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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Republicans Respond to President Obama
Aired January 25, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, so, the president of the United States wrapping up his State of the Union address to the nation, speaking, as expected, just a little bit more than one hour, the president making the case for some serious budget cuts, the economy issue number-one clearly throughout the speech, the creation of jobs, jobs, jobs.
He's going to walk through and get some well-wishes now from members of the House, the Senate, members of his Cabinet, other distinguished guests who are on the floor of the House chamber.
Our own John King is standing by. He's up on Capitol Hill.
This is basically what we thought it was going to be. I didn't hear any huge surprises there, John. Did you?
JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": No, Wolf, not a very exciting speech, but a very carefully calculated political speech by the president.
As he shakes these hands, we should make note -- if you're wondering why so many members, almost all, are wearing those ribbons, those are in honor of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of the Tucson shooting there -- a very carefully calculated speech, and the president gave you the reason near the end, where he said, we are going to argue about everything.
But, throughout the speech, the president tried to be the person you want to be in a big argument, the reasonable person in the middle: Yes, I'm open to some changes in my health care bill, but I'm not giving the power back to the insurance companies. Yes, I want to lower regulations on business, but I also want to have a corporate tax cut that does not affect the deficit. And I'm going to have regulations about worker safety. Yes, I just repealed don't ask, don't tell. Gays can now serve in the military. So let's put the ROTC back on campuses.
The president trying to present himself as somebody in the middle of all of the big fights, Wolf, a very calculated political statement for a president of the United States who knows, with new divided government in Washington, he is in for a long, tough year. He wants the America people to think he's the reasonable voice in the center.
BLITZER: It was interesting, Candy Crowley. At one point, we -- we wondered if this would happen -- it did happen -- Republicans stood up and applauded, and Democrats sat on their hands. That's when the president spoke of health care changes and medical malpractice lawsuits, frivolous ones. He said, you know what? We need to do something about that.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's a -- yes, and that's a big nod to Republicans. And he's said that before, but it's nice to do that in -- you know, in front of this big crowd and say, hey, I'm with this one.
I actually thought one of his most effective lines was about health care, when he said, let's not, like, re-litigate these past two years. Let's fix what's wrong and move on. I thought that sort of encompassed what he wanted to say, which was: Hey, I'm a reasonable guy. We will fix some stuff, but let's move. Let's, you know, keep going.
I think that was probably one of the more effective lines. Also thought it was interesting that, usually, you know, we wait until about the second graph in the speech and they tell you what state of the union is. This came at the end, that the state of the union is strong because the future is hopeful, not because it's actually strong right this second, but because the future is hopeful.
BLITZER: The president is signing autographs on the programs.
Let's just listen in. Let's eavesdrop a little bit and see what he's saying.
OBAMA: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE) government efficiency (OFF-MIKE)
OBAMA: Thank you so much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That was a great speech.
OBAMA: Thank you.
There you go. You got three, huh?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's a good lady.
OBAMA: All right, here you go...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where's yours, Eliot (ph)? Eliot needs his, too. Bipartisan, right? (LAUGHTER)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bipartisan (OFF-MIKE)
BLITZER: David Gergen, you've heard -- heard a lot of these kinds of speeches, State of the Union addresses. What did you think?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Quiet speech, unusually so, I think possibly because of the way people were sitting.
The first half of the speech was excellent. This is the first president, I think, who has made the secretary of education the most important member of his Cabinet during a speech. I mean, he really centered, I thought, on the competitiveness questions well.
The second half of the speech, it seemed to me to go downhill a bit, and it was particularly disappointing how, I -- I thought, superficially and without boldness, and let an opportunity pass by on the deficits. I really did not think he came (INAUDIBLE) the deficits.
I just want to remind our viewers that, once he leaves the House chamber, the Republican response, the Republican address to the nation, as it's called, Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, will speak. He will go over that speech, by the way, in the House Budget Committee room, which is the -- he's the chairman of that. That will take place five minutes after the president leaves the House chamber.
