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DES MOINES — Americans feel like they are “the enemy,” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds told a national audience Tuesday evening as she gave the Republican Party’s response to Democratic President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.
Wearing dual American and Ukrainian flag lapel pins, and with the Iowa Capitol in the background, Reynolds spoke for roughly 15 minutes shortly after Biden’s address.
Reynolds blamed Biden for inflation, crime and Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
And she leaned heavily into pro-law enforcement, tough-on-crime rhetoric. She claimed that under Biden, violent crime is soaring and criminals are not facing sufficient punishment. And she criticized the federal justice department for monitoring violent threats made at school board meetings but not pursuing charges against looters and shoplifters, presumably referring to the social justice protests in 2020 that at times turned destructive.
“It seems like everything is backwards,” Reynolds said, according to her prepared remarks. “The American people are left to feel like they’re the enemy.”
U.S. inflation is at a 40-year high of 7.5 percent, although many other countries are experiencing similarly high inflation rates also.
And violent crime rates are increasing in the United State, although the trend started before Biden took office a little more than a year ago.
Reynolds said Biden’s actions helped pave the way for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, specifically citing the Biden administration’s waving of sanctions on an oil pipeline in Russia and, according to Reynolds, “focusing on political correctness rather than military readiness.”
Biden devoted roughly the first third of his address to the Russian invasion, declaring that the United States stands with the Ukrainian people.
Reynolds addressed racism, saying, “ (Americans) are tired of people pretending the way to end racism is by categorizing everybody by their race.”
And she criticized Democrats who have spoken out in favor of mask-wearing as a COVID-19 pandemic mitigation strategy and then have been photographed in public places not wearing a face mask themselves.
“Frankly, (Americans) are tired of the theater, where politicians do one thing when the cameras are rolling and another when they believe you can’t see them,” Reynolds said. “Where governors and mayors enforce mandates but don’t follow them. Where elected leaders tell their citizens to stay home while they sneak off to Florida for sun and fun; where they demand that your child wear a mask, but they go out maskless.”
Reynolds, who faces reelection this fall, said Republican governors have led through the pandemic by empowering citizens to make their own decisions, and not necessarily through government action.
“Republican governors faced the same COVID-19 virus head on. But we honored your freedoms and saw right away that lockdowns and school closures came with their own significant costs; that mandates weren’t the answer,” Reynolds said. “And we actually listened to the science, especially with kids in masks and kids in schools.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently throughout the pandemic recommended face masks for all students.
Reynolds highlighted her decision to reopen schools and businesses sooner than most other states, and her joining other Republican-led states that sent state law enforcement officers to the U.S.-Mexico border to assist with federal immigration enforcement.
She also highlighted the $1.9 billion in state income tax cuts that she signed into law earlier Tuesday.
Earlier in her remarks, she accused federal Democrats of proposing tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires” in Democrat-led states. A frequent criticism of the tax cuts that Reynolds signed into law Tuesday is that it disproportionately benefits the wealthiest individuals and companies.
Iowa Democrats spoke earlier Tuesday about their opposition to many of the policies that Reynolds championed.
Jennifer Konfrst, the Democrats’ leader in the Iowa House, said Reynolds was chosen for Tuesday night’s address because she has enacted policies that follow the wishes of national leaders in the Republican Party.
“It’s not because she’s done amazing things for the state of Iowa. It’s because she’s done amazing things for the Republican Party. And that’s who she’s answering to, and that’s who she leads for,” Konfrst said.
Reynolds is the second Iowa Republican in recent years to be chosen for the annual response by the party that is out of power in the White House. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst delivered the response to President Barack Obama’s address in 2015.
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