For President Obama and the GOP, Tuesday night ultimately boiled down to a pair of dueling messages about the current state of the nation: Optimism vs. gloominess.In his State of the Union address, Obama acknowledged the economic difficulties the nation has faced in recent years but insisted the country is on its way back. Citing the country's tradition of innovation dating back to the early days of the U.S. space program, he called on Americans put aside partisanship and unite "to win the future." Below are five memorable moments from the presidents speech and from the Republican State of the Union responses
1.Hailing the empty seat for wounded Arizona congresswoman. In perhaps the most moving moment of the night, Obama noted a chair in the chamber left empty to mark the absence of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and critically wounded as she attended a political event earlier this month.
"Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater--something more consequential than party or political preference," Obama declared. You can watch the moment below, courtesy of ABC News:
2. Defining a new 'Sputnik moment. Throughout the speech, Obama repeatedly urged Americans to work to "win the future," comparing the need for innovation to the research deficits that the United States made up during the heyday of the space race against the Soviets. Referencing the nation's near-record unemployment and "dwindling" paychecks, Obama said the "world… and the rules had changed" and urged Americans to rise to the challenge. "This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he declared. The moment appears below, courtesy of ABC News:3. Arguing to 'move on' from divisive health care debate. The president made a point of backing off from any serious political fights in the speech--a decision that no doubt disappointed his progressive supporters, especially when it came to issues such as gun control legislation in the wake of the Giffords shooting. And he mentioned the continuing fight over his health care law mainly to plead for Congress to move beyond it.
"I've heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law," Obama joked. But on a serious note, he told Republicans, who have repealed the measure in the House and hope to do the same in the Senate, that he would accept changes in the bill, but would veto efforts to roll back the law. "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and move on," Obama said. The discussion appears below, again courtesy of ABC News:
4. In GOP response, Paul Ryan warns of economic 'moment of reckoning.' But while Obama tried to focus on the positive, the GOP presented a more sobering assessment of the nation under the rule of the Obama administration. In the official Republican response, House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan blamed Obama for the nation's rising federal deficit, saying the nation needs a change in leadership.
Citing the cost of Obama's health care plan, the congressman warned that the nation's debt is headed toward "catastrophic levels." "Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt," Ryan said. "And the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy."
He warned that like Greece, America is facing a "day of reckoning." You can see Ryan's warning below, once again via the indefatigable shop at ABC News:
5. Bachmann delivers tea party response, amid technical glitches. Ryan wasn't the only Republican offering a televised rebuttal. Minnesota GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann delivered what was billed as the tea party response. The speech, which aired on CNN, was sponsored by the Tea Party Express, but strangely, the group's website wound up streaming --presumably by accident--a White House feed featuring actor-turned-Obama aide Kal Penn.
Bachmann, who said her speech should not be taken as the official GOP response, slammed the president for increased federal spending. She also made an unusual claims about an army of IRS agents administering "Obamacare"--one of several asides in her speech certain to keep morning-after fact-checkers busy.
"Instead of a leaner, smarter government, we bought a bureaucracy that now tells us which light bulbs to buy, and which may put 16,500 IRS agents in charge of policing President Obama's healthcare bill." The video appears below, courtesy of--you guessed it--ABC News: