Marco Rubio humiliates himself

It wasn't his scrambling for a bottle of water Tuesday night. It was his insipid speech mixing calumny and cliché

Topics: The American Prospect, Marco Rubio, Republican Party, State of the Union, Barack Obama,

Marco Rubio humiliates himself
This article originally appeared on The American Prospect.

The American Prospect It’s not his fault, really. Maybe it was understandable nervousness — after all, here he was just a few days after being anointed “The Republican Savior” in a Time magazine cover, following the president, but without an applauding crowd to feed off. Or maybe it was that the room was hot and dry. Whatever the cause, after trying to wipe the sweat from his brow and face for 12 long minutes and repeatedly moving his tongue around his mouth to get some moisture going, Marco Rubio decided he just had no choice but to bend down and grab that tantalizing little bottle of water that lay just out of reach.

So don’t blame him for that, even though he’ll no doubt get plenty of mockery for it today. You can blame him, however, for the insipid speech he delivered, a combination of calumny and cliché that demonstrated just why Republicans are having such problems appealing to voters. Let’s start with this:

Presidents in both parties – from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan – have known that our free enterprise economy is the source of our middle class prosperity.

But President Obama? He believes it’s the cause of our problems. That the economic downturn happened because our government didn’t tax enough, spend enough and control enough. And, therefore, as you heard tonight, his solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.

OK, so that’s not what the President said in his speech, and hearing from a Republican that Barack Obama hates free enterprise ceased to surprise a long time ago. And though Obama has certainly placed part of the blame for the economic downturn on insufficient government oversight of capital markets, the idea that he ever once blamed it on insufficient spending and taxation is obviously, plainly, absurdly false, a lie by any definition of the term. But that doesn’t surprise, either. What is remarkable is that just a few paragraphs after falsely attacking the president’s motives, Rubio says this: “There are valid reasons to be concerned about the president’s plan to grow our government. But any time anyone opposes the president’s agenda, he and his allies usually respond by falsely attacking their motives.”



Come to think of it, that mixture of dishonesty and self-pity may be just what Republican primary voters are looking for in 2016. And one thing they may also be looking for is the assurance that not only are we God’s favorite country, but life everywhere else is an unending nightmare of opportunities denied and dreams dashed. If so, Rubio is ready to oblige:

This dream – of a better life for their children – it’s the hope of parents everywhere. Politicians here and throughout the world have long promised that more government can make those dreams come true.

But we Americans have always known better. From our earliest days, we embraced economic liberty instead. And because we did, America remains one of the few places on earth where dreams like these even have a chance.

Really? America is one of the few places on earth where people can dream of a better life for their children? Oh please. The truth is that economic mobility in America is lower than in many similar countries (the result of a decades-long trend, and not Barack Obama’s fault, for what it’s worth). The “only in America” canard is a longtime pet peeve of mine, so I have to ask: Why is it necessary to extol our country’s virtues by claiming that those virtues are ours alone? Why is it so hard to say that we value hard work and opportunity, and so do many other societies?

Maybe Marco Rubio is the Republican savior. Lots of politicians have given one crappy speech and then gone on to great things, most notably Bill Clinton, whose speech nominating Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic convention was panned for being both dull and ponderously long. Before you know it, this one will be little more than the source of the occasional chuckle, and Rubio will rise or fall on what he does in a hundred other settings. But it just goes to show that with a few rare exceptions (like this one), delivering the opposition’s response to the State of the Union is likely to do your career more harm than good. If Rubio thought he’d be the one to buck that history, he didn’t get much more for his trouble than a dry mouth.

Paul Waldman is a contributing editor for The American Prospect and the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>