Former Democratic Congressman Richard Stallings was no fan of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but he knows what he would have done had either president appeared in his home state the day after the State of the Union address.
“I would have been leading the parade,” he said. “And, if given the opportunity, I would have been proud to introduce him.”
If it meant missing some House votes, so be it. If the votes were on issues he especially cared about, “I’d be asking if my vote was needed. I’d explain that the President of the United States was coming to my home state and I wanted to be there.”
Then, Stallings would return to Washington and vote against many of the President’s major initiatives – as he did through most of his eight years in Congress. But for a few hours, Stallings said, he would put aside any partisan feelings to welcome the President to his home district.
On Wednesday, Idaho’s all-Republican congressional delegation had other priorities as President Barack Obama was wowing the crowd at Boise State University’s Caven-Williams Sports Complex.
Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch stayed in Washington to vote on whether the Senate would open debate on the Keystone Pipeline and, indeed, their votes were needed. The Senate agreed by a narrow margin to begin the debate.
Rep. Mike Simpson was involved with committee hearings and votes. Rep. Raul Labrador was participating in a forum with other colleagues, “Conversations with Conservatives,” and some news came out of that. The group blasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for being weak on immigration. Labrador suggested that if McConnell was not going to stand up to the Obama administration on that issue, then perhaps the Senate would be better off with Democrat Harry Reid in charge. Ouch.
Those who serve in Congress have busy schedules in Washington. They all heard Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, all offered negative comments about his message, and Wednesday’sspeech mostly was a shortened version of his address on Tuesday. But it leaves me wondering if the entire delegation would be “too busy” to come to Idaho if Mitt Romney – or any Republican – were President. Somehow, I think they would find a way to be here – or find a way to get a ride on Air Force One.
For Idahoans, a visit by a sitting President of the United States is big news – especially one day after the State of the Union address. The day-after speech is a time when the president rallies Americans behind his agenda, and it’s particularly noteworthy when a Democratic president carries his day-after message to the reddest of the red states. No matter, it’s an honor for a small, and sometimes forgotten, state such as Idaho to be part of the president’s “official business.”
President Obama did not disappoint the thousands of Idahoans who attended the event. The atmosphere was electric and Obama was magnetic. His “tax the rich” plan probably won’t fly through a Republican-controlled Congress and I’m not sure how the execution would work for his “free community college” idea. I don’t know if government can provide day care for children, or if employers can afford to pay higher wages. Part of Obama’s agenda reminds me of Huey Long’s “Share the Wealth” speech during the Great Depression era.
But at least Obama has a vision, and even a plan, to produce a stronger Middle Class and a better country. He invites Republicans to the table and challenges GOP leaders to do more than cast “no” votes. Say what you want about his politics, but in terms of style and delivery, he’s one of the most effective presidents of our times. Watching him at Boise State was much more entertaining than seeing him speak before a crowd of tired old faces in the House chamber on Tuesday, and hearing the same tired old talking heads picking apart his speech afterward.
Republicans, of course, don’t like anything about Obama. But the GOP is largely responsible for him being in the White House. In 2008, the Republican ticket included Sarah Palin … need I say more? Romney and Paul Ryan were better candidates in 2012, but they couldn’t carry their home states, let alone the Electoral College. The best way for Republicans to keep a Democrat out of the White House is to field a candidate who has enough personal appeal to win an election.
President Obama conducted a clinic on personal appeal during his visit to Boise. If the Idaho congressional delegation had not been “too busy,” they would have seen that for themselves.