As President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress on jobs and the U.S. economy approached, at least five Republican members — Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and David Vitter of Louisiana, and Reps. Paul Broun of Georgia, Joe Walsh of Illinois and Ron Paul of Texas — announced that they wouldn’t be attending.
As far as Broun’s decision was concerned, it probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to his constituents in Georgia’s 10th Congressional District — which includes Athens-Clarke County — given his decision to sit out the State of the Union address earlier this year.
This editorial won’t excoriate Broun or any other members of Congress who chose not to attend the joint session for Obama’s speech. They were, of course, perfectly free to decide on, and take, that course of action.
It is, however, a bit discouraging — even though the five lawmakers represent less than 1 percent of the total membership of Congress — that they chose not to be on hand for the address.
Clearly, those five members of Congress — not to mention dozens of other members — have significant differences of opinion with this nation’s Democratic president over how best to address its economic problems.
One wonders if Broun and his like-minded colleagues might have earned a different kind of political capital if they’d taken a more nuanced approach.
As noted, Broun was critical earlier in the week of what he sees as Obama’s refusal to listen to the American people. So what if, instead of opting out of attending the speech in a flurry of charged language, Broun and the other four lawmakers had said something like, “I don’t feel as if the president is listening to the American people, or to me, but I’m willing to listen to him,” and had attended the speech?
They would still have gotten their point across, but would have done so without adding yet more theatrics to an already long-crippled national discourse.
In closing, it should also be noted that neither Broun nor any other members of Congress who sat out Obama’s address would have done so if they weren’t certain that their actions would be widely accepted in their home districts.
Insofar as that is the case, each of us in the 10th District now is at least somewhat complicit in this country’s seeming inability to engage in respectful and productive discourse.
— Online: www.onlineathens.com