A lot of the commentary about Marco Rubio's response to Obama's State of the Union is focusing on some of the goofier stuff, like the water break, the "I Dream of Jeannie" looking set or the sad fact that he didn't just blurt out what he obviously really wanted to. What struck me was how little substance the speech actually had. Andrew Sullivan saw it as a "pathetic, exhausted, vapid response" and while I'd agree that it was all of those things it struck me as being more than just another lame speech. If it was anything it was another illustration of the "policy gap" that has developed between the two parties.
Matt Ygleisas has a great list of the numerous different and specific policy proposals Obama outlined in the State of the Union last night that includes links to all sorts of progressive/Democratic allied groups and experts about how to move forward. Compare that to Rubio's talk where he said things like, "And because tuition costs have grown so fast, we need to change the way
we pay for higher education. I believe in federal financial aid." That's all well and good but what does he propose to do specifically? More pell grants? More community colleges? Since Rubio didn't elaborate other than to tell us what he "believes in" your guess is as good as mine. The same thread was apparent in Eric Cantor's much lauded speech a few weeks ago where he proposed fixing our budget deficit by zeroing out the $11 million dollars in grants the National Science Foundation gives to the study of political science. And who can forget the mother of all policy black holes: Republicans have been vowing to "repeal and replace" Obamacare for the last two plus years, and while they've voted to repeal it over 30 times in the House no bill to replace it has been introduced or even discussed in either chamber of Congress.
A fashionable criticism of Obama over the past four years has been he needs to stop "campaigning" and "start governing." The idea here is that Obama's big rallies and speeches he does for issues from time to time are not effective and he needs to spend more time in Washington or something. While I think this kind of criticism is a bit silly, public speeches are a part of a presidents job, I have realized that a similar concept does apply to the modern GOP. Over the past 20 years Republicans have increasingly replaced the language and reality of policy with boilerplate campaign rhetoric. You saw this a lot last night with Rubio. The economic section of the speech was largely confined to: "And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and
new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty." Later Rubio criticizes the upcoming sequester cuts as being "devastating." So government isn't the answer, but cutting it is devastating, but what we want is smaller government. This sort of incoherence isn't a flaw in Marco Rubio, its a flaw in a political party that no longer attempts to understand or explain complex policy issues and instead has built its rhetoric and discussion of policy around gimmicks and the use of buzzwords.
In other news, I have a lot more free time on my hands these days as the project I was working on ended on Friday. So, I'll be updating this blog a lot more, maybe even as much as once a day. Anyway thanks again for reading and check back soon!