Gloria Borger is up on Capitol Hill. She watched and listened very closely.
What did you think, Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that the president really set the right tone here, Wolf. He talked about sustaining the American dream.
And he said: Look, there are things we're going to agree on, things we're going to disagree on, and let's not start all over again with health care reform. Let's just make it a better bill.
But I do think it -- it -- it was not a transformational speech, the kind of a speech that people in the White House may have been hoping for, because of -- what they wanted to do was essentially challenge the country to not stand still.
And I'm not quite sure that, in the end, by not dealing with the deficit issues, by not talking more about jobs, jobs, jobs today, that the president made that connection for the American people.
So, overall, I would say that it -- it had the right tone. It was inspirational at parts. It made us feel good about who we are in America. But there were some things that needed to be said about -- about the future of our country, particularly regarding what we're going to do about these deficits in the future that could cripple us.
BLITZER: I want to show our viewers a -- a picture that we have just received, a very moving picture.
There's the astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He's wearing that ribbon in honor of the victims. He's holding her hand. We don't -- we don't see her in this picture, but we're told that he, together with the congresswoman, they're there at that hospital in Houston, Texas. They watched the president's State of the Union address -- a very, very moving moment.
Dana Bash is inside the -- the -- the House chamber.
Dana, this was unusual, in that we had these Democrats and Republicans sitting next to each other, as opposed on different sides of the aisle.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right.
And I -- I'm -- I'm not sure how much you could see on television vs. -- vs. what I could see with my bird's-eye view looking at the whole chamber, but there was a question about whether or not, when the president said something that was worthy of applause from the Democrats' point of view, they would stand up, and Republicans would feel uncomfortable sitting down.
The answer to that was no. There were -- there were so many times, even times where the president wasn't giving overtly partisan or philosophically divisive comments, where Republicans felt very comfortable not...
BASH: ... standing up.
So, I'm not sure if you could see it so much...
BLITZER: All right.
BASH: ... on the screen. It wasn't a seesaw effect, like -- like you would usually see, but you could definitely tell the partisan differences here in the chamber, even though they were all sitting together.
BLITZER: All right.
The president has now left the floor of the House of Representatives. So, five minutes from now, we will hear the official Republican response from Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin.
After that, we will get the Tea Party response from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Let's -- let's bring in some of our other analysts and contributors.
Piers Morgan, you've seen these before, but this is the first time you're been here on CNN with us watching a State of the Union address.
What did you think?
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Well, it was historic. I mean, John Boehner didn't cry. He nearly did.
BLITZER: He nearly did.
MORGAN: Nearly got him.
No, to be serious, I thought that the -- that the key thing that came through to me was, it wasn't massive on substance, but it was big on rhetoric. And for the first time in quite a while, I felt like I understood better what President Obama wants to get from his country and his presidency.
And that, in itself, I think is impressive and notable...
BLITZER: What does he want to get?
MORGAN: He wants to get America back -- back to work. He wants to get it pumping again. He wants to get aggressive and competitive. He wants to be fighting for business both here and abroad.
And if I was watching that, as an American, particularly if I'm unemployed at the moment, I would be thinking, yes, OK, he's right. We have got to stop moaning about the past. We have -- we are where we are. We're in a hole. We now have to -- to be coming together.
And, in a way, the imagery of having the Republicans and Democrats side by side, applauding in the way that they did on occasion collectively, was impressive, because I would be watching, again, saying yes, we need to fight together. This is not about partisan politics now. It's about coming together as a country and getting back on our feet and back to work.
If that's the message, then it's effective.
BLITZER: Erick Erickson, there's a lot of stuff he said there tonight reaching out to Republicans, a lot of stuff they might not have liked, but a lot of -- a lot of points...
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.
BLITZER: ... that were specifically designed to bring them in.
