Toward the beginning of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama said we need a “smarter government,” not a “bigger government.” He then proceeded to request a long wish list of new government programs that make clear that, in his mind, the only smarter government is a bigger one.
So, we would have the federal government providing everything from universal pre-K to a network of manufacturing hubs to rebuilt bridges to refinanced homes — none of which is a bad thing, but also none of which require the involvement of a federal government already well beyond its ability to pay for the things it already tries to do. His assertion that this wish list would not add “a single dime” to the deficit didn’t pass the laugh test, particularly when administration officials after the speech declined to provide cost estimates for the new programs.
One can only guess his proposals won’t add “a single dime” to the deficit because they would, instead, add many billions if not trillions of dollars to it.
But if you missed the speech, fear not. You have heard every thought in it before; it was a pastiche of speeches he’s given over the past four years. I wouldn’t even say last night’s rendition was better than all the other times he’s given it. The only unifying theme was that Washington needs to do more. The only memorable moment came toward the end, when the president employed his familiar cadence of repeating a particular phrase time and again — this time, it was to say the various victims of gun violence he mentioned by name “deserve a vote” on his gun-control proposals. It will have zero effect on policy making. It was campaign-rally, rah-rah stuff.
If you expected anything different, you haven’t been paying attention. If tax dollars are still paying for a White House speechwriter to recycle the same ideas and phrases, then what Americans “deserve” is a refund.
The GOP response from Sen. Marco Rubio was the party’s strongest counter-argument yet during the Obama presidency. If you missed it, you might not see much about it in the news beyond the (admittedly awkward) moment during the middle of it when a clearly parched Rubio reached quickly for a bottle of water. As someone said on Twitter at the time — I lost track of exactly who it was — that’s largely a function of how a speech given to a camera is inherently inferior to one given to a live audience, during which the speaker can pause during applause to take a quick swig. Rubio’s Water(bottle)gate was but the latest reminder of that fact, which has dogged SOTU respondents from both parties for years now.
Those who can look past that moment will find the reasons Republicans are so excited about Rubio as a future presidential candidate. He makes the case for conservative principles with illustrations, and from angles, that are necessary to cast them in their proper light: as principles that can boost Americans of all backgrounds and income levels. This was a case Mitt Romney did not, and perhaps could not, make effectively. Rubio is obviously fluent in conservative ideals and language in a way that neither Romney not John McCain was. His ethnicity is icing on the cake.
– By Kyle Wingfield