GOP picks its man for response to Obama speech

A Louisiana congressman and heart surgeon will respond to the president's address to Congress

Published September 8, 2009 5:01PM (EDT)

The last time the GOP had to pick someone to deliver a national televised response to a presidential address, it was February, and the president was riding his post-inaugural wave of popularity. Concerned about who could match up against this fresh and exciting new leader, the Republicans ordered up a speech from a rising star -- not coincidentally, the party’s most prominent non-white politician -- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The speech Republicans got from Jindal wasn’t exactly what they were hoping for.

Now the president’s going in front of Congress again, and the opposition gets to choose another of its members to offer a rebuttal. Yet again, the Republicans are going with a Louisianan, albeit one without Jindal's high profile: Rep. Charles Boustany.

Probably the most important factor in the choice is that Boustany has a healthcare background. The third-term representative is a cardiothoracic surgeon, a fact he’ll surely mention in his speech Wednesday night. Boustany will likely cite his own experience to emphasize the relationship between doctors and patients, and portray the president’s plans as intrusive and meddling.

In fact, he’s more or less done this job before. In May, Boustany delivered the weekly Republican address, focusing on healthcare. While he offered appreciation for the president’s goals and good faith, Boustany also took care to warn of a “government option” and “rationed care.” Expect more of the same this time, with the balance tipped more toward the latter.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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