ERICKSON: I'm struck, as a conservative, that, as much as the stereotype is, Republicans want to return us to '50s style morality, that this is a president who very much wants to return us to '50s style governmental-private partnerships, which are actually a historic anomaly in the country.
Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, none of them relied on a government partnership to innovate. They just did it, without the government getting in the way.
And, you know, the one thing that he cited, the Transcontinental Railroad, was actually the first private-public partnership, and it ended in nearly derailing Ulysses S. Grant's presidential campaign, which is why until it took until the '50s to go back to those.
And yet again, we see boondoggles over and over again when the government and private business, particularly giant corporations, get involved together. There was very little tailored toward the entrepreneurial class.
BLITZER: Roland Martin, you were listening to that speech. Did you like it? Did you not like it?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, he mentioned Facebook. He mentioned Google. He cited specific individuals who were even in the audience who are entrepreneurs, who are business owners. And so I think he clearly spoke to those individuals.
What also jumped out, when you talk about the challenge to the American people, what really jumped out, the whole issue of, look, the world has changed. And we spend so much time talking about a lost -- loss of manufacturing jobs and -- and how it used to be.
When he said look, it used to take 1,000, now it takes 100, that was a way of telling the American people, guess what? Wake the hell up. OK? We're not going back to those days. You're going to have to accept the fact that we're operating in a global economy.
What also stood out -- and I spent lots of time last week listening to many of the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King on the 25th anniversary of his national holiday -- not one mention of the poor in this speech, not even a mention of the middle class in this speech.
That stands out when you look at the number of children who are on food stamps, who are in poverty because of this economy. Not to even mention the poor, I still believe, is a failure of the president in any State of the Union speech.
BLITZER: Another sensitive subject that he didn't raise, deliberately -- he could have, but he decided he didn't want to do it in this speech -- was guns, a sensitive subject, especially after what happened in Tucson, although we're told he will deliver a speech in the coming weeks specifically on guns.
Let's just review where we stand right now. Coming up, the Republican response to the president's address. Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin, he is now in the House Budget Committee room. He's the chairman, the new chairman, of that committee. He's only 40 years old, but he's already a clear rising star in the Republican Party. He will be delivering the official Republican response.
And that will be followed by Michele Bachmann, the Republican congresswoman from Minnesota, who will be delivering the Tea Party response to the president, maybe a Tea Party response to the official Republican response as well.
We're going to carry both of those responses well. We have the advanced text. They're not very long, certainly not as long as the president's address to the nation. The president spoke for more than an hour. These will be relatively brief remarks.
And, so, let's get ready to listen to Congressman Paul Ryan. He's getting ready to speak right now from the House Budget Committee.
Here he is, Paul Ryan.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: ... from Janesville, Wisconsin, and chairman here at the House Budget Committee.
President Obama just addressed a congressional chamber filled with many new faces. One face we did not see tonight was that of our friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. We all miss Gabby and her cheerful spirit, and we are praying for her return to the House chamber.
Earlier this month, President Obama spoke movingly at a memorial event for the six people who died on that violent morning in Tucson. Still, there are no words that can lift the sorrow that now engulfs the families and the friends of the fallen.
What we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them, that, in the words of the Psalmist, the lord heals the broken- hearted and binds up their wounds, and that over time grace will replace grief.
As Gabby continues to make encouraging progress, we must keep her and the others in our thoughts as we attend to the work now before us.
Tonight, the president focused a lot of attention on our economy in general, and on our deficit and debt in particular. He was right to do so, and some of his words were reassuring. As chairman of the House Budget Committee, I assure you that we want to work with the president to restrain federal spending.
In one of our first acts in the new majority, House Republicans voted to cut Congress's own budget. And just today, the House voted to restore the spending discipline that Washington sorely needs.
The reason is simple. A few years ago, reducing spending was important. Today, it's imperative. Here's why.
We face a crushing burden of debt. The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy and grow to catastrophic levels in the years ahead.
