Obama's State of the Union Should Remind Congress and the President to Work Together

On Tuesday evening, President Barack Obama delivered his third State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. The president used the address to present a bold agenda calling for legislative action on economic initiatives, clean energy, education, taxes, and comprehensive immigration reform.

Obama outlined a sharply different vision than his critics. He insisted that government should be active in putting Americans back to work, helping students afford college, and restoring our economic standing. Obama also had a balancing act with this address, with Congress being divided and a heated re-election battle this November.

The question remains whether the president and Congress can come together to solve the challenges surrounding these major issues. 

The president maintained a cooperative tone throughout his address, but included tough language at times, saying that “as long as I’m president, I will work with anyone in this chamber...  But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place. “

Republicans fired back immediately after Obama’s speech. The GOP rebuttal was provided by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Daniels began by praising Obama for some accomplishments during his term.  Daniels also alleged that Obama was painting an exaggerated picture of the nation’s standing, saying “On these evenings, presidents naturally seek to find the sunny side of our nation’s condition.”

Then, he [Daniels] proceeded to blast Obama for trying to divide the country. “No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others,” he said. Daniels also acknowledged Republican differences with the president, accusing the president of pairing the rich against the poor, enlarging entitlement programs, and “giving in” on clean energy policy.

However, a display of unity came when members of Congress stood together to support one of their own, outgoing Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. 

Giffords was shot in the head at close range last January while speaking with constituents at a “Congress On Your Corner” event outside a grocery store in Tucson. Giffords announced Sunday that she is resigning her seat to fully concentrate on recovery from her wounds.

Giffords received a rousing standing ovation as she entered the House chambers. Her resignation from Congress will be effective Wednesday.

Over the past few years, our country’s political discourse has gotten extremely divisive, and in some cases volatile. Today’s politics are led by ideology and political posturing. In 2009, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican, pointed at Obama in a presidential address and shouted “You lie!” During the health care reform debates, Former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat, said the Republican’s health care plan is 'Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.'

As we look to the 2012 congressional session and the upcoming presidential election, we must realize that America is facing some of the toughest challenges in history. Vicious political divisiveness will not put Americans back to work, prevent families from losing their homes, or keep us safe at home or abroad. It is imperative that our elected officials, Republican, Democrat, or Independent, maintain the mantra of “Country First.” We should focus on challenging and discussing ideas, not people, because which party wins the 2012 election; our country has to be able to move forward.

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