No Hands Clapping

President Clinton joked during his 2000 State of the Union address that it was like watching a seesaw—a lopsided one. As he ticked off dozens of proposals, the Democrats, sitting to his right, leaped up and cheered, while the Republicans, to his left, sat dourly on their hands. Since President Bush's election, of course, the congressional seesaw has tilted in a new direction, but the political audience's reaction to the State of the Union still serves as a good measure of Red State/Blue State divisions.

Here are lines that Republicans greeted with loud applause during President Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech, while the Democrats glared glumly into space or checked their watches.

1. "Jobs are created when the economy grows; the economy grows when Americans have more money to spend and invest; and the best, fairest way to make sure Americans have that money is not to tax it away in the first place."

2. "I am proposing that all the income-tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year."

3. "And under my plan, as soon as I sign the bill, this extra money will start showing up in workers' paychecks. Instead of gradually reducing the marriage penalty, we should do it now."

4. "Instead of slowly raising the child credit to a thousand dollars, we should send the checks to American families now."

5. "It's fair to tax a company's profits. It is not fair to again tax the shareholder on the same profits. To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly ten million seniors who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends."

6. "Lower taxes and greater investment will help this economy expand. More jobs mean more taxpayers, and higher revenues to our government. The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth, and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C."

7. "I will send you a budget that increases discretionary spending by four percent next year—about as much as the average family's income is expected to grow. And that is a good benchmark for us. Federal spending should not rise any faster than the paychecks of American families."

8. "As we continue to work together to keep Social Security sound and reliable, we must offer younger workers a chance to invest in retirement accounts that they will control and they will own."

9. "To improve our health-care system we must address one of the prime causes of higher cost, the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued. Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care, and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. I urge the Congress to pass medical-liability reform."

10. "Americans are doing the work of compassion every day—visiting prisoners, providing shelter for battered women, bringing companionship to lonely seniors. These good works deserve our praise; they deserve our personal support; and when appropriate, they deserve the assistance of the federal government. I urge you to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act, to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America, one heart and one soul at a time."

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Christopher Shea writes a column about academia for The Boston Globe's "Ideas" section.

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