On this current path, when my three children -- who are now six, seven, and eight years old -- are raising their own children, the federal government will double in size, and so will the taxes they pay.
No economy can sustain such high levels of debt and taxation. The next generation will inherit a stagnant economy and a diminished country. Frankly, it's one of my greatest concerns as a parent, and I know many of you feel the same way.
Our debt is the product of acts by many presidents and many Congresses over many years. No one person or party is responsible for it.
There's no doubt the president came into office facing a severe fiscal and economic situation. Unfortunately, instead of restoring the fundamentals of economic growth, he engaged in a stimulus spending spree that not only failed to deliver on his promise to create jobs, but also plunged us even deeper into debt.
The facts are clear: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies, an 84 percent increase when you include the failed stimulus.
All of this new government spending was sold as "investment." Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above 9 percent, and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.
Then the president and his party made matters even worse, by creating a new open-ended health care entitlement. What we already know about the president's health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have. Job creation is being stifled by all of its taxes, penalties, mandates and fees.
Businesses and unions from around the country are asking the Obama administration for waivers from the mandates. Washington should not be in the business of picking winners and losers. The president mentioned the need for regulatory reform to ease the burden on American businesses. We agree. And we think his health care law would be a great place to start.
Last week, House Republicans voted for a full repeal of this law, as we pledged to do, and we will work to replace it with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage.
Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy. Our debt is out of control. What was a fiscal challenge is now a fiscal crisis.
We cannot deny it. Instead we must, as Americans, confront it responsibly. And that is exactly what Republicans pledge to do. Americans are skeptical of both political parties, and that skepticism is justified, especially when it comes to spending. So hold all of us accountable.
In this very room, the House will produce, debate, and advance a budget. Last year, in an unprecedented failure, Congress chose not to pass or even propose a budget. The spending spree continued unchecked.
We owe you a better choice and a different vision. Our forthcoming budget is our obligation to you, to show you how we would do things differently, how we will cut spending to get the debt down, help create jobs and prosperity, and reform government programs. If we act soon, and if we act responsibly, people in and near retirement will be protected.
These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they're also about the purpose of government.
So I'd like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders, in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and in the words of the American Constitution. They have to do with the importance of limited government and with the blessing of self-government.
We believe government's role is both vital and limited, to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense, to secure our borders, to protect innocent life, to uphold our laws and constitutional rights, to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity, and to provide a safety net -- to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.
We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility. We believe, as our founders did, that the pursuit of happiness depends on individual liberty, and individual liberty requires limited government.
Limited government also means effective government. When government takes on too many tasks, it usually doesn't do any of them very well. It's no coincidence that trust in government is at an all- time low now that the size of government is at an all-time high.
The president and the Democratic leadership have shown, by their actions, that they believe government needs to increase its size and its reach, its price tag and its power.
Whether sold as stimulus or repackaged as investment, their actions show they want a federal government that controls too much, taxes too much, and spends too much in order to do too much. And during the last two years, that is exactly what we have gotten -- along with record deficits and debt -- to the point where the president is now urging Congress to increase the debt limit.
We believe the days of business as usual must come to an end. We hold to a couple of simple convictions: Endless borrowing is not a strategy. Spending cuts have to come first.
Our nation is approaching a tipping point. We are at a moment where, if government's growth is left unchecked and unchallenged, America's best century will be considered our past century. This is a future in which we will transform our social safety net into a hammock, which lulls able-bodied people into lives of complacency and dependency.
Depending on bureaucracy to foster innovation, competitiveness, and wise consumer choices has never worked, and it won't work now. We need to chart a new course.
Speaking candidly, as one citizen to another, we still have time, but not much time. If we continue down our current path, we know what our future will be. Just take a look at what's happening to Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and other nations in Europe. They didn't act soon enough, and now their governments have been forced to impose painful austerity measures, large benefit cuts to seniors and huge tax increases on everybody.
