Politics

Democrats Applaud Rep. Joe Kennedy’s State of the Union Response

The Brookline congressman characterized President Trump as a bully during his party's rebuttal.


In this still image taken from video, Rep. Joe Kennedy III delivers the Democratic response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union, at Diman Regional Vocational Technical High School in Fall River, Mass., Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Kennedy, 37, a three-term congressman and grandson of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, outlined a Democratic vision that he said promises a "better deal for all who call this country home." (

Photo via AP

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III walked one of the most rickety and scrutinized bridges in politics on Tuesday night, and by many accounts, he made it to the other side unscathed.

The Brookline Democrat delivered his party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address from Fall River in front of a live crowd and a broken-down car. Without naming them directly, Kennedy characterized Trump and his colleagues as “bullies,” and criticized them for sowing the seeds of divisiveness.

Trump did not mention climate change, the national reckoning on sexual harassment, or the school shooting epidemic during the third-longest State of the Union in history, but Kennedy touched on all three issues. The 13-minute Democratic response emphasized equal opportunity and pushed back on the idea that one person’s success is predicated on another’s failure.


“They are turning American life into a zero-sum game,” Kennedy said. “As if the parent who lies awake terrified that their transgender son will be beaten and bullied at school is any more or less legitimate than the parent whose heart is shattered by a daughter in the grips of opioid addiction. So here is the answer Democrats offer tonight: We choose both.”

Kennedy’s speech got a lot praise, despite earlier criticism that his privilege and famous last name make him a poor choice to deliver a message of scrappy success and Democratic inclusivity.

The opposition response to the State of the Union has been a bit of a cursed platform—just ask former Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, whose response to Barack Obama’s State of the Union earned him endless comparisons to the 30 Rock character Kenneth the page. Or Marco Rubio, who’s still trying to convince everyone he knows how to take a sip of water.

Kennedy faced his own battle: Several conservative pundits on Twitter criticized Kennedy for struggling with a different kind of liquid during his speech: drool. The corners of the congressman’s mouth appeared particularly shiny, perhaps even moist, during the address, and so obviously critics assumed he didn’t have control over his salivary glands.

Less antagonistic viewers, on the other hand, chalked the sheen up to lip balm, a theory Kennedy confirmed to Good Morning America. After all, this is the dead of winter in Massachusetts, and the scourge of cracked lips doesn’t care if you have a really big speech to give.

Several other Democrats offered responses to the president’s State of the Union, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Virginia House of Delegates member Elizabeth Guzman, who gave the Spanish language response. Rep. Maxine Waters will be giving a response today.