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President Clinton set a record in his seventh and final State of the
Union address. This one lasted 89 minutes, topping the one he gave in
1995 by one long minute. These could be the most expensive 89 minutes
on record. His remarks before a joint session of Congress sounded more
like a campaign speech than a report on the health of the nation. The
giveaway proposals he unveiled last Thursday night were reminiscent of
the array of goodies he presented during his 1996 campaign, when he
announced vast new federal programs in every stump speech. However,
instead of the progressive-dinner approach he took in 1996, Thursday’s
speech was one long 101-course gastronomical orgy. Instead of promising
we the people a chicken in every pot, it was filet mignon on a silver
platter.

The tab for all the new and expanded federal programs topped out at
$743 billion ($400 billion for Medicare and $343 billion for other
programs). The Libertarian Party was kind enough to break this down for
us. It figures out to $139 million a second, $8.3 billion a minute or
$495.3 billion an hour. To top it all, Mr. Clinton promised to deliver
all these things and pay off the national debt by 2013, presumably
without cutting a single federal program. Imagine that. If the
American people swallow this, they will break another record — the
record for gullibility.

In his final hurrah, this lame duck president was bold — extremely
bold. He even threw in a surprise plan to require photo licenses of gun
owners, “indicating they have passed the Brady Law’s background check
and completed a safety course.” He failed to mention that you can’t buy
a gun legally from any dealer in this country unless you have passed the
background check.

The Republican response was in sharp contrast to the Clinton
address. It was beyond weak; it was timid. In many ways, it was a “me
too,” speech, delivered by two mild-mannered, freshmen, pro-abortion
senators. Bill Frist of Tennessee and Susan Collins of Maine were chosen
by Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to represent a Republican
Conference that is predominately pro-life. Frist is considered a
moderate by most standards, but Collins’ record indicates she is every
bit as radical as her Maine big sister, Olympia Snowe.

Collins and Snowe were the two votes Lott needed last year to pass
the bill that would have ended the brutal form of legalized infanticide
known as the partial birth abortion, with a veto-proof majority. These
two Maine senators would not vote with the majority to end the practice
of killing little babies in the very process of birth. This is supposed
to be a high priority with the Republicans in Congress, so why did Lott
reward Collins with this plum assignment?

Collins also was one of only five Republicans to vote “no” on both
articles of impeachment against the president. Americans are hungry for
moral leadership. However, when Trent Lott singled out Collins to give
part of the Republican response to the State of the Union address, he
lost a chance to seize the high ground.

Collins and Frist used their precious time before a national
television audience, not to make the case against bigger and bigger
government, but to tell us how Republicans spent $500 million more than
President Clinton wanted for education last year, doubled the amount of
funds for medical research, increased Pell grants and student loans, and
advanced Clinton-care through the backdoor by taking in children.

Frist and Collins promised that Republicans, too, would save Social
Security, pay down the national debt and save Medicare — which is now
broke — by adding a new prescription drug benefit. They, too,
neglected to mention one program that would be cut.

Just how out of touch are Republicans with the people who gave them
the keys to the leadership offices of both houses of Congress? Collins
said, “Republicans want what all parents want for their children’s
schools, more federal help, but less federal interference.” Most
parents want less interference all right. However, we are smart enough
to understand that it makes no sense to send a dollar to Washington,
have it washed through several layers of bureaucracy and get back 50
cents.

Clinton used this opportunity to make the case for big government and
he used it well, but for Republicans, it was an opportunity lost.

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