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Buzz about McDonnell's State of the Union rebuttal continues

Anita Kumar

It's been days since Gov. Bob McDonnell delivered the Republican response to the State of the Union address. But on comedy shows, on blogs and around office water coolers the chatter about his performance continues.

No surprise that the right gave McDonnell rave reviews for his 12-minute speech and that the left didn't much like it.

But by far the most lively conversations have been about his choice of setting -- the House of Delegates in the historic state Capitol.

People can't seem to stop talking about the spectacle of all -- how it seemed so much like a mini-State of the Union that comedian Stephen Colbert joked that McDonnell was some kind of alternate president.

Keep reading to see what three issues continue to attract the most attention and then let us know what you think by commenting below:

--The House chamber
Speaker Bill Howell granted McDonnell official permission and, as we reported earlier, $30,000 in political contributions paid for the cost of the event. No doubt Howell would allowed have allowed a Democratic governor the same courtesy, though we are pretty sure no member of the public would be allowed to "rent" out a state building that way.

--The backdrop
Some have questionned whether McDonnell even knew the racially diverse group sitting behind him, specifically the four seen most often on TV. Clearly, he does. They are members of his Cabinet -- Janet Polarek, Jim Cheng and Lisa Hicks-Thomas as well as a solider who served with his daughter Jeanine in Iraq. But McDonnell's staff has been more offended than they needed to be by the question. After all, they're the ones who put the group behind McDonnell in the first place in order to appear as inclusive as possible. The rest of the audience was far less diverse.

--The soldier
Others have suggested that the soldier broke the law by attending a political event. McDonnell's office says that he previously received permission from the Army to be at the rebuttal, which was deemed an official and not political event, just like the State of the Union.

So there you have it. Now it's your turn. We know you're still talking about it. So what do you think? Tell us below.

By Anita Kumar  |  January 31, 2010; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Barack Obama , Robert F. McDonnell  
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Comments

The diversity was too obvious and over the top - especially considering the true makeup of the "audience".

Posted by: rlj1 | January 31, 2010 7:13 PM | Report abuse

There is no way that you can argue that the Republican SOTU Response is in anyway an official address. If it was an official event, then why was it paid for by political contributions from Wall Street?

Posted by: rgshaw | January 31, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm with rgshaw on this - if it was paid for by campaign contributions, it was ANYTHING but appropriate for a soldier in uniform to attend. The soldir and his entire chain of command should be brought up on charges.
That being said, the use of a taxpayer owned statehouse for a partisan response (again, paid for by campaign contributions) is criminal.
It was disgusting for McDonnell to use a soldier, a public building, and token minorities for his little attempt to look presidential. It wasn't lost on anyone; expect it to haunt him.

Posted by: jeffc6578 | January 31, 2010 11:31 PM | Report abuse

Players change but the Republican spin machine remains the same. Poisonous minions. Believing the rhetoric well who says money can't buy you love?

Posted by: keithlb28 | January 31, 2010 11:54 PM | Report abuse

The whole setting reminded me of W speaking from the Texas State Capitol to claim he was the president-elect in 2000. I was offended that any party could buy the state capitol to give a nation-wide political speech. If Ralph Nader had the money, would Howell let him rent the joint out to air a rebuttal?

Posted by: dbonney | February 1, 2010 1:33 AM | Report abuse

The United States military is not a subsidiary of the Republican party.

This was not any kind of an official event; the rebuttal to the SOTU address is strictly political!

Posted by: joemcnamara1 | February 1, 2010 2:39 AM | Report abuse

Wow. Sounds like it was a great success.

Posted by: jjudsonsmith | February 1, 2010 6:02 AM | Report abuse

It was a political, not official event. The State of the Union is an official event, called for in the Constitution and paid for by the taxpayers, with Congress required to be there. The rebuttal is a political commercial with no legal basis whatsoever. Use of the House of Delegates and the prominent display of a soldier in uniform were highly inappropriate and should result in discipline.

Posted by: rosepetals64 | February 1, 2010 7:18 AM | Report abuse

This was the best rebuttal ceremony I have ever seen. It gave the Republicans a chance to point out the inconsistencies of the President and do so with support around the speaker. The President had a "HOUSE" full of orchestrated applause. This state of the Union was the most political event I have ever witnessed in my 60 plus years and it had Uniformed Personnel attending so don't complain about the same happening in Richmond.The Justice mouthing the fact that the President got it wrong was one of the few truths of the night.