Their day of reckoning has arrived. Ours is around the corner. That is why we have to act now.
Some people will back away from this challenge. But I see this challenge as an opportunity to rebuild what Lincoln called the central ideas of the republic. We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative -- not political clout -- determines who succeeds.
Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise, but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals, because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.
Today, a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods, but our way of life.
We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That's the real secret to job creation, not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.
Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on Earth.
These are not easy times, but America is an exceptional nation. In all the chapters of human history, there has never been anything quite like America. The American story has been cherished, advanced, and defended over the centuries. And it now falls to this generation to pass onto our children a nation that is stronger, more vibrant, more decent, and better than the one we inherited.
Thank you, and good night.
BLITZER: Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin delivering the official Republican response to the president's State of the Union address, saying that the United States right now is approaching a tipping point. Unless there is massive budget cutting, cutting and spending, then the country could face the same kinds of economic disasters as Greece, Ireland and other countries in Europe right now.
One more address coming up, this one from the Tea Party activist Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. This is extraordinary, a third response -- a third speech tonight that we will bring you live only here on CNN, right after this.
BLITZER: Normally, there's an official response from the opposition party. This particular case, the Republican Party. We just heard Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
But now the Tea Party movement, they have yet another response to the president's State of the Union address. We're standing by. We'll carry Michele Bachmann, the Republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, we'll carry her speech live, her response.
But let's just discuss what we've just heard. Piers Morgan is still with us.
Piers, you heard Paul Ryan, the Republican, saying if the United States doesn't take action now, we will face the same economic disaster that Greece, Ireland, the United Kingdom, other European countries pace. Does he have a point there?
MORGAN: He has a good point, and he made it well. That was a good response. But here's the big problem for the Republicans, it seems to me. We now await a second response from the other half of their party, the Tea Party.
And you've got President Obama, who since I've been in New York, which is from the end of October, has gone from 42 percent in the polls to 55 percent in his personal rating, which is a huge, significant jump.
And at the precise moment when you would expect the Republicans to come together right up against him, they seem to be more split than ever. And I don't know how that's going to play out, but if I was a Republican, I would be really worried that I've now got two speeches responding to a pumped-up, confident president, and I would think, "This isn't going to work for us."
BLITZER: You know, David, we're going to dissect the official Republican response, as opposed to Michele Bachmann's unofficial Tea Party Republican response.
GERGEN: The other element (ph) you have, Piers, is that you could reinforce each other. They could actually get two bites of the apple. You know, it would e a shotgun, because they have two -- they can shoot with two arrows.
MORGAN: But do you think that would be effective come a proper election against Obama?
GERGEN: I think that the more they make their case, Ryan gives a short speech, she gives a short speech, adds a lot of numbers in. You know, puts some (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
I thought his speech was lofty. I actually thought, by the standards of these speeches, it was pretty darn good, these responses. Paul Ryan's speech. But it's very loft. And I think she'll come back in and, you know, want to go for the gusto.
MORGAN: A little bit of tea into the party.
BLITZER: It's a lot -- it's a lot harder, Erick, to just look into a camera: no audience, no applause, no standing ovations, to just read a speech from a teleprompter.
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Particularly when there's no one in the room with you. I mean, the good news for all of these speeches, that by some time tomorrow afternoon, they'll all have been forgotten. Historically, that's the case.
But at least -- I mean, the whole time. The best we could say about Paul Ryan, maybe at worst, was he was no Bobby Jindal from last year, which was probably the low bar for responses to the State of the Union.
I would just go back to Piers' point, though, that I -- looking through the transcripts of these speeches now, I do think you're going to see -- I was concerned with Michele Bachmann but actually, transcript-wise of the two, I like her speech a lot more.
ERICKSON: It's shorter. It's to the point, and it deals, actually, into the nuts-and-bolts issues, taken out of the lofty rhetoric.
