing. You've got to learn to do more with less. You can't afford to sustain this level of borrowing and spending. Everyone knows that. So we've got to be very, very good and disciplined to make sure that we are cutting what needs to be cut and focused on growing this economy so America can maintain its competitiveness and we can see jobs grow in the private sector.