Friday, February 15, 2013

The Face of the GOP: It Ain't Pretty or Accurate

New messenger, old message.
Okay, Marco Rubio might be pretty, but his repackaged malarkey is the same old ugly GOP claptrap.

I paid avid attention to Barack Obama's State of the Union speech last Tuesday and naturally viewed Marco Rubio's somewhat halting response. I haven't written about either of them until now because I wanted to offer not a spur-of-the-moment critique but one that had a while to ferment.

Oh, and I might have heard a couple of Rand Paul's remarks quoted here or there, but no one outside of his posse really paid attention to him. What a tool.

Barack Obama gave a fine speech, even if it was too wonkish at the beginning while it worked its way through the different economic offerings:

  • The sequester sucks. We need to replace it with something other than across-the-board cuts in defense and discretionary spending.
  • My idea instead is to close tax loopholes that affect mostly the wealthy and business interests. I'll match these tax revenue increases with an equal number of targeted spending cuts.
  • I'll even nibble at the edges of Medicare and Social Security (to show that they aren't sacred cows), but I won't nibble very much. (See Simpson-Bowles.)
  • I want to change the way we do health care from a fee-for-services model to one that is based on outcomes. We need health care panels to do this (they're not death panels).
  • The rest of my economic plan is about jobs, mostly employing programs to increase manufacturing. I also want to spend some money on our infrastructure that will mean more jobs, but I'm mostly offering proposals that won't make it through the House, so I'm not recommending a WPA or a "Marshall Plan for America."
  • I recommend we deal with income inequality by raising the minimum wage (and by the aforementioned tax increases on the wealthy).

Hey Boehner, need a Pepto?

President Obama may yet win on the sequester, and he may get his balanced approach of pairing tax increases with spending cuts, but I wouldn't hold your breath if I were you. I suspect that the Republicans with hold out to the last minute and, because of the move, they'll actually not be able to extract from Obama the cuts in Medicare and Social Security he's already offered. In fact, I suspect that's why the president made such an offer. He appears ready to make "hard choices" if the Republicans would compromise. Since they won't, he doesn't get to (or have to).

The best the Republicans can probably get out of the opportunity is the ritual kicking the can down the road, hoping in a few months the math will change in their favor. Fat chance, but we'll see.

I did like what Obama said about immigration reform and was moved by his rousing conclusion on gun control and how "they deserve a vote," "they" meaning the assembled victims of gun violence in the gallery and across the country. Both issues have a chance of passage, likely watered down by the GOP if not outright destroyed. Again, we'll see.

Marco Rubio's response -- with its flop sweat and hasty grab for the water bottle toward the end -- was questionable on several levels. First, as theater, he somewhat choked. He appeared rushed and anxious. Why his nerves were frayed is anybody's guess. Perhaps he felt the pressure of being the "Republican's Savior," which culminated in the water-bottle lunge. All politics isn't necessarily optics, but in the optics game Rubio struck out.

And, in a way, that's a shame because the optics became the story when the real story should be the fact that he trotted out a whole series of tired, threadbare GOP talking points that simply failed to set him apart from the rest of the bums. A couple of samples:
This idea – that our problems were caused by a government that was too small – it’s just not true. In fact, a major cause of our recent downturn was a housing crisis created by reckless government policies.
Made-up GOP meme, very stale. And here:
Every dollar our government borrows is money that isn’t being invested to create jobs. And the uncertainty created by the debt is one reason why many businesses aren’t hiring.
Also baloney, as explained well by Matt O'Brien of the Atlantic.

For a conventional, mostly accurate, though incomplete take on Rubio's response, see this Politico fact-checking review.

Jon Stewart, as usual, nailed Rubio's speech with humor and deadly accuracy:

Advice to Republicans (that they won't take): Do yourselves a favor by shutting up for a while. I suppose that's a bridge too far at this point.

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