MARTIN: And let's also be honest. Look, we're the only ones broadcasting her speech, so therefore, validating that response. And so the real question will be, what will folks actually remember going forward? At the end of the day, you're going to see the Tea Party Republican Party. I mean, that's true: they're not a party. The Tea Party Republican Party continue to push the GOP. They're not on the Democratic side in terms of pushing them.
On the point about Paul Ryan's speech, this is important. The change I believe in terms of on the deficit will really take place on the city, the county and the state level. Because when you begin to have folks declaring bankruptcy, that's going to force the American people to realize they cannot keep asking for everything. The benefit of this financial crisis we've been in, it has forced Americans to realize you can't keep buying hotes [SIC] -- I mean, houses and boats and cars and all the different things if you don't have the money, you simply can't pay for it. That to me is what is going to happen. When the cities start saying -- look, we started in Camden, New Jersey. Governor Jerry Brown. That's going to force Congress to say, "They're doing it locally. We must do it nationally.
BLITZER: One thing, though, Candy, as you know and all of us know, speak about cutting spending. It's another thing which we didn't hear in this speech and obviously was not that long of a speech with specifics. Which programs are you going to cut?
CROWLEY: They don't -- they don't get to those specifics until they see who's going to come with them. I mean, you don't want to get out there and be a big old target. The president doesn't want to do it, and he didn't do it.
The speaker didn't want to do it this morning. He won't do it for weeks.
Paul Ryan doesn't want to do it. And take the Michele Bachmanns and people, you know, who are out there, you know, to say, "Here are my specifics."
Let me just say, listen, you know, it's true. The world will little note or long remember what anybody says here tonight, but the fact of the matter is, optics matter.
And for the Republican Party, I think Ryan did them a lot of good tonight. The Republicans have a little trouble getting their act together here with people who don't come across with as, you know, we're now going to take, you know, all the money we can out of your grandmother's Social Security. Paul Ryan, I thought, did a good job at changing the face of the Republican Party, moving it away from the Bush era into something else. Here's a new face. It's a start.
BLITZER: John King is up on Capitol Hill.
John, Paul Ryan is one of the smartest Republicans up there, one of the smartest members of the House of Representatives. But even some of his views that he's put forward over the past year in terms of what to cut, a lot of Republicans aren't necessarily jumping on that bandwagon right now.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: No, they're not, because as Candy notes, we're early in the debate, Wolf. And so many Republicans want to be careful, too. We're just out of an election where many of these new Republicans, some of them have come and said, "If I'm only here two years or four years, that's fine. I'm willing to cut very deep in the federal budget."
But many of the people who have been here longer, especially those who might have a more difficult next year -- next cycle, be a presidential cycle and be more -- House districts get a little different in a presidential cycle. Many of them say, "Whoa, let's wait."
Before I want to say Paul Ryan, for example, wants to go back, like George W. Bush did, to allow you the option -- the option, not mandatory -- to invest some of your Social Security money into private accounts. He wants to turn the Medicare program, over time -- again, if you're 55, this would not affect you, 55 or older -- but for younger Americans, he would like to turn Medicare eventually into a voucher program. You would get a payment from the government. You would then use it to buy private health insurance, not a Medicare program.
Many Republicans say, "Let's see how this plays out before I take the risk of signing onto that."
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to go to Gloria in a moment. But I want to take a quick break. We're awaiting Michele Bachmann to deliver the Tea Party movement's official response to the president's State of the Union address. Stand by. We'll have it live right here after this.
BLITZER: Now Michele Bachmann, the congresswoman from Minnesota, she's about to deliver the Tea Party movement's response to the president's State of the Union address. We're going to bring that to you live as we've brought the official Republican response, as well from Paul Ryan. And then we'll have more analysis.
Anderson Cooper has now joined us. Anderson, as we await Michele Bachmann, this is one of those nights when we get to see a wide spectrum of thought, a lot of lofty comments. But not a whole lot of specifics.
