It was a disaster.
Has the Left overplayed and overrated the cottonmouth episode suffered by the Florida senator? Of course. Was CNN’s “Career Ender” chyron a tasteless, over-the-top and disrespectful shot that certainly wouldn’t have been taken at a Democrat politician? Without question.
Bob Menendez traffics in underage whores and Barack Obama snorts cocaine. But Rubio’s reach for water during a speech is a Career Ender. It’s enough to make you grieve for the loss of an America worth having.
For his part, Rubio has responded to the stumble with class, humility and good humor. And his PAC has now branded water bottles in an effort to make lemonade out of Tuesday night’s lemons.
But he needs to have an opening on his staff.
On substance, Rubio’s speech was one of the best responses to a State of the Union in a long time. And before his cottonmouth episode kicked in, his delivery was good – he was passionate, he was energetic, he had the right mix of optimism and outrage.
But it was clear the speech was too long for the time allotted for it, and Rubio was racing through it. And it was also clear he hadn’t properly hydrated before speaking.
Whoever handles Rubio needs another job, and right now.
And whoever stages these Republican responses needs another job, too.
First of all, why not have an audience handy? There were 275 Republican Senators and congressmen in the building when Obama gave the State of the Union speech. Why isn’t that crowd a ready-made audience for the response?
And yes, it would be inappropriate to give Rubio the same podium Obama had. But the Capitol has lots of venues for speeches. Why not use the Old Senate Chamber for the response? That way he could have a few applause lines, a chance to collect himself, etc.
A few years ago Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia, gave the Republican response – at the state capitol in Richmond. With an audience. The speech itself was nothing to write home about, but the stagecraft was good and the ambiance gave McDonnell a certain stature that some guy reading a teleprompter with a camera in his face simply can’t.
But if it’s not possible to perform the speech in front of an audience, then at least let Rubio give it from behind a desk. Sitting down will always make a speaker more relaxed than standing up will, and that would likely have shown up in Rubio’s cadence.
Instead, Rubio was forced to stand in front of a camera and machine-gun a 20-minute speech in 15 minutes. Which is difficult enough. Add to that the fairly obvious fact that he wasn’t properly hydrated, which is inexcusable.
What’s also inexcusable was putting water in a bottle for him on a table two yards away from where he was standing. That water should have been in a glass, within his immediate reach. And he should have known it was there.
None of these things were done for one of the GOP’s rising stars, and because of that all anybody’s talking about is cottonmouth and an emergency swig from a Poland Springs bottle.
And nobody remembers what Rubio said.
Obama gave a nearly 90-minute speech that can only be described as a frontal assault on our constitutional liberty, fiscal sanity and economic competitiveness. The speech was a scandal in itself, and frankly Rubio and his GOP colleagues in the House Chamber should have walked out en masse – particularly when Obama shamefully repeated “they deserve a vote” on gun control legislation he hasn’t even introduced.
But Obama’s speech went off without a single hitch. He delivered it perfectly.
Is it fair that all the lefty media wants to talk about is Rubio needing water rather than Obama wanting a nine dollar minimum wage? No.
But it’s predictable.
The media is partisan and stupid. But by now that’s anything but a surprise. And because of that fact, the GOP can’t afford screw-ups like Rubio’s dehydration – that’s low-hanging fruit, and it’s precisely the kind of thing they will seize upon.
It’s time to get ahead of the media and deny them easy distractions like this.
And if the current cast of staffers for the party or its politicians can’t deliver a better product, then heads need to roll until the incompetence stops.