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How Did We Miss Obama's Great Big 'Socialist' State of the Union? | The Nation

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John Nichols

John Nichols

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How Did We Miss Obama's Great Big 'Socialist' State of the Union?

It turns out that President Obama gave a far more radical State of the Union Address than most commentators, political observers and perhaps even the commander-in-chief himself imagined.

Most progressives thought Obama erred at least a bit too far toward the right in a speech that was laden with talk about deficit reduction and spending cuts. And some conservatives even complained that the Democratic president was stealing their best lines.

But Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, arguably the most right-wing member of the House Republican Caucus, has ears that are apparently more attuned than those of pundits and progressives—or, for that matter, most conservatives.

Broun heard the president outlining a "socialist" agenda. 

After Obama referenced the Constitution in his address to members of the House and Senate Tuesday night, Broun Tweeted tweeted from the chamber, "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."

On a night when many Democrats and Republicans were practicing civility—or, at the very least, good manners—no conservative congressmen shouted "you lie" during the president's remarks. But Broun's was having none of the new Congressional congeniality. He called Obama out.

And he refused to back down when asked about his off-message messaging on Wednesday.

"I stick by that tweet," Broun told CBS, who explained: "Mr. Obama believes in central government where the federal government controls everything in our lives. That's socialism."

Obama may have tried to slip something by the Congress with all that talk of expanding free trade, making it tougher to sue corporations, freezing discretionary spending and seeking "painful cuts" in programs that aid low-income communities. 

But there was still enough talk about saving Social Security, investing in infrastructure and education and caring for the vulnerable to alert Broun.

He heard the secret socialist messaging.

And if Broun recognized it, surely the American people—wiser and more aware always the Washington-warped elected elites—must have detected it. 

Perhaps this explains why a CNN/Opinion Research poll found that 84 percent of those who watched the speech reacted positively to what the president had to say; with 52 percent of them reacted "very positively." The numbers were even better for Obama in a CBS News poll, which found 91 percent of State of the Union viewers were enthusiastic about the president's proposals. 

So that's how it goes with State of the Union addresses: sneak a little socialism in and you're going to get called on it by Congressman Broun.

But you'll earn the approval of the American people.

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