Actually, in past State of the Union speeches, I think the difficulty for speech writers is it often does become a laundry list of items. I think President Obama made an effort to try to paint in broader strokes throughout the speech. I'm interested in hearing what congresswoman Michele Bachmann has to say.
Eric, how do most Republicans feel about the fact that she's even doing this?
ERICKSON: I think most Republicans, actually, are upset that she's doing it. I think they're upset with those of us I guess now just seeing and covering this for free and giving it attention.
BLITZER: All right. Hold on a second, Erick. Let's listen to the congresswoman.
MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: I'm Michele Bachmann from Minnesota's Sixth District. I want to thank the Tea Party Express and Tea Party HD for inviting me to speak this evening. I'm here at their request and not to compete with the official Republican remarks.
The Tea Party is a dynamic force for good in our national conversation, and it's an honor for me to speak with you. Two years ago, when Barack Obama became our president, unemployment was 7.8 percent, and our national debt stood at what seemed like a staggering $10.6 trillion. We wondered whether the president would cut spending, reduce the deficit, and implement real job-creating policies.
Unfortunately, the president's strategy for recovery was to spend a trillion dollars on a failed stimulus program, fueled by borrowed money. The White House promised us that all the spending would keep unemployment under 8 percent. Well, not only did that plan fail to deliver, but within three months, the national jobless rate spiked to 9.4 percent. It hasn't been lower for 20 straight months.
While the government grew, we lost more than 2 million jobs.
Let me show you a chart. Here are unemployment rates over the past ten years. In October of 2001, our national unemployment rate was at 5.3 percent. In 2008, it was at 6.6 percent. But just eight months after President Obama promised lower unemployment, that rate spiked to a staggering 10.1 percent.
Today, unemployment is at 9.4 percent with about 400,000 new claims every week.
After the $700 billion bailout, the trillion-dollar stimulus, and the massive budget bill with over 9,000 earmarks, many of you implored Washington to please stop spending money we don't have. But instead of cutting, we saw an unprecedented explosion of government spending and debt. It was unlike anything we've seen before in the his through of the country.
Well, deficits were unacceptably high under President Bush, but they exploded under President Obama's direction, growing the national debt by an astounding $3.1 trillion. Well, what did we buy? Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's health-care bill.
Obama care mandates and penalties may even force many job creators to just stop offering health-care coverage all together. Unless of course, yours is one of the more than 220 privileged companies or unions, that's already received a government waver under Obama care.
In the end, unless we fully repeal Obama care, a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care might be forced to rely on government-run coverage. That could have a devastating impact on our national debt for even generations to come.
For two years, President Obama made promises, just like the ones we heard him make this evening. Yet, still we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices, and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing.
Well, here's a few gestions [SIC] -- suggestions for fixing our economy. The president could stop the EPA from imposing a job- destroying cap and trade system. The president could support a balanced budget amendment. The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more.
And the president should repeal Obama care and support free- market solutions like medical malpractice reform and allowing all Americans to buy any health-care policy they like anywhere in the United States.
We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burden on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rates in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.
But thanks to you, there's reason for all of us to have hope that real spending cuts are coming. Because last November, you went to the polls, and you voted out the big-spending politicians, and you put in their place great men and women with a commitment to follow our Constitution and cut the size of government.
I believe that we're in the very early days of a history making turn in America. Please know how important your calls, visits and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress is responding, and we're just beginning to start to undo the damage that's been done the last few years.
Because we believe in lower taxes. We believe in a limited view of government and exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world.
Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who can say that we won't see a miracle again? The perilous battle that was fought during World War II in the Pacific at Iwo Jima was a battle against all odds, yet this picture immortalizes the victory of young G.I.s against the Japanese. These six young men raising the flag came to symbolize all of America coming together to beat back a totalitarian regime.
Our current debt crisis we face today is different. But we still need all of us to pull together. But we can do this. That's our hope. We will push forward. We will proclaim liberty throughout the land. And we will do so because we, the people, will never give up on this great nation. So God bless you and God bless the United States of America.
