Senator Alexander was an inspired choice, I think, to respond to President Obama’s opening statement. It is really quite good. For one thing, Alexander’s tone is perfect: reasonable, respectful, and authentic. He doesn’t sound as if he were reading from tired talking points. He was actually engaging Obama as well as the moment we’re in. Senator Alexander also made excellent use of his own experiences in politics. He used nice analogies (“This car can’t be recalled and fixed,” he said. “It’ time to start over — but Republicans do want to start over.”) He highlighted the sweetheart deals in the Senate bill. And he made a very important framing point: Republicans aren’t coming forward with a comprehensive plan because “we don’t do comprehensive well.” The nation is too big, too complicated, and too decentralized. And then he had this nice, subtle jab: “Comprehensive may work in a classroom [Professor Obama], but it doesn’t work in our big, complicated country.” Alexander then laid out, very briefly, several GOP ideas. And then he laid out a fantastic challenge to Obama to renounce reconciliation — and anticipated what Democrats would say in response. He explained, in accessible terms, why reconciliation wasn’t appropriate.
Senator Alexander’s statement, in contrast to the grating comments by Nancy Pelosi and (especially) Harry Reid, was first-rate. It’s been a good first hour for Republicans.