Press Coverage Even Worse Than Rubio's Speech


Rubio, Superstar … do you think you’re what they say you are?

Here is the Atlas atop Memeorandum on Wednesday:

Twitter exploded during Sen. Marco Rubio’s Republican response to the State of the Union, as the Florida senator appeared a little sweaty and dry-mouthed at mid-speech, taking an awkward swig from a bottle of water that had been placed off-camera…

Ah, Charles Pierce’s Tiger Beat on the Atlantic nickname for Politico springs to mind. Except that Tiger Beat has higher journalistic standards than this.

Glueck plagiarizes … er, quotes interesting tweets from important persons, which is not reportage at all, but is, rather, the professional twist on the high school newspaper staple “What’s your pet peeve?” Or, in this case, who are your pet tweets. Twits.

I would have learned more from Tiger Beat‘s revelation of what’s Justin Bieber’s favorite color and “cool thing to do.”

The dreadful awfulness of Rubio’s speech has unleashed a torrent of bizarre and unprofessional ink, all of which is intended to prove that Rubio gave a great speech in the manner that Clint Eastwood gave a great performance at the Tampa Convention a few hurricanes back.

It was an awful speech, irrespective of partisan differences.

No: the way I can prove that it was an awful speech comes straight from media, a Time magazine writer:

Let’s just stipulate that the response to the State of the Union is a lousy assignment. There’s no audience, no applause, no podium where you can stash water within easy reaching distance. You inevitably look like you’re filming a hostage video, or an ad for your local car dealership, or a podcast in your basement. You have to respond to a speech you haven’t even heard, and your role is strictly partisan; your job is to attack the president, who can look like a statesman because he doesn’t have to stoop to attack you. You basically have to predict doom, and it’s tough to do that without sounding like you’re rooting for doom….

Er, we’re starting out by saying that the grapes were undoubtedly sour even before the fox tried to jump for them? Thus excusing the fox?

What would a partisan inanity like Fox News spew:

If Santa Claus had a State of the Union speech, it would sound much like President Obama’s latest. In it, Obama detailed a Christmas list of “investments” on Tuesday night that he wants government to make. In all, he included 11 separate versions of the term “invest” to indicate government spending – your tax dollars. The solution to all that spending was, of course, more taxes when Republicans have already said “no new taxes.”

Naturally, the media loved it. MSNBC’s Ed Schultz called it “a stunning speech tonight.” CNN’s Jessica Yellin said Obama was “relaxed and confident.” Politico’s summary was spot on: “State of the Union reaction: Media gives Obama thumbs up.”

But when it came to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) making one of the most important speeches a Hispanic has ever made in America? The media conclusion was he was all wet – literally….

Ah, the imputed “wetback” slur, implied without saying it, accusation levied by sleight-of-tongue. How refreshing.

Fox is, naturally, all weepy, defensive and oppressed on Rubio’s behalf — albeit having dragged out an inappropriate racial slur — as would be expected. Save that it was a dreadful speech. You don’t defend what don’t need defending. Had Rubio “hit it out of the park” they’d all be slapping themselves on the back. As it was, Krauthammer was wincing noticeably and uttering nonsense as Bret Baird’s talking head along the lines of, “he articulated the classical conservative position well,” which means, I suppose that all the words were pronounced correctly.

No: the TIME Magazine writer’s is the telling version.

Here is writer Grunwald’s conclusion [emphasis added]:

But Rubio will be fine. Four years ago, Jindal was a laughingstock, the singsong dork who had mocked “something called volcano monitoring” in the Obama stimulus just before a volcano erupted in Alaska. Now he’s considered a contender for 2016. Rubio is an even more eloquent spokesman for a party that believes in lower taxes, aggressive foreign policies, conservative social policies, Tea Party rhetoric and spending cuts that dare not be named. And while this was a leadership audition of sorts, he’ll face an even bigger test when it comes time to make a deal or walk away from Obama on immigration reform.

When Obama delivers his next State of the Union, most Americans won’t even remember who delivered the last response. Speaking of which: Do you remember which Republican did the honors in 2011? A guy by the name of Paul Ryan; I can’t say I remember what he said, but I know it didn’t hurt his career.

