Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dept. of Not Ready for Prime Time

Okay, the water thing was fun but rapidly hit overkill; the fact that he was just repeating standard GOP rhetoric was true but unsurprising; and I figured there was no reason to get into the whole business because the SOTU response is a hopeless task, anyway. But this deserves noting:
But let's talk for a moment about his humbleboast, "I still live in the same working-class neighborhood I grew up in." Yes, that would be West Miami, where Rubio has been trying to sell that house for an un-working-class-like $675,000 so he can up and move his family to GODLESS ELITE DC.
That's (via Goddard) from a Miami New Times blogger who appears to be no friend of Rubio at all.

But of course if you're giving a national political address, then the national press is going to pick up on these things; whatever you've said in the past (and I have no idea whether this is standard Rubio boilerplate or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was) has to be scrubbed of anything that has a high probability of blowing up on you. Even if you've gotten away with it many times before. Even if you may have been called out on it before by some minor blogger or whatever but haven't worried because no one you care about reads that stuff. In other words, the story here is not so much that the Miami New Times had the story but that Taegan Goddard's Political Wire picked it up. Because of course Goddard is going to grab something like that about the SOTU response.

Rule One of national political rhetoric has got to be to never, never, never, say something about oneself that can't be disproved by a reporter in twenty minutes of poking around. It's just not worth the bother.

No, this one won't kill off Rubio's presidential ambitions. But three of these...two of these, even...could start giving him a reputation. It happened to Paul Ryan, remember, during his VP run. I suspect that neither Rubio nor Ryan is particularly dishonest about their personal stories; it's just that there's a different standard of "honesty" when you're talking about the national press than there is for House or even Senate elections.

13 comments:

  1. I'll say one thing in defense of Rubio (and in opposition to Sullivan): His call to reduce the deficit by growing the economy is correct, and not at all what the standard Republican is saying. The common GOP response is that we need to cut spending, and especially entitlements, to reduce the deficit, and somehow out of all of that austerity, we'd get more growth.

    In an ideal world, the president and the GOP would agree that economic growth is the best cure for the deficit (among its other positive aspects), and we should simply be hashing out how best to grow the economy. Contrary to what Rubio said, we're not having that discussion.

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    1. Well, sometimes they do talk about the importance of growth, but their prescribed recipe for growth is cutting taxes, regulations, and spending.

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    2. Disagree with this. Rubio was echoing the standard Republican line - that the only way growth can be achieved is via "pro-growth tax reform." That's what he means when he calls for reducing the deficit through growth. "Pro-growth tax reform" means cutting taxes on rich people. Cutting taxes to create growth (indeed, as the only way to create growth) is standard supply-side economics.

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    3. Cutting taxes always reduces the deficit. It's always 1961. The tax rate is always 91%. JFK. Reagan. Rinse. Repeat.

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  2. I agree with Andrew Sullivan about the vapidness of Rubio's ideology; I further think this is a good illustration of the flaw of the modern Republicans (and also the market for wonkery like Ezra Klein's).

    My favorite Rubioism, not often mentioned, was the line "Every dollar of government spending is a dollar not used to create jobs". Over to you, Couves: yes, deficits, even well-meaning ones, crowd out private investment. And then you, Scott Monje: who's going to pay the shovellers of shovel-ready public infrastructure projects if not government?

    That line, like the rest of Rubio's partisan ideology, was half-right and half-wrong. Sullivan noted that it felt like 1970 listening to Rubio; back then we thought there was a reasonable straight line between ideology and practical policy. Most of us have since long gotten over that conceit. The Fox News right holds fast to that lonely ice floe...

    This is the value of Ezra Klein, too. Who cares anymore that Marco Rubio doesn't like government but has fond memories of his dad's Medicare and his own subsidized student loans? In 2013, saying you're "for" or "against" government is about as useful as spitting into the wind. What we want to know, what guys like Klein attempt to elucidate, is what you plan to do, how your unique take on the appropriate role of gov't actually intersects with living, breathing lives.

    The retrograde right hasn't come to this not-particularly-earth-shattering conclusion, and that's why they're in trouble, it has nothing to do with diversity or culture or whatever - if your policy is that Barack Obama is a big ol' meanie for attacking you all the time, you don't actually have a policy, and thus there's no reason for us to listen to you.

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    1. Good point about the shovelers.

