WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama has resorted to "extremism" with stifling, anti-growth policies and has tried dividing Americans, not uniting them, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said Tuesday in the formal Republican response to the president's State of the Union address.
Eight months after deciding not to pursue a bid for his party's presidential nomination, Daniels used his nationally televised speech to lash out at Obama and cast the GOP as compassionate and eager to unchain the country's economic potential.
He took particular aim at Obama's efforts in recent months to raise taxes on the rich and castigate them for not contributing their fair share to the nation's burdens. He and other Republicans were hoping to take the offensive and shift the focus away from Obama's theme of fairness, which includes protecting the middle class and making sure the rich pay an equitable share of taxes.
"No feature of the Obama presidency has been sadder than its constant effort to divide us, to curry favor with some Americans by castigating others," Daniels said, according to excerpts of his remarks released before he and Obama actually spoke.
In a riff on Obama's own theme, Daniels said, "As Republicans our first concern is for those waiting tonight to begin or resume climb up life's ladder. We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots. We must always be a nation of haves and soon-to-haves."
Even before Obama spoke, Republicans in the Capitol and on the campaign trail accused Obama of three years of higher spending, bigger government and tax increases that have left the economy stuck in a ditch.
"This election is going to be a referendum on the president's economic policies," which have worsened the economy, said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "The politics of envy, the politics of dividing our country is not what America is all about."
Boehner said nearly 30 House-passed bills aimed at helping the economy have stalled in the Democratic-run Senate, most of them rolling back or blocking environmental, workplace and other regulations.
"If the president wants someone to blame for this economy, he should start with himself," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "The fact is, any CEO in America with a record like this after three years on the job would be graciously shown the door."