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HORIST: Abrams falls victim to presidential response jinx

HORIST: Abrams falls victim to presidential response jinx

Though it is considered a great honor and potential political ambition enhancer to be selected to give the official response to an address by the President of the United States – State of the Union and otherwise — the outcome often falls far short of the potential.  It has almost become a bit of a political jinx that seems to have ended more promising political careers than it has launched.

One only need harken back to 2009 and the response of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to a speech (not SOTU, however) by President Obama.  As an Indian-American (of the kind that comes from India), Jindal was the bright new face of the GOP.  When his response came across more like a high schooler giving his first civics oration, Jindal’s promising career seemed to slip off into political oblivion.

Former Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear decided to use a rustic setting – a small diner in Lexington.  He was surrounded by a lot of handshaking friends from down home.  Rather than a serious response to President Trump’s 2017 address to Congress,  Beshear came across as a mix between Green Acres and the Beverly Hillbillies.  He got more ridicule than accolades.

The substance of Senator Marco Rubio’s response was overshadowed by a long reach for an off-camera bottle of water.  If Abraham Lincoln had experienced a sudden thirst at Gettysburg, his words might have lived up to his expressed expectation — that, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.”

The SOTU response jinx even snagged no less a political powerhouse – at least in name – than Congressman Joe Kennedy III, grandson of the late Senator Bobby Kennedy.  The third’s speech came across more like an actor trying to play a Kennedy than the real McCoy – and then there was that embarrassing drooling.  His return to obscurity is reflected that he is not even mentioned as a possible 2020 presidential candidate.

If you locked-in on MSNBC post-SOTU coverage, you might be inclined to believe that this year’s responder, Stacy Abrams – recently defeated for governor of Georgia – was magnificent.  That judgment, however, is based solely on the fact that she is a progressive black woman – which means she would have been praised by the fawning MSNBC panelists even if she had fallen down drunk after a few incoherent sentences.

No … those with less sycophantic tendencies are likely to see the Abrams offering as yet another failed effort.

Abrams fell victim to a common trait among many responders.  She did not respond.  He speech was canned campaign rhetoric – and a bit obvious in its primary purpose of promoting her future candidacy for the United States Senate.

Abrams overly long introduction to her own up-from-poverty and the things-my parents-taught-me narratives were too obvious and too much of a political cliché.  In the political consulting business, we call this the “log cabin” story – you know, the early memories of a dirt floor and no wood for the fireplace on those cold winter nights.  Ironically, studies suggest that these iconic self-serving mini-biographies are of the least interest and credibility with the average voter.  To believe them is to believe that Senator Richard Blumenthal really served in Vietnam and that Senator Warren is a Native American.

After completing her campaign speech, Abrams did offer up a litany of Democrat talking points that had little to nothing to do with President Trump’s Speech.  Perhaps she was too busy rehearsing her response to even listen to Trump.  There was nothing in the response to suggest that Abrams had heard a word of it.

Abrams described American in familiar terms – but more suited to the 1930s than today’s America.  To believe her assessment, millions of families are descending into abject poverty … factories are closing all across the country … people are losing their jobs.  Vast numbers of we the people are torn between paying the rent or buying our pills.  The only problem with his vision, it is in no way the modern American reality.

She peddled the slander of pandemic racism among the populace – presumably, the white populace – and, with unabashed hyperbole, Abrams argued that voter suppression was a clear and present danger to the Republic.  She did not touch on deadly urban institutional racism that permeates our Democrat-controlled cities.

Finally, there was the setting – the backdrop.  Democrats seem to have a problem with that.  In addition to  Beshear’s hokey rustic restaurant setting, there was that hilarious response to an earlier Trump national address in which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did a great tableau of the famous American Gothic painting.

For her venture into the vagaries of presidential response land, Abrams selected a rather nondescript sterile image.  There she was at a podium that looked too similar to the one used by Schumer and Pelosi.  Architecturally, it was a big empty space – no iconic pillars, no cozy book-lined room, no food counter. The scene was framed by American and State of Georgia flags.  Then there were all those folks in the background.

Who were they?  Why were they there?  Standing on a multi-level riser, they looked more like a high school choir during a break in rehearsal than … than whatever they were supposed to be or represent.  Yes, they were props, to be sure.  But what was the message?  Young Kennedy had used a bunch of Millennials, but at least they hooted and hollered on cue.  The folks behind Abrams could have been an image on a billboard. Hmmm.  Maybe it was.

