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Bob McDonnell

Myths about the State Budget

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 11:03:03 AM EDT

(Cross-posted at Blue Virginia)

Here we go again. Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to walk in the footsteps of George Allen and shrink the big, bad, state government. When Allen tried that, it was simply a smokescreen for his radical conservative agenda. He was more interested in  vouchers for private schools and privatizing mental health and child support services than in ending unnecessary state spending.

Conservatives in the GOP always throw around this budget figure: "State spending over the past decade has grown 73 percent in the past 10 years." NOT TRUE.

The figure bandied about by those who begrudge any state revenue going to anyone except themselves includes directed funds, such as money that gives tuition help to state colleges. According to the latest JLARC report, the actual increase in state spending for the General Fund  in the last 10 years is 46 percent.

If one is honest and corrects that figure for inflation and state population growth (10 percent), the state budget has grown only 8 percent over 10 years, or less than 1 percent per year. That is hardly profligate state spending.

However, here we go again...  

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Cuccinelli: Making Virginia Look Foolish

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 10:29:53 AM EDT

Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli is insisting that he will file suit against the federal government because the recently passed health reform law requires citizens to either purchase health insurance (with or without government assistance, depending on income) or pay a fine.

According to our legally-challenged attorney general, the federal government has no constitutional right to insist that individuals purchase insurance.

Cuccinelli said in a statement released by his office. "We contend that if a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person - by definition - is not engaging in commerce, and therefore, is not subject to a federal mandate."

What does Kookinelli think about Virginia's mandate that drivers either purchase auto insurance or pay a large fee into the state "uninsured motorist fund"? Isn't that government insisting I and every other person who drives buy insurance?

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What's Gov. Bob Running For?

by: kindler

Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 15:51:22 PM EST

Democrats in Virginia have long had the joy of running against Republicans who are - let's face it - not exactly the sharpest knives in the cupboard. Think about George Allen saying "macaca" repeatedly in front of a live camera, Bob Marshall expounding on pretty much whatever pops into his head, Ken Cuccinelli acting like the vizier of a banana republican issuing ever more bizarre declarations by the day.

Opposing these types of jokers is kinda like shooting fish in a barrel. It's not that hard to make fun of people who already are living, breathing caricatures.

But what if we had to face Repubs who actually think before they open their mouths?  Alas, that sad day seems to have come to pass.  Bob McDonnell is not your father's Virginia Republican.  The transition from folks like George Allen and Jim Gilmore to Gov. Bob may be proof of the theory of (political) evolution.

This is not to say that McDonnell is in reality any less conservative (and he wants his followers to know that, wink, wink). But he seems able to make statements and take policy positions that don't leave him looking like a complete jackass.

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Gov. Wimpy's Forgotten Promises

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Mar 12, 2010 at 10:11:29 AM EST

I certainly hope that many people who thought they were voting for the guy best able to lead Virginia in this difficult time are rethinking their choice after a few months of seeing Bob McDonnell in action.

Robert McCartney of the Washington Post recently took stock of just how Gov. Bob McDonnell is or is not fulfilling the promises he made to voters, promises that were mainly responsible for his resounding victory over Creigh Deeds. The two promises McCartney looked at were McDonnell's promise to shrink the size of government and cut the budget without having to cut basic services to citizens and to lead from day one in solving our transportation mess, an issue that is so important to much of northern Virginia.  

So, let's see where the little guy stands on those issues - and a few more:

McDonnell's leadership on the massive budget shortfalls Virginia has consisted of recommending nothing to the legislature. Instead, he let them take all the heat for the cuts in basic services that the Republican "we-hate-government-no-new-taxes" philosophy dictates. Plus, his plan for tackling transportation morphed into a "plan" to delay any plan until next year because the legislature was "too busy."

During the campaign McDonnell told voters that Creigh Deeds' idea for a bipartisan commission to redistrict the state was a fine idea that he also embraced. It turns out his embrace meant smothering the idea and letting it die in the GOP-controlled House of Delegates.

Even his response to AG Ken Cuccinelli's terrible leap into gay-bashing at Virginia's colleges and universities was a halfhearted "executive directive" against discrimination that has no standing in the law. If he had followed both Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and issued an executive order against discrimination based on sexual orientation, then people would have had recourse in court. His  "executive directive" is worth absolutely nothing legally. It simply says that the governor doesn't want you to do that.

If this is leadership, then I have a fine, historic bridge in Brooklyn to sell you - cheap.

Let's continue looking at McDonnell's record so far.  