Garbage. The old Roger Ailes “Orchestra Pit” dictum applies: If you have a guy who says “I have a plan that is guaranteed to bring peace to the Middle East” and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, which one gets the coverage? The guy who fell into the orchestra pit.

And, of course, Jindal’s response DID harm his brand greatly. Only an idiot who works for TIME or Fox News would believe otherwise.

Marco Rubio fell into the orchestra pit. Let me tell you how:

Rubio began that speech in the most histrionic high school speech festival manner. Every emotion exaggerated, by turns, outraged, worshipful, teary, nostalgic, indignant, et al, etcetera. Fine: the speech was grounded in bathos, with little logos and questionable ethos.

It was overdone and over the top. Which goes back to the Reagan worship, wherein the GOP learned that for many people it mattered less what you did or said than how it LOOKED. And they keep pinning their hopes on a politician who learns to be a bad actor, rather than a bad actor who learns to be a good politician. (Reagan may have been a policy disaster, but he played the political game well … certainly better than the last three GOP presidents).

The problem is, you ain’t Hollywood unless you’ve spent the time in Hollywood, and being an actor is harder than it looks. Rubio acted like an amateur and it showed. Marco Rubio may be a “great speaker” as endless talking heads intoned, but he is also a third-rate actor.

And as he over-emoted like “Maria” in an all-drag version of West Side Story, it seemed phony and forced from the top. He’s a better speaker than this, but he pushed his skills further than their seasoning. The rhetoric was of the same order that might have been heard in ANY Republican speech going back to the 1950s. Nothing new there.

Then there was the noise. I began to notice it and thought that it might be he was either hitting his lapel microphone, or there was a short in the boom. I started watching more intently to see where it was coming from as it repeated again and again. Sounded like cloth rubbing over a sensitive microphone.

And then I realized no, it was a rale. His throat had dried out, and he was sucking wind like a fat lineman on the first day of wind sprints on a hot August day.

Now, I realize what that panicked look was on his face, and when he went for a drink of water — a seasoned speaker ought to know how to take a sip of water for one’s throat casually, as all speakers are prone to need — he bizarrely kept eye contact with the camera and, seemingly, furtively sucked down a gulp of water only drawing MORE attention to what need not have been a gaffe, save for Rubio’s bizarre approach to hydration.

I mean, I DO get it. He tried to soldier on. Didn’t work. Realized that he had to drink. Became nervous about what it would look like, and, with thousands of thoughts between the politician giving his most important political speech ever and the pure animal need for a sip of water, well, Marco Rubio went ass over teakettle.

Thus, the man falleth into the orchestra pit. Thus do the High and Mighty tweet.

And thus do the hacks at Politico have a WHOLE gosh darned “news” story about what people tweeted WHEN Mr. Rubio landed between the kettle drums and the contra-bassoon.

And Fox News is right there, screeching HOW DARE YOU LAUGH AT HIS PRATFALL? when all they DO is laugh at the pratfalls of others. But pay no mind. Faux Nooz is insane, of course, but they are as predictably insane as they are predictably inane.

What fascinates me is how the TIME writer who has a blue-blood liberal media pedigree – New York bureau chief for the Washington Post,  Boston Globe, The New Republic, Slate; a Polk Award,  a BA from Harvard, etc.  – would so desperately defend Rubio’s speech by claiming first that, well, you’re GUARANTEED to fail and it’s a really bad gig, and then that nobody will remember,  just like Bobby Jindal, nobody will remember….


You see, it turns out that the writer, Michael Grunwald, in fact, coincidentally, wrote the MARCO RUBIO, SUPERSTAR! cover story on the stands right now. So, is Grunwald defending Rubio, or is he defending his PIECE on the newsstands on Rubio?

How crapulous is that?

The piece is not reportage, but a desperate DEFENSE of Rubio, an apologia for the unapologetic — which is NOT the provenance of TIME magazine (or at least, ought not be) and is, indisputably, the provenance and patented copyright of Fox News!

Worse, the Tiger Beat on the Atlantic piece on tweets of the important and prominent is a BETTER news piece. All of which has failed to convince me that Marco Rubio DIDN’T fall into the orchestra pit.

Oh, and the substance of Rubio’s speech? Well, Politico did an actual journalistic type thing and ran a fact check on it. Turns out he was doing some serious lying.


A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, an honorary Texan, Clown (ditto) and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.

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