How McDonnell Should Respond to Obama’s State of the Union

Virginia governor should summon the ghosts of liberty far away from Washington insiders.

By + More

By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

A number of pundits are making suggestions for Gov. Bob McDonnell's Republican response to the State of the Union address, and I have an idea too. Rather than standing in front of any empty desk in the U.S. Capitol and speaking into a lone camera, he should address the nation from the floor of the Virginia legislature in front of a live audience, and say something like this:

I'm speaking to you tonight from the Capitol of the great Commonwealth of Virginia, in the building designed by our former governor, Thomas Jefferson, located on Shockoe Hill here in Richmond. Not far from where I stand tonight, on the hill next to this one, Church Hill, sits the old St. John's Church. In 1775, just hours after the British marched on Concord, Mass., Virginia's first governor, Patrick Henry, stood before citizens of the largest colony and said, "Give me liberty or give me death!" And Virginia joined the revolution.

Just as we did in colonial times, Virginia has again joined the revolution. This time, it's a revolution of ideas ... one of smaller, not bigger, government ... lower, not higher, taxes ... and less, not more, federal spending. It's a revolution in which people are saying they want power returned to their state governments, their city halls, their neighborhoods. They're fed up with the arrogance of the expanding nanny state. They've had enough of one-size-fits-all solutions, massive bailouts, and back-room deals. Like Patrick Henry, we want liberty.

Haley Barbour, then the chairman of the RNC, asked Gov. Christie Todd Whitman of New Jersey to make a similar Republican response from the floor of the New Jersey legislature in 1995, immediately after the GOP took back the House and Senate in 1994. It was the first time the Republican response was given outside of Washington, D.C., the first time by a governor--and the first time by a woman as well--and it worked beautifully. By highlighting the recent anti-Washington message sent by Virginia voters, by showcasing his fiscally responsible mandate, and by emphasizing liberty and limited-government conservatism, Governor McDonnell could hit it out of the ballpark if he addressed the nation from Virginia's Capitol.