By MIKE APPLETON
When Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the more or less “official” Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address last night, I was expecting her to present a sort of Republican policy talk for mature adults, something that would provide a striking contrast to not only the President’s speech, but to the Tea Party trio who followed her. Instead, I heard an ode to farm life and agrarian values, woven into another I-did-it-and-you-can-too sermon with a higher sugar content than her family’s apple orchards.
Rep. Rodgers was undoubtedly selected by the leadership to demonstrate that smart women can be Republican leaders. And she is in fact a talented and accomplished person, but one would never know that based on her remarks. She identified all of the talking points, of course, mentioning job growth and affordable health care, and adding the mandatory reference to tax reduction. But she did not describe a single policy proposal to increase jobs, outlined no ideas on what Republicans would do about health care if they ever manage to repeal the Affordable Care Act and was completely silent on the issue of immigration reform.
When Rep. Rodgers reminded us that the Republican Party is the party of compassion, I waited patiently for her explanation of how we have seen that compassion manifested in her party’s approach to long-term unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, equal pay for women, SNAP funding and the protection of women’s reproduction rights. Perhaps she realized that compassion would be too hard a sell on a day that she and her House colleagues had been busy passing, you guessed it, more anti-abortion legislation, this time a bill to nowhere intended to eliminate abortion coverage from most health insurance policies.
One doesn’t expect a great deal of substance in the type of address that Rep. Rodgers was called upon to present. But when that address resembles nothing so much as a saccharine inaugural speech by someone just elected president of her Junior League chapter, one question begs for an answer. Why did she bother?