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.
Watching mainstream media reaction to Rubio taking a sip of water during his speech, you would have thought he was emulating Socrates and drinking his own political hemlock.
Rubio’s response to Obama will surely catapult the freshman senator into even more serious contention for the presidential nomination. He promoted the classic conservative view, reminding viewers that opportunity “isn’t bestowed on us from Washington.” But during the speech, Rubio dared to reach off screen slightly, grab a bottle of water and take a drink.
Watching media reaction, you would think he was emulating Socrates and drinking his own political hemlock. MSNBC and CNN both dwelled on the drink, as did numerous left-wing pundits. It was, in the words of Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitas: “The sip of water laughed at world wide.”
That result was pre-ordained. Rubio could have announced the cure for cancer that he personally had developed and MSNBC would still have attacked him. Since he didn’t, they had a field day with host Rachel Maddow instantly remarking on his “big reach for the water glass.”
She was followed by the usual mental meanderings of host Chris Matthews who predictably blasted Rubio’s speech. “I thought it was tinker toys.” (Yes, he actually said that. No one really understands the workings of the Matthews brain. We just report what comes out of his mouth.) “I thought it was primitive, something you’d hear on a high school debating team,” Matthews continued. No word yet from MSNBC whether Rubio set loose a negatively charged tingle in Matthews’ leg, but he was certainly energized.
Former RNC head-turned MSNBC analyst Michael Steele added his own anti-water comment: “I did not like the water bottle.” The four Republicans in the audience who were not paid to watch MSNBC were all assuredly upset.
CNN wasn’t much better. New anchor Chris Cuomo made a reaching joke and even mimicked Rubio grabbing for the bottle. That was followed by an instant replay of the drinking scene, like it was Raven Jacoby Jones running 108 yards for a Super Bowl touchdown.
Obama received far nicer treatment. Anchor Wolf Blitzer underscored how strong the speech had been. “The most powerful and emotional moment of the president’s speech, perhaps, came near the end as victims of gun violence stood and cheered and shed tears in the House gallery,” he described.
Meanwhile, on Twitter, CNN media critic Howard Kurtz was talking water bottles. “Twiiter [sic] going off on Marco Rubio water bottle. Really dousing him,” he wrote. E.J. Dionne, one of the many Washington Post liberal columnists, delivered more of the same. “Poor Marco Rubio: It was the gulp that roared. TV can be a cruel medium #sotu,” he Tweeted. The Nation’s Greg Mitchell, who actually used to edit the journalism publication Editor & Publisher, described it as the “Return of the Swig Party.”
All of that splashing about made it easy for media types to ignore the twin realities of the Obama speech – taxes and spending. Former GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told CNN that it was “the most pro-government speech since Lyndon Johnson.” Johnson, for those who lack Gingrich’s grasp of history, made his mark expanding government with his “Great Society” programs.
For Rubio’s part, he reminded viewers to blame Obama for the sequester and the cuts “were his idea in the first place.” The senator summed up well the Obama strategy. “His solution to virtually every problem we face is for Washington to tax more, borrow more and spend more.”
Obama was pretty clear on that point, apparently even surprising lefties with a call for a sudden huge hike in the minimum wage to $9 an hour. (Obama’s living wage rhetoric would mean a 24 percent hike from the current $7.25.) None of the analysts seemed quick to understand that regulations are like taxes and we tax things we want to limit. Liberals acknowledge carbon taxes limit use of energy because they want that. None of them seem to grasp that taxing jobs also limits employment.
Conservatives naturally hated Obama’s speech. Former GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan noted Obama’s “laundry list of new programs.” CNBC’s Larry Kudlow called the speech “unprecedented intervention in and regulation of economy.” The Post’s somewhat conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin summed it up nicely: “The SOTU.. Debt what debt? The ultimate left wing speech.”
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.