Democratic Congressman John Garamendi said last night that he was generally pleased with President Obama's State of the Union address although he wants the war in Afghanistan to end now, not just with troop pull-outs as the president promised.
Job creation and government spending were at the core of Obama's speech, which included references to America's crisis of confidence following the Russian launch of the Sputnik rocket in 1957 and challenged the nation to have a new "space race" in the form of innovation, education and infrastructure.
"We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -- an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people," he said.
The president also spoke of the importance of reducing the deficit and restructuring the federal government to make it more efficient, but he made it clear he would not abandon government spending on what he considers crucial investments, such as education.
Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) said the president laid out a solid agenda, and now it's up to Congress to find a way to do it.
He said his main point of contention with the president was Obama's remarks about the war in Afghanistan. The president said he would begin bringing troops home in July.
"I think we ought to end the war now," Garamendi said.
A recent poll of East Bay residents by API and allied news services have found two to one in favor of ending all U.S. war activities now.
Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek) said he was happy the president emphasized investment in innovation and infrastructure, which are particularly important to Northern California constituents.
"I thought he did a very good job," said Garamendi, who was elected to Congress in 2009 after having served as lieutenant governor, state insurance commissioner, and deputy secretary of the interior.
"He was basically saying we need to make it in America -- bring these jobs back home and make it in America. So that was really, in my view, very important that he said, 'These are the crucial investments.'"
Garamendi said the feeling in the House chambers, where Republicans and Democrats adopted an integrated seating chart this year, was less partisan than last year. The tone was more measured, he said.
This year's State of the Union address came just over two weeks after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, was critically injured in a shooting at a political event in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead, including a federal judge.
"I think the applause was not partisan," this year, said Garamendi, who sat by Republicans from New Hampshire and Florida. "Almost all the applause I observed was based upon people hearing an issue and saying, 'Yes, I think that was good.'"
Obama too seemed to seek a bipartisan tone in the speech, often mentioning Republican proposals he would be willing to support -- such as health care tort reform -- and promising to work with Republicans to streamline government.
"I am willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without," he said. "But let's make sure what we're cutting is really excess weight. Cutting the deficit by cutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine."