The former presidential aide was suggestively prescient: "Forget the Obama speech. I can’t wait to see the Rubio thing."
What a disaster--the Rubio thing, not the Obama speech--compelling me to tweet only once last night: "Marco Rubio--sweating like Albert Brooks in 'Broadcast News.'" At least I think it was sweating, as indicated by weird nervous tics which appeared to be wiping, which, along with the athletic lunge for the water bottle, rendered Rubio's national debut into a cable-access pratfall.
I did see some of Obama's SOTU, which the NY Times nicely compressed as mostly "familiar" proposals that "will probably be snuffed out by politics," which of course they will. (On Fox News, for instance, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy instantly snuffed out one of the SOTU's rare semi-innovations, the minimum wage hike.) I know I'm too hard on this annual form of political ritualism; it is, after all, constitutionally required. But bless the Founders, watching it isn't.
Of Rubio's response, however, I watched nearly all, captivated as I was by much more than its gymnastics. What really fascinated was its unrehabilitated hostility, its entrenched ignorance, its determined wreckage of any Republican resurrection. The Times' Andrew Rosenthal:
Both Mr. Rubio and Mr. Paul [in his tea party response] laced their remarks with the usual G.O.P. propaganda that Mr. Obama hates jobs, small businessmen and entrepreneurs. Judging from these two speeches, the Republicans don’t intend to respond constructively to Mr. Obama’s call for a new direction in Washington. And they don’t intend to move beyond their failed, 1980s-vintage economic policies.
In short, Sen. Rubio presented the Republican Party as a carcass. This was both expected and stunning at the same time. In his maiden 2016 presidential campaign speech, Rubio delivered a full-throated embrace of the party's 2012 base alone--an unmistakable sign that he sees no way out; that he sees himself stuck with a culturally receding, coalition bloc of twisted Randians and backward Christianists; that it's all over before it commences.
One would think that given this certainty of electoral doom--and Rubio's not stupid, he can add and he knows at least two colors, bright blue and fading red--almost any GOP aspirant would be laying the ideological groundwork for something different, something appealing, something of some electoral promise. If the election is otherwise lost before the serious campaigning starts, why bother? Yet with the highest stakes possible already out there, Rubio stayed pat with a conspicuously losing hand. And that was stunning.