WASHINGTON – President Clinton delivered a positive message Tuesday night that a country that had become “very cynical towards government needed to hear,” Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest said.
“I think overall the president did a good job. The country needed to hear a positive bipartisan speech and with the exception of a couple of things I think it was just that,” said Gilchrest, of Kennedyville, following the State of the Union address.
“He made it clear that the era of big government was over, but that did not mean the era of negligent government … or uncaring government, had begun,” added Rep. Steny Hoyer, D- Mitchellville.
Gilchrest said the address left him feeling hopeful about future cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.
“We want to work together and that’s the fundamental speech the president gave,” Gilchrest said. “The things he said in his speech at least opened the door for future negotiations. It wasn’t negative, he didn’t slam the door shut.”
Many aspects of Clinton’s speech, which touched upon the need for family values, quality education, individual economic security, a crackdown on crime and balancing the budget appealed to Gilchrest, he said.
“When he said … balance the budget, turn the television off, he was tapping into the mainstream of the nation,” he said.
Gilchrest applauded the president’s emphasis on family values, in particular his comments directed at the nation’s media. “Young people and all generations are exposed to too much crudeness and lewdness,” he said.
The congressman said he has voted for a device endorsed by the president: the “V Chip,” which allows parents to screen out programs on their TV sets that they feel are unsuitable for their children. Gilchrest said he remains a supporter of the chip.
As a parent and former teacher, Gilchrest said he agrees with the president that all parents should be given a choice of where to send their children to school. The president said in his speech that he challenges every state “to give all parents the right to choose which public school their children attend.”
Gilchrest also applauded the president’s comments on crime. Clinton challenged local housing authorities and tenant associations to kick out residents who commit crimes and peddle drugs. “The rule for residents who commit crimes and peddle drugs should be: One strike and you’re out,” Clinton said.
“He put into that mix the importance of prevention,” Gilchrest said.
Gilchrest did express a few concerns, including with the president’s commitment to balancing the budget.
“I think we dragged the president kicking and screaming to the realization that we need to balance the budget,” he said. “The important thing is to do the hard task now. If we don’t have the courage to do it now, future Congresses will be scared off from the task.”
Gilchrest added he was displeased with the president’s blaming Congress for cutting funds for environmental enforcement by 25 percent.
Congress passed an appropriations bill – vetoed by Clinton in December – that would have reduced the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 25 percent. Gilchrest said the idea was to try and make the EPA more efficient.
“I believe the EPA can live with that cut,” he said. “The fact remains that we have a looming economic crisis because of the debt and the budget crisis, so all the agencies are going to need some streamlining.”
According to Gilchrest, the question to ask is whether the cuts in federal funds could be made up by the private sector.
Gilchrest also criticized the president’s environmental track record.
“I think the president has been a bit lax on the environment in his first three years in office. He talks a good line with the environment, but I haven’t seen a lot of substance.”
Capital News Service reporters T.M. Hartmann and Jane Taylor contributed to this story. -30-