Whether Abrams will have a long and successful political future is undeterminable at this juncture, but it pretty is safe to say that her response to Trump’s State of the Union Speech will not have helped.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.


  1. Ron Black

    Quite frankly, I only watched a few minutes of her speech. After the overly extended version of her humble rags to riches success story she lit into a tirade of worn out political nonsense…like out of a can platitudes with no facts, just venom. It did not take but a few minutes to discover she probably did not even hear President Trump lay out along list of successful accomplishments his administration had done. Her response was a total flop.

  2. Bob

    I didn’t watch any of her speech. These “responses” are never that. They are prepared speeches that hardly ever have anything to do with what the President said, because they are prepared before the President speaks. Even with “teasers” released before the SOTU, the response is usually so far off course they are nothing-burgers, as was this one, apparently.

  3. WILLIAM Ramsburg


  4. Kathleen Heyrman

    I listened to Ms. Abrams for a few minutes and turned the TV off. I am 81, white, and I can top her story any day. Isn’t it pitiful that her father walked home in the rain? Does that make anyone special? My father had polio in 19917 at, age 6, in Northern Wisconsin. He was left with crippling effects to his legs. None of that deterred him. He and my mother raised 5 children. He had a job as a route salesman of welding equipment which meant he unloaded heavy oxygen and acetylene tanks. He had to lift his foot from the gas to the brake and never had an accident. We children, all went to parochial schools and I to nursing school. We weren’t rich but hard work prevailed. My conclusion is: Black folks need to “suck it UP”. Quit feeling sorry for yourselves. We didn’t have slaves!! Who cares about a statue? That is just an excuse to cause trouble. Don’t waste your energy on crap like that. Be resourceful. Does “black face” supersede infanticide? Who cares what a person wore as a costume, 20-30 years ago?
    Maybe Stacy lost because most of us don’t want Georgia to change.

  5. Tricia

    Watched 2 mins maybe changed station couldn’t listen to all the Democratic usual talking points . As was stated apparently she did not hear one word of his speech .
    I sure hope she doesn’t make it as so many others the Dems are putting into office is their ideals are non American and harmful to our country and our children .

    • Jan

      I am decidedly Conservative, Decidedly, because the Socialist Democrat agenda sounds like their goal is to destroy, and tear down the fabric of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and this nation, and bring down the middle class and replace it with the “GIVE ME” attitude poor and group instead of working for a hard earned pay. and I prefer President John F. Kennedy’s speech to this woman’s sad sack routine…President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country>”
      A far greatest task is ahead, beat progressivism, and socialism and the worst one combined is communism, in all aspects, Bring back morality and integrity in all aspects, and Truth that conquers over lies.. Hold up your end so the end doesn’t have to hold you up!!!

  6. Rob

    I think the President knocked it out of the park with his honest common sense yet compassionate and including approach. The only thing worse that the democrats and their obstruction and buffoonery is the buffoons that believe what they say and follow them with blind faith!

  7. Joseph Mahon

    Your critique of Abrams is pure Republican BS!!!! We are coming to take America back and restore decency to government. tvRumo is a marcistic liar who presents a clear and present danger to America.
    BTW remove me from your emails!

    • Mad

      Back at you, you swallow the lies of the left.anyone who votes for a democrat hates this nation and Jesus Christ


        gawks gonna get ya…..spooky religious threats, just exactly what Jesus would do….. our poor education system in this country thrives on your complete sheepish stupidity….thus Republicans love you.

  8. Kenneth Hadler

    I did watch/listen to both speeches. I wanted to hear what The President said and how he said it. I thought he did a very good job, even though I think he missed one or two of his special guests. I think he spoke in a very good manner, inviting the democrats to work with him for progress. I very much appreciated that he was not afraid to mention God in a respectful way and to recognize that even every baby is a child of God even before the birth date.
    I did not feel that the Response was a response to anything that the President had said. I did not hear anything that sounded like Ms Abrams was encouraging Congress or the people to work for continued progress for our country.

  9. Judy Stinger

    I turned it off after a few minutes of listening to her. There was nothing original and spontaneous it was obviously a speech written well before President Trumps ‘s Stste all of the union speech. It wasn’t that she was making a response/rebuttal to President Trump at all. It was clearly lame.

  10. A real American

    pathetic propaganda by butthurt ignorant losers. You people really hate black & brown people….in addition to facts omg. As your Orange dictator says, “sad”