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Paul Ryan vs. Michele Bachmann: The Battle for the State of the Union Response

3 years ago
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State of the Union responses are typically doomed to obscurity, or worse.

At best, they are unremembered. At worse, they can backfire on the deliverer. (Who can forget Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's response -- which may have derailed a possible 2012 presidential bid.)

As such, one wonders about the wisdom of assigning the role to another conservative "rising star" -- the boyish and wonkish House Budget Committee Chair, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). After all, no matter who gives a response, the speaker faces huge structural challenges: The deliverer must compete with the pageantry and spectacle of the president of the United States. And by definition, the responder is playing "defense."

As the Daily Caller's Mary Katharine Ham aptly put it,
Tonight the President of the United States of America will stride into a joint session of Congress to thunderous, bipartisan applause and take to the lofty dais from which he will deliver an address filled with goals, inspiration, conviction and occasional poetry to a waiting nation.

Then there's the other guy.
. . . And then there's the other gal.

Not only must Ryan battle history and a highly unfavorable milieu, he has another challenge: Rep. Michele Bachmann -- who will be delivering a tea party response.

Those who argue that more voices are better are mistaken. More voices can cloud a coherent message -- a point especially true considering the inherent obstacles Ryan already faces.

And let's be honest -- suppose Ryan delivers a smart and coherent rebuke of Obama's speech (an outcome that is not unlikely) but Bachmann says something controversial. Who do you think will get the most media attention? It is very likely Bachmann could step on Ryan's response.

I would be more favorable toward Bachmann's plans if the official GOP response were being delivered by a moderate -- or by someone incapable of effectively making the conservative case. This is clearly not the case. (Note: In the past, I have criticized Ryan's voting record, but his ability to articulate a persuasive conservative message is indisputable.)

Ultimately, the Ryan vs. Bachmann narrative is just a microcosm of a larger divide within the GOP. Interestingly, this schism recently became evident when Bachmann briefly challenged solid conservative Rep. Jeb Hensarling for GOP Conference Chair (I argued conservatives should back Hensarling).

This is a new development and, frankly, I'm not terribly comfortable with it. In the past, there was a battle between real conservatives and RINOs (Republicans in name only). I was happily on the side of the conservatives. Today, however, it seems there is another split within that movement. You could look at it as a split between grassroots conservatives and the "ruling class." Another way of looking at it, however, is between credible, competent conservatives and their less serious counterparts.

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13 Comments

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deckerfam

Hysterical. It cracks me up when Liberals advise what is happening in the Republican Party. What are you some sort of psychic? I can tell you right now that the Tea Party espouses the same values as the GOP. When you don't know and write this anyway, that's libel. You are also guilty of CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION. Do you think by saying there's a split, it will cause one. GEEZ!!! So ridiculous.
The first thing WE want is to get control and eliminate of the National Debt before our children and grandchildren become indentured servants to China. Isn't that what you want too?

January 26 2011 at 5:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mscowby

Michele Bachmann , this women is dangerous to herself.. Nobody takes her seriously accept the Tea pARTY and then it is sort of a joke.. This women is so out there that even staunch concervatives can't handle her speakiing..... Palin --Baughman. GREAT ticket PLEASE make that the Republican ticket in 2012.. LOL

January 26 2011 at 8:52 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ctsdax

I never liked this whole "rebuttal" thing anyway, and when did it start?...
Even though I can't stand Obama... We should let the guy have his "foot in the mouth" moment and move on, I think it would do everyone best to let the President spew his uniformed "green energy" nonsense, then we can just think about a response from our side for a day or two... and then rip into his speech.
All we do is give the Liberal media something to focus on other then the stupid comments of our President, who seems to know how to fix everything, I doubt that he could find the dipstick to even check the oil in his car, the only dipstick he sees is when he looks in the mirror or at his colleagues in office.....lol
Wake up America, Nothing will change... INVESTING = SPENDING and SPENDING = BANKRUPT

January 26 2011 at 8:09 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
jethess777

I think Michelle is a very effective politician. But Paul Ryan's speech was right on the money. This is why America sent a new House to Washington. Ryan shows promise. He needs to consider the presidency. He is a better speaker than Obama's stale well-scripted stuff. He's smarter than Obama also.

January 26 2011 at 3:13 AM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jethess777's comment
Linda

A better speaker than Obama?? What in the world were you watching?

January 26 2011 at 10:58 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
wwwilken

I,prefer Michelle, to give the rebuttle. She a very smart conservative, that want nothing but the best for this country and she is willing to tell the truth, the way the people want it. We are tired of the same old bullsh-t from the two parties. I, would vote for Michelle for Persident, she would take care of this once great country.

January 25 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse -23 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wwwilken's comment
johnfbliss

www, I was thinking the same thing. I saw her on CNN, in Iowa, calling to not just the president, but all of Washington, and our nation as whole, to "fall to our knees to our Creator, ask for forgiveness, that our land might be healed." That took guts to say on Nation TV. Yes, Michele Bacmann in '12 for Pres!

January 26 2011 at 11:01 AM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply
breezy62253

I've been a Repub for many years, don't really know who Paul Ryan is but do know Bachmann does NOT speak for me, so my confidence in the party is still lacking. They have no true direction or leader and are beginning to eat their own just as I predicted before those elections!!! They're school kids fighting over who gets to sit next to each other and I'd like more responsibility and maturity representing me as a party.

January 25 2011 at 11:36 AM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to breezy62253's comment
necamw

As a republican, you really should check out Ryan. I don't agree with everything he espouses, but he actually has concrete ideas with well-thought out arguments.

January 25 2011 at 3:28 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
exnyorker

The EGOs come out. Michelle Batchman wants to flex her ego. Likely Glenn Beck will give HIS State of the Union. Sarah Palin will broadcast her State of the Union on Facebook or Tweet it. Lots of HOT air.

January 25 2011 at 11:29 AM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to exnyorker's comment
Republicanwin12

So you have your opinion but they can't have one or give one.
Last time we checked it is a free country.
If someone wants to speak let them speak from either party.
The media and liberals are so biased towartd these people
Ryan, Buchmann and Palin ,you don't know what they have said ....
It is plain you just hate them for no reason except being afraid of them
because they speak the truth.

January 26 2011 at 8:56 AM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
tracer055

I can not think of a better person than Paul Ryan to represent the GOP. When the average american sees what he stands for and what he represents, It will create a new group of informed democrats. Let him talk on, I love it.

January 25 2011 at 11:13 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tracer055's comment
Bill

You hit the nail on the head tracer. I am an avowed Democrat, and while I don't particularly agree with many of Ryans ideas (or maybe I should say that I don't think many of his ideas are especially plausible in application), at least he has ideas that are rooted in common sense and goal specific. Bachmanns nothing but a self obsessed gasbag who says whatever controversial thing she can to keep her profile high. But I do give her credit, at least (unlike Sarah Palin) she knows when to keep her mouth shut (most of the time). I do think its funny how they both are so ego driven that they both demand to give speeches at times that aren't exactly appropraite (Palin wanting to give her own "concession" speech after losing the election, Bachmann giving her own reply to the SOTU).

January 25 2011 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

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