The weekly Daley: Water-Gate 2013

By From page A6 | February 15, 2013

With apologies to Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle from the 1988 Vice Presidential debate:

“I knew Watergate, and you sir are no Watergate.”

Marco Rubio got the role Bobby Jindal didn’t want to reprise as the GOP rebutter to the State of the Union address Tuesday night. Few if any of the talking heads I’ve heard are saying anything about Sen. Rubio’s actual speech.

“It was like the hot, sweaty Nixon all over again,” some are saying, referring to the Nixon-Kennedy debate in 1960 when Richard Nixon had a five-o’clock shadow and perspired profusely on camera.

It wasn’t anything like that. I saw that debate, live at the time, and numerous times since then. I didn’t feel sorry for Mr. Nixon. I do feel a bit sorry for Sen. Rubio. It can’t have been a very comfortable situation to be in.

Imagine what was probably a very small room with blazing studio lights, a gaggle of TV producers, directors and whoever else would be part of a production like that. It must have been awful for him. And as a result, it was pretty uncomfortable for those of us who watched. Ducking and bobbing part-way off camera to grab a little bottle of water looked extremely awkward, and then he drank so little that it can’t have made a difference. I would rather have seen him say, “Excuse me” and then calmly reach over and take a good long drink. Some self-effacing remark could have helped as well.

“Sorry folks, rebutting a popular, glamorous, charismatic and articulate, dyed-in-the-wool Liberal who is ruining our country is thirsty work,” he could have said with a smile and a wink. I would have applauded that.

All of that foolishness aside, though, Sen. Rubio didn’t capture my imagination. He didn’t say anything new or introduce any interesting ideas that I could discern. That he said it later in Spanish is new, but I didn’t actually hear that and wouldn’t have understood 95 percent of it anyway.

What I really wanted to hear Tuesday night was Rand Paul with the “Tea Party” rebuttal. But every TV station I switched to was showing re-runs of the shootout in Southern California instead.

If Marco Rubio is indeed the new “GOP Savior,” it didn’t show as far as I’m concerned. He seems like a nice guy. He speaks pretty well and looks good, and I can imagine him as a competitive presidential candidate, not in four years, but maybe in eight. I doubt this “Water-Gate” will ever become a significant point to his disadvantage.

The president, on the one hand, didn’t say anything particularly new either. On the other hand, how he said it was smooth and effortless and right in his zone of confidence and competence. He’s a better public speaker and that counts for something when everything a public person says gets put under the 24/7 microscope.

I thought the notion of public-private Research/Development/Educational zones was pretty cool, but I don’t see why it should have to start out so small. Only three and expanding to maybe 15? That seems kind of minimal. Why not start with 50 or 100, two in each state and they could compete for future funding and contracts.

My brother the conservative takes exception to any reduction in the defense budget, as do lots of others. Likewise he doesn’t think the country can “afford” to expand preschool programs. I think the country can “afford” just about anything it wants — all it takes is rearranging what we have, shaving a bit here and adding a bit there. In truth, we’ve always done it when we’ve had to. It’s just a matter of enough people deciding we have to do something.

If we do, we do it. If we don’t, we don’t. What’s different today is that we can’t seem to get a consistent majority to agree on what “we have to do.”

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday. 

Chris Daley

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