Crafting the perfect response

January 21st, 2011

By Erika Lovley


January 21, 2011

President Bill Clinton would not stop talking. 

That’s all Christine Todd Whitman could think about as she anxiously awaited her big national moment — the official response to the State of the Union address. 

“He gave his regular speech and then kept going,” Whitman said. “I was sitting there saying, ‘Now what do I say; he’s said everything.’ I started to get quite nervous.”

The response speech is one of the more daunting spotlight moments for an up-and-coming politician. Delivered directly after the president’s live address to the full Congress, Cabinet and Supreme Court, and a national TV audience, the response has a reputation for being a second-class act that is awkwardly staged and poorly executed. 

In 2006, Gov. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) was criticized for not hitting Republicans hard enough. 

In 2008, Kathleen Sebelius, then the Democratic governor of Kansas, was lampooned as dreadfully boring. 

In 2009, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, suffered in the media for weeks after delivering a speech that sounded largely narrated and began as he awkwardly trotted into the camera’s view. 
“For all his experience in public life, he had never done anything quite like that and did not seem comfortable,” said David Kusnet, a former chief speechwriter for Clinton. 

“Bobby Jindal is only the latest victim of this speech,” said West Wing Writers founding partner Jeff Shesol, who served as a deputy chief of speechwriting for Clinton. “It’s a dog of a speech that diminishes almost anyone who gives it. It is apparently an honor, but it may feel to the speech-giver like some form of divine punishment.”

Those chosen by leaders of the opposing party to give the speech are usually the up-and-coming face of the party. Kaine gave the speech soon after taking office, having won a tight gubernatorial race in a swing state. Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) did so as a promising freshman — and he was one of the few in recent years who really nailed it, getting rave reviews for articulating the Democratic alternative to an unpopular President George W. Bush.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) delivered a joint speech in 2005, kick-starting a campaign season in which Democrats would take back Congress. 
But while the speeches are frequently touted as kingmakers, they are more often known for being notoriously bland and significantly less impressive than the main event — largely because of the formalities required when following the president.

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Kirk Heinze: Energy from the ‘Heavens’ must include nuclear

January 12th, 2011

By Kirk Heinze
January 12, 2011

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing two most accomplished women on Greening of the Great Lakes. Both are former governors. Both are exceedingly knowledgeable, articulate and passionate about the beliefs they hold dear. And, among those beliefs, they share a deep and abiding commitment to the development of renewable energy.

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Ex-Gov. Whitman lives on working farm

January 5th, 2011

By Christine Todd Whitman
Daily Record
January 5, 2011

Dear Editor,

New Jersey is known as the Garden State for good reason, thanks in large part to the land our farmers steward and preserve. While I fully understand the need to periodically update the definition of a working farm, it is important to note that many good peaches, apples, and other produce come from farms that don’t cover hundreds of acres. In your recent editorial (“Fake farmers need not apply,”) about farmland preservation and “fake” farmers, you included my name in a way that seemed more like a political statement than a factual criticism of our farm.

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Christie’s family-first defense for blizzard absence: No woman could say that

January 5th, 2011

By Kathleen O’Brien
The Star-Ledger
January 04, 2011

TRENTON — Imagine this scenario: A woman governor heads for a Disney vacation with her family just as a blizzard is approaching. When the storm cleanup doesn’t go as well as planned, she is criticized for her absence.

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Op-Ed | Nuclear Energy: An Economic Lifeline for Local Communities

January 5th, 2011

By Maudine R. Cooper
January 5, 2011

The latest unemployment numbers reveal that African Americans seeking work still are among the hardest hit by the economic downturn. The 16 percent unemployment rate among African Americans hovers around a 25-year high, and remains six percentage points above the national average.

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