Everyone loves to hate Congress. In fact a recent poll shows that people have a more favorable opinion of head lice, colonoscopies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Genghis Khan and Nickelback than it does of Congress. Nickelback!
And yet the media isn’t exactly beloved either. Given their childish response to Sen. Marco Rubio’s thoughtful Republican response to the State of the Union, it’s not hard to see why. When the media should have been debating the contrasting visions for America’s future that were being presented, they focused instead on a Sen. Rubio taking a sip of water in the middle of his remarks.
The Daily Caller, who endured the thankless task of counting, figured out that cable news replayed the clip of Rubio reaching for the water more than 200 times on Wednesday. The once reputable news source CNN even spent time debating the question of whether the drink of water was a “career ender.”
For God’s sake they even dubbed it Water-Gate!
But it’s easy to see why the cable news wanted to focus on the style rather than the substance of the message. They were simply scared to admit that Sen. Rubio—the young, minority conservative that goes against everything they want the GOP to be—knocked it out of the park.
Whereas the President repeated the tired case for an expansive government to solve every societal problem, Rubio explained how a limited government is actually the best tonic for what ails America. This is a subtle, but important, rhetorical shift from past Republican efforts.
Previously, conservatives were all too keen to argue with Democrats on their turf – about who cares more for the poor, for immigrants, and [insert other sympathetic group here]. But as Jonah Goldberg explained in National Review, we
“[W]ill never beat liberals at the game of whose heart bleeds the most.
. . . “The reason that games is so perilous for conservatives is not that liberals necessarily care more than conservatives but that they are always willing and eager to prove their concern by cutting a check, even when all we have in the checking account is IOUs and cash on loan from China.”
So instead Rubio offered a message built on opportunity – an American hallmark – and reform as a means of preservation, not destruction.
“More government isn’t going to help you get ahead,” Rubio said. “It’s going to hold you back. More government isn’t going to create more opportunities. It’s going to limit them. And more government isn’t going to inspire new ideas, new businesses and new private sector jobs. It’s going to create uncertainty.”
Republicans have also been pigeonholed as a party of the rich – a smart, if erroneous, attack on the conservative principle of opportunity for all. But Rubio, the son of an immigrant family who came to our shores because of the promise of the American Dream, articulated a defense perfectly.
“Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich,” Rubio said. “I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”
Overall, it was a night that should give conservatives hope. Not only that we have bright, young, and diverse members to carry our party’s banner in Washington, but that they have fresh, smart ideas on how to fix the problems while they are there. If the only thing the liberal media can attack is Sen. Rubio taking a sip of water, then you know he said all the right things.