Obama's speech long on rhetoric, short on substance

These examples unite us all. Unfortunately, the rest of the President’s address more closely resembled a stump speech than one worthy of being delivered to our Congress — and our nation — about the challenges facing us. Recklessly strewn rhetoric, as good as it may sound, only serves to divide us.

Consider, for instance, the president’s comments on our energy policy. He claimed he would not “cede the wind or solar or battery industry to China” or walk away from American workers in need of jobs. But this is precisely what he did earlier this month when he pandered to the environmental lobby and refused the permit for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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This privately-funded project would have ultimately created more than 100,000 jobs for some Americans hardest hit by the recession—pipefitters, welders, machinists and more. At the same time, it would reduce our reliance on oil from hostile or war-torn nations. Now, unless Congress takes action, this pipeline will be built to Canada’s Pacific coast, where it will ship—effectively ceding—crude oil to China.

President Obama also touted the Department of Defense’s (DoD) clean energy initiatives. With the DoD facing $600 billion in cuts, this is a misguided and blatantly political maneuver. DoD’s priority must be allocating all possible resources to providing the best equipment and training to our troops and keeping our country safe—not making their mission that of the Department of Energy.

During his address, President Obama called for the shrinking of federal government and a reduction in our deficit. Yet at the same time, he also called for the formation of new bureaucracies and proposed a multitude of projects to be paid for by the taxpayers.

For instance, President Obama invoked the need for Great Depression-era projects like the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge. To most people, this sounds like he’s laying the groundwork for another stimulus, which was an abject failure the first time.

Perhaps the most frustrating element of Tuesday night’s speech was the President’s call to extend the payroll tax cut. House Republicans did just that last December, only to have it rejected by Senate Democrats. We have also passed 28 job-creating and regulation-reducing bills, only to see them pile up in the Senate and go without mention during the State of the Union. It seems the President should have directed his request to reduce regulations that prevent “aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow” to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his Senate cronies.

Finally, as a medical doctor, the absence of health care from the State of the Union was both baffling and concerning. One would think that one-sixth of our economy would warrant more than 44 words during the course of such a momentous occasion. That the president would make no mention of his “signature” achievement while in office speaks volumes to its popularity.

At the conclusion of Groundhog Day, Phil Connors takes advantage of his situation and works to improve the lives of those around him and learn from his mistakes. It is my hope that this year, President Obama will do the same and work with Congress to address the many challenges our country faces. There is simply too much at stake to continue the status quo.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.