The consequences of a media focused culture is that a speech that Florida Senator Marco Rubio wants you to remember probably will be. It won’t be the content that is memorable, though, it will be the Senator reaching for a bottle of water, Poland Springs by brand, and taking a swig right in the middle of his speech.
There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Across my career, I’ve spent a lot of time standing in front of groups of people–classrooms of students, congregations, conference gatherings–with some beverage in my hand, sipping or drinking, simply because talking makes me thirsty. I don’t know why, but I often feel compelled to apologize for doing that, at least, on occasion. It appeared just a bit odd, as he leaned out of the pre-focused picture of the camera. The media types like a balanced picture, with color, facial expressions and good makeup, and so his moving out of the arrangement made for a lot of comments.
It was the content of the speech itself, though, that, really tempered down the potential enthusiasm over the Senator’s first real appearance in the national limelight. I’m sure it is difficult to come up with a “response” to a Presidential address that you haven’t really heard yet. And I’m equally as sure that it is next to impossible to write a clear, concise response, or change the text of a pre-written speech as much as necessary to make it more relevant to the content of the President’s address in the very short period of time that would be available to do that before having to go on the air. That explains why the usually dynamic, and spontaneous Rubio sounded so flat, rehearsed, and lacking in spontaneity, and why the content of his speech didn’t exactly reflect the points the President made in his State of the Union address. I suspect that he was probably not comfortable being as directed in his response as it appeared to be. He doesn’t seem to be the kind of politician who is comfortable just reciting partisan talking points. And I guess that’s what he was doing last night, reciting partisan talking points, because there was nothing new in his presentation of the warmed over rhetoric that we’ve heard from the GOP for years, and which led to their defeat at the polls last November.
Aside from one real obvious “oops,” related to medicare, where the President announced he would be doing something Rubio insisted he needed to do but wouldn’t be doing, the GOP response consisted of the same cliches and themes that they pushed before they lost the 2012 election. If they have any hope of re-capturing the White House in 2016, they are going to have to do more than just dress up their old ideas in a Latino politicians body, and expect that’s all they’ll need to do to get enough of the Hispanic vote to win. Rubio may be Latino, but he won’t draw much in the way of Latino voter support if his agenda is simply the regurgitated Romney-Ryan agenda. It’s, as Bobby Gindal says, the “stupidity,” not the person.
I also suspect that Rubio is just not experienced enough, or feels that he is not senior enough to look at a scripted set of talking points suggested by the party leadership and say, “No, thanks.” Watching a comparison of Rubio’s speech with Mitt Romney’s campaign stump speeches, some of the wording wasn’t even changed. Didn’t Romney just lose the last election? And haven’t we heard now, for three months, about the changes the Republicans need to make to win elections down the road? Then why hand one of your “Down the road” prospective candidates the same content that the voters just rejected? I’m really surprised that they didn’t just turn Rubio loose, and let him actually give a reaction to the speech, instead of pre-written talking points that, frankly, made him look bad.
I did like Rubio’s passion for his neighbors, and his personalization of some of the issues, noting that he still lives in the neighborhood where he grew up, and that it is a working class, middle class area, and not a wealthy community. You have to appreciate his down to earth, middle class values. Well, until you find out that he’s trying to sell his $600,000 house in order to move to Washington.