Posted by: ahall378 | February 1, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

This is GREAT! Normally everyone ignores the rebuttal. With all this controversy surrounding the rebuttal, some folks might actually pay attention!

Posted by: joelhar1 | February 1, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

If it was an official, not a political event why is there no Dem speech after the SOTU?

The SOTU is supposed to be the President addressing Congress, not the head of a party addressing the country.

The whole idea of a "rebuttal" to the President of the US by the opposition party is odd. I could understand a rebuttal by, say, bin Laden or North Korea but to have the minority party get up and essentially say "here's what's wrong with our country is just... wrong.

Posted by: MAL9000 | February 1, 2010 9:00 AM | Report abuse

"But McDonnell's staff has been more offended than they needed to be"

Nice to see Anita writing opinion again. Nooooo, never a bias at the WaPo.

Posted by: willbstar | February 1, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

ahall378 wrote: "This state of the Union was the most political event I have ever witnessed in my 60 plus years..."

Well, see, when you vastly overstate your case this way you just end up looking silly.

Posted by: fdrew | February 1, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Return of the Crackers, in new drag

Posted by: mloaks | February 1, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

The rebuttal is nothing but a political event. The military should have absolutely nothing to do with it as according to their own policy.

I noted that Jim Webb did the Dem. rebuttal with class. McDonnell goes for a pageant. If McDonnell gets to do it again, I suspect he'll attempt to do so wearing a flight suit on an aircraft carrier.

Posted by: janeway1 | February 1, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

"Well, how did you like my seppech?"

"Sir, it raised questions?"

"What do you mean."

"People had questions?"

That's good. Leave them wanting more."

"No SIR. I don't mean that in a good way. It raised questions."

"What do you mean?"

"If I say 'it raised questions' I mean it was..."

"OK. Next."

Posted by: gary4books | February 1, 2010 9:52 AM | Report abuse

What bothered me about the soldier was his lack of decorum. Unlike the military brass at the SOTU, this soldier was enthusiastically expressing support of partisan ideas. At the SOTU, the military is quite circumspect and applauds only for the most sanguine expressions of national loyalty.

Posted by: chicago11 | February 1, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Please. There is no buzz about this.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | February 1, 2010 10:27 AM | Report abuse

The worse part is McDonnell left out a portion of Thomas Jefferson quote:
Jefferson, March 4, 1801: Still one thing more, fellow-citizens — a wise and frugal Government, WHICH SHALL RESTRAIN MEN FROM INJURING ONE ANOTHER, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

Posted by: beeker25 | February 1, 2010 10:33 AM | Report abuse

It's funny watching the little liberal heads explode over McDonnels rebuttel to our chickenhawk liar in cheifs SOTU.

As for the soldier being their he had permission so get over it. McDonnell unlike our chickenhawk spending President and 5 time draft dodger vice president served his country.

Posted by: robtr | February 1, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

What I noticed was how much this resembled an address before a Soviet audience. The attendees clearly were instructed to clap on cue and with appropriate enthusiasm. It was fake, and bizarre.

Posted by: dougA2 | February 1, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"5 time draft dodger vice president"

Dick Cheney is not vice president anymore, idiot. Try to keep up.

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | February 1, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I volunteered for Deeds and, while I'm now rooting for our new governor to succeed, I have been a bit concerned by several signals sent so far (not submitting his own budget, unlike all previous incoming governors; not making his budget preferences clear at a time of fiscal crisis; first governor of either party in many years not to issue an anti-discrimination directive, and so on).

That being said, I thought his staging in the chamber was so much better and more competent than the embarrassment with Bobby Jindal last year and I appreciated the fact that our state of Virginia looked good to the country that night. Good job, McDonnell team!

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 1, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

It reminded me of the "so called" good ole days when "W" would have give a speech to a carefully selected audience having the one black person sitting directly behind him. What a farce. lol

Posted by: fairandbalanced | February 1, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

As a non-virginia resident, my reaction is that this is much ado about nothing. Anything to sell papers.

Posted by: sportsfan2 | February 1, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

The whole “rebuttal” thing was ridiculous on many levels: a) It did not challenge or counter propose any of President’s points and proposals b) The whole speech consisted of everyday GOP taking points. It’s like local PTA speech c) The whole setting and placing the few minorities in attendance behind the Governor was over-the-top, to say the least. d) Everything about the speech compared to the President’s State of the Union speech was inferior at best. e) Gov McDonnell’s performance was even worse than that now infamous Gov. Jindel of Louisiana’s last year. f) Finally, using a uniformed soldier as a prompt was just classless.