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The Buck Passes to Local Government

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Mar 07, 2010 at 12:15:10 PM EST

We all know that Bob McDonnell and his fellow Republicans have painted themselves into a "no new taxes" corner in order to satisfy their base. Now, others will have to suffer for that.

There is one week to go before the end of the General Assembly session, but no budget agreement appears on the horizon. Even so, one thing is sure about this budget. It will put pressure on local government officials to either raise revenue - increase property taxes - or be the face of the cuts in services that will be deeply felt in Virginia's cities, towns, and counties.

We can look at public education as an example of how the state passes the fiscal buck for their own demands on localities. The state, even in these bad times, requires schools to maintain 21-to-1 student-teacher ratios, provide free textbooks and transportation and offer programs for at-risk students and free and reduced-price breakfasts in any school where at least one-fourth of students qualify for them.

The federal No Child Left Behind law mandates frequent testing, which carries a high price tag while delivering dubious data. It also mandates a certain level of improvement per year in educational outcomes and remedial instruction for those who fail to meet the minimum standards.

I haven't even scratched the surface of the mandates for education.

So, what does Bob McDonnell have to say about the state passing mandates on to the localities without sufficient state revenue to fund them? "They'll be innovative, they'll be creative, and they'll find a way to manage better," he said.

No, they won't. Virginia's localities can't be "innovative;" they can't "manage" better. McDonnell and the rest of the "don't tax me" crowd have identified the problem facing us right now the wrong way.

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McDonnell the Latest GOP Hypocrite

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 13:01:29 PM EST

Oh, my Lord! Who would have thought...

Bob McDonnell has caught the rampant "hypocrite flu" that is raging in the GOP community this year.

The Washington Post is reporting that Gov. McDonnell met with Virginia's congressional delegation in Washington and asked them to help him secure stimulus funds to help build a Rolls Royce manufacturing plant in Prince George County near Petersburg.

I will give McDonnell this much. His hypocrisy is tempered by the way he has danced around his party's criticism of the president and the Recovery Act. During the campaign for governor, McDonnell trashed the Recovery Act as a waste of money on a regular basis. At the same time, though, he said Virginia should accept the money.

McDonnell met with the entire congressional delegation, minus Sen. Jim Webb, who had another obligation. Besides begging for stimulus act money for the state, McDonnell discussed his desire to see off-shore oil drilling, ways to prevent a Norfolk-based aircraft carrier from being relocated to Florida, and various measures to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Gov. Wimpy also told the legislators he supports Congress extending the federal stimulus bill to help states cover rising Medicaid health care costs, a infusion of funds that he hopes will help close that $4.2 billion budget shortfall Virginia is facing. President Obama's proposed six-month Medicaid extension could pump $350 million into the state's coffers for health care.

So, let me get the governor's "logic" sorted out here.  

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Defense of Common Wealth

by: legacyofmarshall

Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 12:36:08 PM EST

Cross Posted at Virginia Young Democrats Blog

The idea of common wealth goes back to the very beginning of civilization, when humans first realized that a community could accomplish for the individual what no individual could do on their own.  Over the course of millennia, religious and political leaders from Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed to Thomas Hobbes and Franklin Roosevelt have suggested that humans bound together could fill the gaps of society.

The United States and Virginia governments have pursued such a philosophy for hundreds of years.  Military defense, education, and social services for children and the elderly ensure the ideals of equality, general welfare, and prosperity laid out by our founding fathers.  In 2010, Virginia's Governor proposed that no bit of our common wealth is sacred, and today we face the very real possibility that government spending, or lack thereof, will exacerbate the gaps in our society that we as a species have tried for so many generations to eradicate.

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How To Gut the State Retirement Fund

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Feb 20, 2010 at 09:49:06 AM EST

You can take it to the bank that there is a serious problem when the Richmond Times-Dispatch challenges a decision made by a Republican governor. Well, that has happened regarding Bob McDonnell's proposal to gut the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) such that the fund will drop its amount on hand to cover future obligations from 84% to 62% by the time his term ends.

The Times-Dispatch ran a lengthy article on the subject February 19.

According to McDonnell's "crystal ball," the VRS will provide a way for state and local governments to escape some of the pain that would come from balancing their budgets. How? By not putting in the government's share of money to cover future obligations for a few years.

That may help McDonnell's - and localities' - budget woes this year, but it could well create terrible problems in the future. Problems that will put in jeopardy the retirements of teachers, police officers, firefighters, all those who work for state or local government.

McDonnell is proposing cuts in contributions to the VRS by more than $600 million. At the same time, he has rejected former Gov. Kaine's proposal to ask present employees to pay into the fund themselves. Instead, he is advocating reduced retirement benefits for future employees, plus making them the only ones to pay into the system.  