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    2. You might be onto something with your "straight line between ideology and practical policy" point CSH. There is a straight line for conservatives, but no one wants to say it. The straight line is a policy which would, over time, replace entitlements with private sector solutions.

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  3. I think there's a typo about Rule One ... it should be "can" not "can't".

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    1. An example of what Language Log calls misnegation.

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  4. A little off-topic, but I just want to note that I'm completely unsurprised by Rubio's speech. I've always marveled at how he's regarded as a conservative rock star, yet I've never heard him do anything but utter right-wing bromides in the most generic, unexciting manner; in his way he's about as machine-made as Mitt Romney. It's part of why I've been skeptical of his presidential aspirations--or, for that matter, those of Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Bobby Jindal. Granted, none of those people are anywhere near as far-fetched as a Herman Cain or Michelle Bachmann. But one thing I've noticed since 2007 is that the GOP seems to have this obsessive need to find a "savior," and this goal leads them to wildly overhype individuals who can't possibly live up to expectations--think Fred Thompson in 2008, Rick Perry in 2012, or Bobby Jindal in his now-infamous SOTU response (which, oddly, may have had the effect of lowering the bar for this genre--I suspect that Rubio and Ryan convinced themselves their priority was to avoid a Jindal-level disaster, and to think that as long as they did so, their speech was a success).

    I also think that the GOP, while they will never admit this openly, has long been searching for their own version of Obama. That's why they keep propping up these relatively young, fresh-faced, telegenic (well, maybe not in Christie's case), often minority politicians who haven't been in politics for very long. What many Republicans fail to consider is the extent to which Obama beat the odds. It's not common for politicians with less than a full term in national office or a governorship to go directly to the presidency. Obama definitely was overhyped, but he managed to live up to some of it. He showed considerable discipline as a campaigner, and I haven't seen much evidence of this trait in any of the current rising stars (I'm particularly skeptical of Christie for this reason). Moreover, while he did generate a lot of enthusiasm from the antiwar left, he also successfully courted many centrists and independents. The GOP's idea of sounding bipartisan and centrist is praising JFK's allegedly proto-supply-side tax policy, not realizing they're simply mouthing a right-wing talking point. I truly believe they've forgotten what it means to speak to the center--another effect of the closed information loop we're always talking about.

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    1. I think there's another big difference, and that's how Obama used his story vs. Rubio.

      Obama wrote two biographies, and lets those speak his story. Two books, all about Obama. And it's true, he uses bits of his story when he speaks to the public, but always as a jumping point to talk about others; it's the point of empathy for jumping off. It's not about him, it's about us, the folk listening.

      Rubio tells his story over and over, we're supposed to empathize with him; it's a conversation about him, not the beginning of talking about us.

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    2. If you listen you'll discover that this is typical for today's GOP leaders. It is part of an increasingly, I think, autocratic take on leadership, that emphasizes the suffering and strength of "leader." (And, "job creators" which means "owners.") I first noted this during W's terms. Bush had extreme discomfort with both moral argument and the traditional language of small "d" democracy. Time and again, he explicitly rejected moral argument as little more than an attempt to make him justify, second guess or explain himself. Even more interesting, to me at least -- it never seemed to occur to him to appeal to us, in the democratic tradition, as fellow citizens who he hoped to inspire to unite with him (in a great cause or enterprise). The reason for this, I concluded, was because frankly he didn't see us that way.

      However "regular guy" Bush strove to be, at heart Bush was an authoritarian and autocrat.

      His speeches, whatever the subject, were not about us (we, the people), but, primarily about himself (he, the stalwart leader) -- his resolve, his faith, his beliefs, his responsibilities, his suffering (Remember, "It's hard work").

      This, for instance, is how he opened the first speech (in a series) he gave to win back our support on the war in Iraq, "My greatest responsibility as president is to protect the American people."

      It's was a sentence (often repeated) that immediately asserted his rank, his centrality and importance as our leader, and his wish to reassure and comfort those of us who follow. But it was not one that could, or was meant to, inspire or activate or include us in the cause. Instead, it reflected an attitude that sees "the people" as dependent, childlike, waiting to be reassured and led by the leader's higher resolve and wisdom. Not as, in the democratic tradition, a powerful, active, moral force.

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  5. Gosh, who would have thought gentrification would come back to bite a Republican in the ass?

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