In last night's State of the Union address, President Obama promised to work with anyone in the chamber to keep the state of the Union strong.
Forgive GOP Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, a first-term congressman, if he's skeptical of Obama's sincerity on this and his proposals after the past two years in Washington, D.C.
"I want to be very careful that I don't sound too harsh," Womack said. "The only thing this president is very serious about is his own re-election. Everything he does and will do is gonna be based on his ability to be re-elected to a second term."
When asked whether there were points in last night's speech that he agreed with, Womack suggested there were several good themes but warned that the details could cause problems.
"There are a lot of themes that I agree with," Womack said. "The problem is, how do you provide the details to ensure that they are done appropriately? For example, tax reform. ... It's one of my highest priorities as a member of Congress because I think the tax code--both individually and on the corporate side--are in serious need of reconstruction. ... Now, the devil is going to be in the details."
The tax code was one of the president's targets yesterday evening as part of his larger discussion on manufacturing. Another topic was mortgages, with the president proposing "a plan that gives every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgage, by refinancing at historically low interest rates."
"No more red tape. No more runaround from the banks. A small fee on the largest financial institutions will ensure that it won't add to the deficit, and will give banks that were rescued by taxpayers a chance to repay a deficit of trust," the president continued.
Which begs the question Womack wants an answer to: what exactly is a "small" fee?
"I'd like to see the details on the homeowner's side. And then, when somebody talks about 'small' fees ... how do you define 'small'?" Womack wondered. "I've been trained whenever the president talks about these kinds of economic incentives and what have you to grab my pocketbook."
He explained further that what often sounds good in a glibe speech "like [the president] gave last night" becomes more disconcerting when you actually analyze the details.
To back up his statement, he used the health care law as an example: provisions like 1099 and the Class Act, the latter of which even Obama's own Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius finally had to admit couldn't sustain itself.
"We're beginning now to figure out that there are concepts that were offered that sounded good in voice and on paper, but when you start getting to the details of it, they just simply don't work," Womack said.
Perhaps the most surprising proposal of the night, however, was the president's request to states to make students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.
"It was one of the moments in the speech--and there were several--one of the moments in the speech when he said something that was kind of unanticipated, unexpected, and I think he probably had marked in his speech that he's going to get a big applause line here, and it got kind of a, 'Wow, where did that come from' sort of reaction, at least from my vantage point," Womack said.