If the guys around Gov. Wimpy believe that creating a future group of "second-class citizen" public employees in VRS is going to solve the problem created by cutting government contributions, they better think again. Officials at the VRS warn that reduced payments now would have to be made up in future budgets, either that or jeopardize the solvency of the fund. Any savings the state might realize from reducing benefits for new hires would take decades to realize.

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Education Cuts: You Get What You Voted For

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Feb 19, 2010 at 11:40:28 AM EST

"You can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members."  - Mahatma Ghandi

The Roanoke Times had an eye-opening article today on the impact on education in our area of Virginia of Gov. Bob McDonnell's plan to slash three quarters of a billion dollars from public education state funding over the next two years.

School boards statewide know that they have to look at shuttering schools, letting teachers go, postponing necessary maintenance, and slashing the instructional program to make up for the loss of revenue from the state.

Meanwhile, McDonnell's first response to his cuts in educational funding is a meeting in Richmond with students from "virtual schools" - kids who "go to the school" over the Internet - touting that as a great "advance" in education.

You know, you would think that the parts of the state that voted overwhelmingly for this guy will now see the cost to be paid for four years, but I doubt that. Any time anyone mentions any sort of tax increase, no matter how small, these people act as if they are being asked to live on the street and beg for food.

Education in my area of Virginia is going to be especially hard hit, at a time when southwest Virginia also has some of the highest unemployment in the Commonwealth.

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McDonnell's Budget a Job Destroyer

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Thu Feb 18, 2010 at 10:24:48 AM EST

Remember how Bob McDonnell said he wanted to be Virginia's "jobs governor"? The only problem is that he failed to mention that he was going to destroy jobs, not create them.

Remember when "Mr. Moderate" McDonnell was going around Virginia promising all sorts of goodies if the electorate would just send him to the governor's mansion? Well, I've been keeping score on how his "efforts" are working out so far. I will paraphrase Gov. Wimpy's promises and then take a look at reality.

"I have a transportation plan. My opponent just wants to study the problem. We can't wait another year to tackle the most important problem facing the Commonwealth."

Oh, yes we can wait another year. McDonnell has decided that the poor, overworked General Assembly just can't do anything on transportation this year. Besides, the oil rigs aren't up and pumping yet, the federal government hasn't been asked to put tolls on Interstate highways yet, and the state can't afford to lose the $100 million it gets from ABC store revenues.

"I will be the 'jobs governor.' My opponent has no plans to bring jobs to Virginia. I do."

No, he doesn't. In fact, the budget cuts he's recommended - now that he finally got up the courage to let the citizens in on them - will destroy thousands of jobs in Virginia. Here are just a few examples:  

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Vicious Budget Cuts, Cowardly Governor

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Feb 17, 2010 at 11:45:58 AM EST

I know I've already written quite a lot about the state budget, but information is so hard to come by that I'll update things one more time.

I'm angry today. I'm angry that we in Virginia are poised to make the most vulnerable citizens in the Commonwealth pay the highest price for the budget crisis that Wall Street greed caused in Virginia and the rest of America. I'm also angry that we have a guy sitting in the governor's mansion who is too cowardly to share with the rest of us what he wants done.

The way this whole thing is unfolding is wrong. Normally, we would be having a spirited discussion about the cuts that have to be made to balance the state budget. However, as I have written before, this mess is unfolding in secret.

According to today's Washington Post, Gov. Bob McDonnell is very specific in secret meetings in describing the kind of budget cuts he wants to see made in the state budget, in order to meet his demand for no new taxes.

He apparently doesn't want any advocates for the poor, the sick, the elderly, or the children to be able to make a case for sparing those groups some of the sacrifices they are going to be asked to make. Plus, he actually must think he can keep his own hands clean in this mess and have the legislature get all the negative fallout.

I am thankful for the Washington Post and its reporter Anita Kumer, who has been writing about the secret budget discussions by using leaks from Richmond. Those efforts are the only way we citizens have to keep an eye on McDonnell and his plans for the state.

The cut list Gov. Wimpy has given Republicans in the General Assembly is pretty horrendous:

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Governor Wimpy Fibs Again

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 11:08:37 AM EST

When Bob McDonnell was running around Virginia last fall acting like "Mr. Moderate," he had this to say about legislative redistricting:

"I have followed the robust debate over redistricting for a long while...I do believe that we need to institute bipartisan redistricting to ensure greater citizen involvement, and the vigorous exercise of democracy that is the prerequisite for successful government."

