Talk about mirror-image addresses: President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech and the response by Florida Republican Senator Marco
Rubio were the pinnacle of such opposites. The President’s was one of the most excellently delivered speeches I have ever heard, near-perfect in his elocution, with flawless pausing for effect, appropriate and compelling emphases, and general audience adaptation. It was peerless. But it was, as always, filled with promise and failure-guaranteed solutions with a few simply unarticulated reasons to anticipate success.
Sen. Rubio’s response, coming from what must have been a
well-protected site in a witness protection program, was sterile, dead-sounding
and embarrassing: he was alone in a spare room, as if he were hiding out from
authorities. He only had the water of the usual bread-and-water diet, and that
water he fetched during his speech was so far away that he should have said
“Timeout!” before fetching it. But his message was sound: no plan to grow the
government even more should have the expectation of solving the country’s
problems; the unaddressed debt problem is an unmet threat that continues to
worsen, raising taxes more and more isn’t the answer, and tough individualism
works and collectivism fails.
The President was all promise and few fruits of promise after four
years-plus on the job.
On the economy and domestic issues, he supported the old
"laundry list:" jobs back to America, climate change expenditures,
fixing infrastructure, and making high school education more job-related,
immigration reform...path to citizenship, while making borders secure, raising
the minimum wage, and enhancing the right to vote (by which he appeared to mean
supporting even earlier voting which could spare many citizens the arduous
chore of following a political campaign until its conclusion).
On foreign policy, the President said vaguely we shall keep
"pressure on [the] Syria regime," but even progressives [see
Richard Cohen in The Washington Post] have accused Mr.
Obama of abdicating leadership, such as ignoring the problems in Syria, wherein
there have been about 500,000 thousand refugees and 70,000 deaths. The
President claims his efforts in counterterrorism have been "transparent to
the American people and to the world," but he ignores the dereliction of
his role as Commander-in-Chief in Benghazi.
On North Korea Mr. Obama says, pursuant to their testing a nuclear
device, that we shall isolate them further. How has that worked out?
On Iran he says, “We shall do what is necessary to prevent them
from getting a nuclear weapon.” That’s good, but what is the interim outcome of
our efforts -- what have we achieved thus far? We’re removing troops from
Afghanistan and will have completed such by the end of next year. How do we
know that Afghanistan will be stable? Is Iraq now stable? Success is not just
removing troops; success is leaving a stable state in place.
The President intends to forge gun control. What reason does his
speech give to make us infer that there will
be less violence and fewer killings if his program is adopted?
What we heard was near-demagoguery on the claim that Gabby
Giffords and Hadiya Pendleton, both victims of violence, the latter a Chicagoan
fatality, "deserve a vote!"
To do what? To enact what policy that would have protected them,
Mr. Obama's Second Inaugural showed him to be the anti-JFK and
anti-Reagan: government in all spheres is the answer.
It is the second term. The State of the Union should have more accomplishments and less promises. Maybe by the end of this term policies will have worked.
After all, the President did say, “We can get this done.”
When, Mr. President? How, Mr. President?
You need to tell us what has already worked.
Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric and communication at
Towson University. He is the author of The
only Authentic Book of Persuasion, Kendall Hunt, 2012, 2013.