UPDATE 9:20 PM: Aaaaand it's finally all over. A whole lot of pundits thought that President Obama was going to run back to the center tonight, after his aggressively liberal inauguration speech. They were disappointed. This was a speech interested in ending the war in Afghanistan, in raising the minimum wage, in making sure that people have the right to vote, in making education available to more Americans, young and old. It was a speech that didn't throw a sop to clean coal, even though it wasn't as specific about ways to do battle with climate change as it should've been. And it crescendoed—most SotU speeches definitely do not crescendo, but this one did—in a call for Congress to vote on gun control. It was masterful politics because it was genuinely touching. It was a real moment, and it was presented with no small amount of genius by President Obama saying that victims of gun violence "deserve a vote" in Congress. It was a speech that will not help Congress's approval ratings, which means that it was a speech that definitely will help President Obama's approval ratings. Most SotUs are fairly straightforward affairs, choked and stammering with standing ovations and calls for bipartisanship. This speech was not weighted down with applause from either party. That means it was a good speech.
Marco Rubio continues to worry me. The response to the SotU is always a thankless job, and so Rubio just basically gave up on responding and decided instead to deliver a very early draft of his 2016 presidential stump speech. It was heavy on biography, and it dealt with a lot of Rubio's strengths: the immigration story of America, the appeal to common sense, and a call to arms for the middle class. (Rubio even claimed to live in a middle class neighborhood, even though the homes in his so-called middle-class neighborhood average in the half-million dollar range.) You'd hardly know that Rubio had just cast a vote against the Violence Against Women Act. He seemed genial, nervous in a charming sort of way, and passionate. That his speech was a bunch of teabaggy truisms didn't really matter. Marco Rubio made a case for himself tonight, and he always does that very well.
But Rubio was so far to the right in his speech—he affirmed both his opposition to gun control and, in almost the first sentence, his anti-abortion values proudly and clearly—that he didn't really give Rand Paul much room to maneuver in his Tea Party Response to the State of the Union. Paul sounded like a fifth-class intellect, and he mushed around in his father's old speeches until any reasonable person would've had to stop paying attention. Paul kept pretending that he was the only sane man in all of Washington DC. And while that appeals to people who have no idea how politics works (I'm sure he won back a bunch of the Ron Paul supporters who abandoned him after he supported Mitt Romney's candidacy, for instance), it sounded peevish and ignorant to everyone else. Rubio's star is on the rise, and Paul's star might finally be on the descent. With his vacant eyes, his aimless rants, and his purer-than-purist ideology, Paul resembles nothing so much as a male Michele Bachmann. And while Teabaggers might love that kind of thing, nobody else does.
Find the original post after the jump:
ORIGINAL POST: If you're not near a TV, you can watch the State of the Union on YouTube or CSPAN. Marco Rubio's Republican response should be on immediately afterward. And then Rand Paul's Teabagger Response to the Response to the State of the Union will be streaming live on Redstate.com. When all that talking is over, I'll be appearing on the Andrew Walsh show on KIRO tonight at 9-ish to talk about the whole goddamned thing.
Stranger writers (including but not limited to Dan Savage, Christopher Frizzelle, Cienna Madrid, Goldy, Eli Sanders, and myself)
will be commenting have commented on the SotU and its many responses inside the Twitter box to the right of this post, and you can also find them by by clicking on this link.
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