Posted by: JHigginss | February 1, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

if you analyze the speech, it is clear that
a. he is just another typical republican national socialist..another mini-me hitler if you will..
b. the speech was filled with glittering generalities and absolutely fact-free..
c. he totally forgot to mention the part about obama being handed an enormous deficit from a decade of bush/cheney/republican destruction of the economy..about them giving obama an unwinnable situation if afghanistan due to the failure of the republicans and bush to take care of the correct business last decade..
..
why do the dems fail to point out that we are where we are today due to bush and the republicans 2001-2009???

Posted by: w04equals666 | February 1, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

fairfaxvoter, thank you for posting an intelligent and non-combative comment. I sure wish others could learn to do the same thing. Aren't there any centrists left in this country, or are they all hiding? It sure doesn’t seem like there are many centrist people who understand that both sides make mistakes when you read the comments sections of most of the political articles on WaPo. People expect their leaders to act in a bipartisan fashion when they’re acting on our behalf, but they refuse to carry themselves that way in their own lives. For those of you who are incredibly partisan and hurl insults at people with different views than yours, why do you expect your elected leaders to do anything other than emulate your behavior? Cooperation and compromise in Congress starts with you.

Posted by: Ken-ArlingtonVA | February 1, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

As far as carefully selecting what kind of people will be in the view of the camera is concerned, that is standard procedure nowadays.
During the last presidential campaign it was noted by the media how carefully the Obama staff selected those who were to be in the view.

Posted by: observer31 | February 1, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Before he quotes Jefferson in a state of the union rebuttal speech given at the statehouse, McDonnell might want to keep in mind that Jefferson sent his state of the union speeches to Congress in writing and was so averse to pomp that he attended official dinners in his slippers. As for Jefferson's views on economics, well, Tom was a very smart guy, but he died so massively in debt that his family had to sell off his slaves to satisfy creditors.

Posted by: Bob22003 | February 1, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Good lord, what's the big deal?

So a comedian on the Comedy Channel had something negative to say. So what?

Where is the story here?

Posted by: llrllr | February 1, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Still no one picking up that it was the Confederate Congress chamber in which he was giving the rebuttal?

Posted by: Section506 | February 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

"The whole idea of a "rebuttal" to the President of the US by the opposition party is odd. I could understand a rebuttal by, say, bin Laden or North Korea but to have the minority party get up and essentially say "here's what's wrong with our country is just... wrong."

Given the Republican obsession with 'ideological purity tests' and their lack of hesitation to turn on each other, I don't see a difference between them and bin Laden. The Republican party in its present state should be declared a terrorist organization.

Posted by: reader011 | February 1, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

The whole thing seemed like Christian TV. Fake, fake, fake.

Posted by: Virginiatransplant | February 1, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was very odd and a misuse of the House of Delegates to present the response of the Republicans there. It is intended to be a place to conduct the business of government of the State of Virginia, not to be lent as a forum for national political speechmaking.

Posted by: cmckeonjr | February 1, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

As a Virginia resident (unfortunately) it makes me sick that this fundie clown used state facilities to rebut the SOTU address.

Posted by: solsticebelle | February 1, 2010 7:45 PM | Report abuse


Gov. McDonnell has only been warming up the governor’s chair for a hot ... three minutes and suddenly his lordship is "summa cum-laude" material in the wherewithal of government decorum... Personally, I could have appreciated having Sarah rise to this particular occasion. At least she does have the legitimacy of an acceptable résumé in governance. Certainly would not have been as hard on the eyes, either: Moreover, no one in her country club, even in assimilation would be presumptuous enough to edify/enlighten [the] standard-bearer of a political persuasion and the "veraciousness" of her fortitude to have told her what he/she would want her to voice. On the other hand, what not to say. I am in favor of tapping her to cover our next SOTU summit and giving her all the latitude that she may require, to "postulate," according to her premise, President Obama's M.O. (signature) malfeasance. How 'bout it Sarah...? Well, I'll make a note of it... I do admit being a little disappointed that this charade/sham did not take place at the Governor's Mansion, his lordship's title/job description, notwithstanding. Oh, and whatever was all that noise supplementing the applauses - were they trying to wake the Confederacy...? It sounded like dead men marching or something straight out of Hollywood. The sprinkling of the minorities for the most part was egregiously disingenuous, but I'm ok with that, the fact that Virginia was the last State to give up slavery - it was definitely an effort. Do you think...? "Nah."

Posted by: Dino4 | February 2, 2010 2:20 AM | Report abuse

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