9:40: The president suggests that America needs an "all-of-the-above energy strategy." The room explodes, because the entire GOP conference is exhaling with a loud "HEYYYYYYYYYY!" Cantor breaks into a smile, teeth gleaming from across the room.
9:49: Obama needs to discuss the curse of burdensome regulation, so he tells a joke about an old rule that tortured dairy farmers. “With a rule like that,” he says, “I guess it was worth crying over spilled milk.” A shudder goes around the chamber; Rep. Chaffetz mimes a rim shot.
9:53: Obama praises the recess-appointed head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray. Republicans seethe, with one exception. Cordray’s predecessor, too hated by the GOP to get a vote, was Elizabeth Warren. When she opted out of the confirmation fight, she declared her candidacy for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. The incumbent: Sen. Scott Brown. He’s applauding.
10:01: “Send me a bill that bans insider trading by members of Congress,” says Obama, “and I will sign it.” Rep. Billy Long, a former auctioneer who’s the size and shape of a rum barrel, gets up and thrusts his arm, shouting, “Wooooooo!” We might have a bill that can pass.
10:14: Obama closes by comparing Congress unfavorably with the SEAL Team that killed bin Laden. (Who could survive the comparison?) Why, when Obama presided over the mission, he worked alongside with a Republican secretary of defense and “Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.” Clinton, who has been nodding and smiling at the shrimpiest menu items, laughs and nods harder.
10:49: The president has left the building. The members of Congress who can stand it are in Statuary Hall, not far from the chamber, where they can give short responses to waiting cameras. An employee of Fox walks around with candy: “We like to bribe our guests,” he jokes.
Rep. Trent Franks is raging against the speech. “This president has a skill for saying things that have no logical connection to what he’s doing.” Why did he, and every Republican, stand and cheer for that “all of the above” energy line? “Because that was our quote, and he appropriated it. He’s not acting on it at all.”
Sen. Mike Lee, a former Samuel Alito clerk, walks right past Franks. (For the second year since being criticized over the Citizens United decision, Alito skipped the speech.) Lee couldn’t believe that the president rubbed in his recess appointment. “Were it not for decorum, I would have done something when he said that,” he says. “It would not have been applause.”