So, I’m sitting watching the State of the Union last night, and the response of course. I’m tweeting out all sorts of quasi-funny nuggets, like:
As he grows older, Mitch McConnell just looks more and more like a turtle. It’s starting to get eerie.
“We must do more to combat climate change.” Yeah, the whole not-causing-the-end-of-humanity thing would be nice.
“Let’s cut in half the energy wasted … in the next 20 years.” Whoa. If I gotta turn the lights off to fight climate change, I’m out.
You know, the usual snarky stuff. (Follow me!) While doing all of this, I’m also texting with Johnny V., an old friend from college. We don’t talk too often, but because I write about politics, when there’s an election or a major speech, he’ll often wind up shooting me a text about it and we’ll start talking. So, we’re texting, and Marco Rubio’s on, and at exactly 10:41 p.m., the following text exchange occurs between Johnny and me:
Johnny: “Would it be bad form for Rubio to take a quick drink of water? His cotton mouth is highly distracting to me.”
Me: “He just did it!”
Johnny: “Holy shit! He just did that.”
Me: “Good call, my man.”
It was one of those weird moments where the stars line up and you could almost swear that there’s some larger force at work in the universe, and that the force in question has a wicked sense of humor. Reaction to The Big Gulp, as I have come to call it, was swift and severe. Within five minutes of the occurrence, GIFs of the Big Gulp popped up across the Internet. I counted at least half a dozen separate links before I gave up the exercise and just assumed the GIF was now on every website on the Net. Forty minutes after Rubio sated his thirst, Deadspin had posted a video of the event in slow motion. Watch that video, and keep in mind two moments. At 17 seconds, you could almost swear that Rubio’s saying “Oh, shit” as he’s reaching down for the water, almost as if his mouth can’t believe what his hand is doing, even though it’s his mouth that has the problem. From 1:08 to 1:12, there is an expression on Rubio’s face as he leans back up from setting the bottle down that screams, “Hi, I’m Marco Rubio, and I used to be the Next Big Thing in the GOP until I had a drink of water. Seriously.” To add insult to injury, an Obama GIF also came out of the State of the Union, and it made the president look almost annoyingly cool and relaxed. Dude, you just addressed the entire nation before a room half-filled with people who actively dislike you. Also, Ted Nugent. Sweat a little for chrissake.
To Rubio’s credit, he handled the fallout as well as he could have. Minutes after the end of his speech, he posted a picture on twitter of the half-drunk bottle of water. Aside from a couple of hashtags, it was the entire tweet. No words, no explanation, no “Hey, you try speaking to the entire country after Barack ‘Have You Heard I Give Good Speeches?’ Obama.” Just the photo. It was the twitter equivalent of dropping the mic.
But perhaps Rubio should be thankful of the Big Gulp. Because all the chatter today is over his hydration or lack thereof, not the content of his speech, which was execrable. From the moment he started, with an anti-abortion dog whistle, citing the GOP’s commitment to “everyone at every stage of life,” Rubio offered conservative pablum with no actual policy. From Obama, we got manufacturing hubs, 34,000 troops out of Afghanistan, a $9 minimum wage, immigration reform, and gun control. From Rubio, we got a laundry list of straw men for the senator to bash into piles. Whether he was putting words in Obama’s mouth, saying that the president thought the recession occurred because we didn’t tax and spend enough, to his assertion that government spending is out of control when government spending has grown at the slowest rate since World War II, the entire speech was a tapestry of obfuscation and error.
Not that the president’s plans will really go anywhere. Indeed, just as I was writing this, word came down that Speaker of the House John Boehner has already said a minimum wage increase is DOA in the House. No doubt everything else in the president’s speech that requires congressional authorization will get picked apart soon enough. It seems as though all the Republicans have left is William Buckley’s old quote, that a conservative is a fellow who stands athwart history yelling “Stop!” But if that’s the case, then progress is a freight train, and history the track it runs on.