He even had a specific proposal on the subject:

"[A] bipartisan commission, comprised of Virginia citizens who have not held any elected office for at least 10 years, will select its own non-partisan chair and will provide the citizens with access to the process through public meetings, proposed maps online, and a website that will allow public comment and interaction in this important process."

Now, the Washington Post is reporting that last week McDonnell had a golden opportunity to advance the cause of redistricting reform that he embraced as a candidate. He didn't.

Did he mean anything that he said about fair redistricting? Evidently not.

I won't dignify this latest news from Gov. Bob McDonnell by calling it a flip-flop. That's giving it too much credit. Let's just call his campaign promise what it was - a lie.  

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McDonnell, the "Cowardly Lion"

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Feb 13, 2010 at 14:07:19 PM EST

Many of us have been wondering just when Bob McDonnell was going to start leading the state he said he wanted to lead. The General Assembly has been in session now since January 13, and the Commonwealth's citizens still are waiting for McDonnell to tell us what cuts he wants made in the budget since he refuses to accept parts of outgoing Gov. Kaine's budget.

Well, according to the Washington Post, Gov. Bob McDonnell has plenty of ideas on how he wants the budget cut; the problem is that he just wants to whisper them to GOP legislators in the General Assembly. Evidently, he is afraid of  sharing them with the rest of us.

I have two mental images of Bob McDonnell these days. The first is the "Cowardly Lion" from "The Wizard of Oz." The other one is Charles Durning, who played the governor of Texas in "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

As Durning bobbed and weaved and popped out from columns he was hiding behind, he sang, "Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't/ I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step/ cut a little swathe and lead the people on."

So, what's our "Cowardly Lion" sidestepping around in Richmond? We are finally getting some specifics from details leaking out to the rest of us.  

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Get Ready for the Worst

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 11:24:03 AM EST

The draconian cuts in the budget that are going to be made in Richmond are slowly taking shape, even as the Democrats in the Senate can't agree on the path they will follow in writing their version of the biennial budget.

"Do we, as Democrats, believe in core government services? Do we believe it or not?" Sen.  Ed Houck (D-Spotsylvania) said recently.

On the other side is Senate Finance Chairman Charles Colgan (D-Prince William), who absolutely will not support former Gov. Kaine's proposal to stop subsidizing a reduction in the local car tax and instead raise the state income tax by one percent and give localities enough money to eliminate the car tax altogether.

Meanwhile, over in the Republican-controlled House of Delegates and at the Governor's Mansion, there is a single budget philosophy: cut, cut, cut, especially programs that affect the "little people."

The people who are being targeted for the worst of the budget cuts are children in public schools, the poor on Medicaid, those in need of mental health services, state and local employees, and local government services partially supported by the state.

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New Tools for Politics

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Feb 09, 2010 at 10:48:45 AM EST

We all know by now just how feckless and ineffectual the campaign of Martha Coakley was in trying to hold the U.S. Senate seat of Ted Kennedy for the Democrats in Massachusetts, but the way Scott Brown won that election hinges on much more than that.

Brown's campaign bought Google ads for keywords related to the race,  including their opponent's name, so when anyone Googled "Martha Coakley," a Brown ad popped up at the top of the results page. Bob McDonnell did the very same thing in Virginia's gubernatorial race.

Brown spent nearly 10 percent of his total campaign ad budget online. For example, his Google ads were hit by Massachusetts citizens over 65 million times. (Note that the population of Massachusetts is about 6.5 million.) Unfortunately for Democrats, the complacent Massachusetts state Democratic party didn't play the Internet game.

While I know that the McDonnnell campaign in Virginia used Google ads and other Internet techniques, that race didn't come close to the Brown one in being tech-savvy. It hardly mattered since the Deeds campaign was hopelessly lost in how to use the old tools of electioneering, never mind the newest ones.

I have some thoughts on the lessons the Brown campaign has for Virginia Democrats.

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Budget Deficit Burns; McDonnell Fiddles

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 16:20:04 PM EST

It looks like even the Republicans in the General Assembly are pretty sick of Gov. Bob McDonnell's refusal so far to commit to amendments to cut the state budget by over $4 billion. In two weeks the budget committees in each house must have bills ready to adopt, but without executive leadership, the job is well nigh impossible.

Perhaps McDonnell is praying that four or five Republicans in the legislature will meet in a back room and devise ways to eliminate more than $4 billion from the budget and then take all the blame for the program cuts that will follow. That won't happen.

In an interview in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this weekend, State Sen. Tom Norment (R-James City), the Senate Republican floor leader, said, "It's going to take divine intervention."