BLITZER: All right, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann speaking on behalf of the Tea Party movement. She's the chair of the Tea Party Caucus in the House of Representatives, making the case -- we're going to dissect what she said.
Erick Erickson is here; Anderson Cooper; members of the "Best Political Team." I want to go to John King, though. He's up on Capitol Hill. Give us a thought on this extraordinary development. Usually we just get one official response. Today we got two.
KING: Well, Wolf, she said right at the top, it was not a competition with the official Republican response, but in many ways it was. In tone, it was very different. You heard the president of the United States, especially talk about health care, saying, "Let's not re-litigate the last two years. Let's look forward and fight about other issues and debate other issues."
Well, that Tea Party address from Michele Bachmann was a re- litigation of the last two years. She used "Obama care" over and over again. She said "repeal Obama care."
Her tone was a bit more alarmist. You heard Mr. Paul Ryan say, "I would like to work with the president. His tone was much more conciliatory.'
But Paul Ryan's tone was much more conciliatory. Let's see where we go.
That was a very much a Tea Party message of fighting President Obama. And the challenge, Wolf, is not just for the president.
The challenge is, "How does the new Republican House majority manage that energy, that verve, that confrontational spirit from the Tea Party members at a time when it, too, is on trial with the American people.
The president has a lot to prove, but so does the new House Republican majority. And the Tea Party's faction in it makes Speaker Boehner's job's a tough management challenge.
BLITZER: Let's get Erick Erickson to wear in.
Eric, she wanted to be in the Republican leadership. The guy said no to her. Is this her little way of responding to that?
ERICKSON: You know, I don't think so. And you know, having seen this speech now and read through the transcript, for several days since this was announced, the narrative that's been built up is, even by some Republicans, is this is going to be in opposition to what Paul Ryan says. But this speech very much seems to reflect it.
We build up these narratives in anticipation before we know what we're going to get. And here we're also talking about how this is somehow combative towards Republicans. This actually, I think, played very well off the Paul Ryan speech and got to the nuts and bolts. It's what, when you listen to the State of the Union political addresses or any of these other political address, you sometimes wish they would get to the point. That's what she did.
That's what she did. That's very authentic for the Tea Party movement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLER: How simple is this? Paul Ryan said our debt is the product of many presidents and congresses. Yet when you hear she speech, she said we wondered whether the president would cut spending and implement real job creating policies. Was she talking about President Obama or president Bush? Republicans taking some form of responsibility is they say deficits were high under President Bush. To sit here and somehow suggest that all of a sudden things were great prior to President Obama coming in, clearly that mistakes the reality of where this country was in 2008.
BLITZER: Because David Gergen, the national debt doubled during the eight years of the Bush administration. Six of those years Republicans also controlled the congress.
GERGEN: Yes. And President Obama in his State of the Union laid the blame for the deficits and the debt squarely on George W. Bush. Two wars that weren't paid for, you know, prescription drugs that weren't paid for, tax cuts that weren't paid for. So each side wants to make its partisan points on this.
But I agree with Erick, she reinforced what Ryan said. She reinforced what Ryan said. She came at it a different way but provided a lot of facts and figures.
BLITZER: You know, Candy, it's one of these nights that we have to absorb a lot and sometimes it will take days for us to fully appreciate what happened here.
CROWLEY: It is. But I'm reminded, listening to Michele Bachmann here, what John Boehner said this morning, it is what it is, and I think that's about right.
BLITZER: All right, guys. This has been an amazing night, I must say, one that I've enjoyed, listening to these different perspectives.
The debate is only just beginning in Washington on all of these issues. The president of the United States is going to have to deal with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. He'll have a much smaller Democratic majority than he used to have in the U.S. Senate.
This is one of those times when we could see a dramatic shift by the president. We've already seen some drama already. We're going to continue all of our coverage right now with Anderson Cooper and 360.