Did you think listening to President Obama give his address before Congress on Tuesday evening was "like sex?"
Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos did, or at least that's what he admitted to John King on Sunday's "State of the Union" a friend said:
I think, as a friend told me once, that -- listening to Barack Obama give a speech is like sex. The worse there ever was, was excellent.
Honestly, when GOP strategists in the media begin talking this way, one has to wonder where the balance is going to come from in the coming years (video embedded below the fold with CNN produced transcript, h/t NB reader Greg477, file photo):
Video available here for Internet Explorer users.
JOHN KING, HOST: This week, we saw the president standing before a joint session of Congress, then before Marines who will soon be sent off to a very difficult mission in Afghanistan. He offered the Congress and the country a budget he says will change the status quo in Washington, and he offered surprising praise of the mission in Iraq, even as he vowed to bring those troops home.
Plenty to dissect and debate in our Sunday conversation with the best political team on television. Joining us now, veteran Democratic activist Hilary Rosen, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.
I want to start there with the theater, because, again, 30-plus days, we're still learning a lot about this new president. His first time standing up there in the House of Representatives before a joint session of Congress and then, some might say more importantly, his first time standing on a military base eyeball to eyeball with the men and women he will send into harm's way. Hilary, let me just start with that. Impressions of him as the -- speaking to the nation and as a commander-in-chief?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRAT ACTIVIST: Well, you know, I think the speech to the nation was critically important. We saw what the statistics were. I thought the more important speech to Congress was when he was engaging one on one on television and we saw that with the fiscal responsibility summit.
The troops, though, are such an interesting story. We saw during the campaign, when -- when candidate Obama went to Iraq, the troops surrounded him. They loved him. You know, and then they saw him play basketball and even loved him even more. So there was a real connection, I think, and a real enthusiasm for this commander-in- chief.
And I think, when he went there and said, "We finally know our mission and that's to get out," because these guys have been wondering what their mission was for the last six years. And he said, "We understand it, and now we're going to take care of you." I think that meant a lot.
KING: More on -- more on that in a second, but I know you disagree with the policy, but as a performer?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think, as a friend told me once, that -- listening to Barack Obama give a speech is like sex. The worse there ever was, was excellent. He -- it's just terrific performance.
KING: It's 9:35 in the morning.
CASTELLANOS: On a Sunday. And it's a terrific performance. He's -- he's reassuring. He demonstrates strength. You can see that he's gotten stronger and more confident in the job.
But the problem, of course, is the split personality disorder. He gives a speech to Congress in which he talks about, "We don't want to spend, we want conservative government." He touches all right-of- center chords while proposing just the opposite.
So, at some point, there's just an inherent conflict between what he says and what he does, same thing with the military speech. I mean, it was really stunning in a way to see him say that, gosh, these troops succeeded beyond all expectations. Well, actually, no, succeeded beyond his expectations.
KING: Well, let's -- let's jump in on that point.
CASTELLANOS: Bush thought he would.
KING: But let's jump in on that point, because being president is very different from running for president. Every president learns this -- Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative -- the job is different than you think it might be when you're campaigning.
So let's listen to a little taste of Barack Obama then as the anti-war candidate and now as the commander-in-chief. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I have always believed that our invasion of Iraq was a strategic blunder for all of the reasons I've talked about, distracting us from Afghanistan, the enormous costs in blood and treasure.
You have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor and succeeded beyond any expectation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Hilary Rosen, did the anti-war Democrats who thought he was the better nominee because he was saying it was a strategic blunder, is that what they voted for, a guy who says you went in and gave a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq and you have succeeded beyond anyone's expectations?
ROSEN: There is a little irony in that, but I don't need to go there.
KING: Just a little?
ROSEN: Because we've already processed that. I -- I think what you saw, though, on these two speeches wasn't so inconsistent. What he said early on was, it was a mistake to go into Iraq. And what he said yesterday was, we know that the people, the men and women of the Armed Forces who served there have done the best they can.
But, look, the reason we're getting out is because this has never been good and he was right all along and right today. We -- we still don't have political reconciliation between the Shia and the Sunni. We still don't have an agreement on the oil revenues. We've spent a trillion dollars. Alex is freaking out about the deficit? That trillion dollars...
KING: Then why not get out now? Why wait until 2011?
ROSEN: ... would have helped a lot. Because what he did say all along during the campaign was he was going to listen to the commanders on the ground about the best way to get out. And that's the critical difference. George Bush never had a strategy there; Barack Obama's strategy is to get out safely.
CASTELLANOS: I'm sorry. I'm having trouble processing that. What he should have said is, the reason we're able to do this is because George Bush was right and I was wrong. I kept...
KING: How about John McCain?
CASTELLANOS: I kept -- and John McCain was right.
KING: When it comes to the surge, how about John McCain?
CASTELLANOS: It worked. Our troops did their job. That's why I kept the generals, George Bush's generals. That's why I kept his secretary of defense. He should have said, "George Bush was right. I was wrong. Mission accomplished, George Bush. Thank you."
KING: I don't think you're going to get that.
KING: But let's -- we only have about a minute left. I want to focus on the budget. And since we only have a short time left, let me just ask you each to sort of define for me where you see the pressure points in this debate. As you know, Republicans say, "Where are the tough choices, Mr. President? Those are huge deficits." And as you know, you guys don't have the votes.
So let's start with you, Hilary. Where's the pressure point in the budget battle?
ROSEN: I think the significant pressure points are going to be on the revenue side, because Barack Obama has made it clear -- and the Democrats in Congress believe this -- that they were elected to make change, to make investment in health care, to make investment in education, to make investment in energy. Those things will pay off for this economy over the long term. How do you pay for it? You do it the way that he promised all along. Two years from now, we're going to let those Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest expire. We've given a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of Americans. This economy is going to be built back up on the -- on the backs of working men and women the way prosperity has always happened.
KING: A 30-second rebuttal?
CASTELLANOS: Pressure point is spending. This -- this budget is five times the deficit that -- of the -- I guess each of the previous five years here. And it's -- it's stunning spending. It's indebting the next generations.
And what you're going to see Republicans do is push -- see how they made the sausage, pull out, open it up, look at every little bit of spending in there, and take that to the Democrats for the next two years.
ROSEN: George Bush never promised to cut the deficit in half.
KING: We're out of time. We'll continue this conversation. I suspect it's going -- this debate is going to live for a while. Alex Castellanos, Hilary Rosen, thanks for joining us.