I don't know if he is asking God to write the state budget or asking God to prod the new governor to show at least a tiny bit of leadership. Both appear to be long shots.

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Unintended Consequences

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Wed Feb 03, 2010 at 12:09:03 PM EST

Sometimes, in an attempt to please people and do something that is basically symbolic, politicians create unintended consequences. Here's one:

Bob McDonnell's "transportation plan" - for some unfathomable reason - so far has been composed of spending $7 million of VDOT's paltry maintenance money to open some rest stops along I-81 and proposing the increase of the speed limit on some stretches of interstate highway from 65 to 70 mph.

Nothing there for politicians to mess up, right? Well, not right. Lowell Feld on Blue Virginia has pointed out a story that is on NBC12's journal on Central Virginia politics, one that explains the glitch. (www.NBC12.wordpress.com)

The bill raising the speed limit passed the legislature at lightning speed and with bipartisan support. Evidently, no one thought of one problem related to raising the limit.

Note that I'm ignoring the obvious waste of gasoline through that law and the possibility of more injury and death from accidents. I'm simply going to look at something that might make some Virginians very angry, the very citizens the GOPers cater to.

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Yes, Virginia, Elections Do Have Consequences: Part 4

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 10:23:08 AM EST

It's been either "no-action" or "the wrong-action" since the GOPers took power in Richmond. First, Gov. Bob McDonnell begged for more time - with no criticism, please - for his not having budget amendments ready to cover his $2 billion refusal to go along with a tax increase in the budget submitted by former Gov. Tim Kaine.

Next, McDonnell has not issued an executive order barring discrimination in state hiring and workforce, breaking a 36-year practice by governors of both parties of making a formal statement on that issue one of their first acts in office.

McDonnell justified his inaction to the Washington Post by insisting that the executive order of Gov. Kaine is still in effect - minus the protection Kaine offered for sexual orientation. That contention makes no legal sense from a man who for four years was the state' top lawyer. How can all but one part of an executive order be said to be in effect? The "logic" escapes me.

Then, the Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, recommended the withdrawal of Gov. Tim Kaine's state policy change that would allow government employees to add same-sex partners and other dependent adults living in their households to their state health benefits.

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McDonnell Begs for Budget Time

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 15:54:04 PM EST

According to reports in the Washington Post, Gov. Bob McDonnell held a meeting January 29 with Democratic leaders in the General Assembly. His budget "recommendations" during the meeting boil down to this: "I don't know how to cut an additional $2 billion, so give me some time and don't criticize me."

Perhaps McDonnell has spent the time since the early November election getting a severe case of "Potomac fever," plus preparing the staged, invitation-only show he put on as the GOP's spokesman for a response to President Obama's State of the Union message. Or, perhaps he is simply clueless.

I would think if a politician runs for the highest office in the Commonwealth on a platform that includes promising to veto any bills that would give the state additional revenue, plus assuring folks that he could magically solve the transportation problems of Virginia with his "12 f***ing funding mechanisms that are creative, that are entrepreneurial," he would be able to unveil his budget plans on the first day of the General Assembly session.

After all, Virginia only has sixty days in this legislative session with many extremely serious problems facing it. This session convened on January 13. So far, more than 1,600 bills have been submitted in the House of Delegates and almost 900 in the State Senate.

The Republicans in the House of Delegates have already decided not to work with former Gov. Kaine's budget. So, time's a'wasting, governor.

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RoboBob in Bizarro World

by: kindler

Thu Jan 28, 2010 at 19:29:12 PM EST

Cross-posted at Daily Kos

Back when I was a young comic book reading whipper-snapper, I remember Superman's freaky enemy, Bizarro.  In the upside-down and backwards Bizarro world that he came from, as Jerry Seinfeld described it in the Seinfeld episode "The Bizarro Jerry": "Up is down, down is up. He says 'Hello' when he leaves, 'Good bye' when he arrives."

Although Bob McDonnell did not start his response to Obama's State of the Union with "Goodbye", the whole presentation kind of struck me as the Bizarro Obama giving a very different kind of an address from a vaguely familiar but off-kilter world.

In Governor Bob's Bizarro world, minorities stand behind him and nod approvingly, like Tonto to his Lone Ranger -- unlike the real world where he only received 9% of the black vote last November.

In the Bizarro General Assembly set up for this speech, there is no opposition -- everyone is a supporter, clapping wildly and continually like trained seals on crack.  A little different from the real SOTU, where President Obama had to address himself to both supportive Democrats and cynical Republicans.

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