Attack. Retreat. Repeat. Political agendas are now as simple as shampoo instructions. Your best interests take a back seat to petty party fights and I'm bored. You should be bored, too... and angry. I've written about D.C. dysfunction in both parties for the Huffington Post over the past half-year after decades of political involvement, but now, it all just seems like the same cynical cycle.
President Obama gave what was probably his best State of the Union address and invited Republicans to support many of their own ideas. Yet, with memories of Joe Wilson's "You Lie" moment still fresh, Bill Shuster (R-PA) issued the same charge and Ted Cruz (R-TX) doubted his credibility on immigration. Yesterday morning, Shuster apologized. Again: Attack. Retreat. Repeat. Sure, Democrats got their water cooler moment with Marco Rubio's struggle with dry mouth, but it's all one big cycle. With that, and since one of D.C.'s biggest nights plays out like Bravo programming, here's my take on D.C.: Mean Girls edition.
Even if you can't stand Obama, you should stand up when he praises things you like!
If Obama's inaugural address was a shout out to Democratic ideals, then the State of the Union was a move to get the GOP on board. He addressed Republican concerns like corporate tax rates and deficit reduction, praised the GOP's immigration efforts and called for more border security. Too bad, they couldn't stand for so many things they support. Look, I get it. Republicans don't like the president. But there were plenty of "gimmes" for both sides. Early childhood education? One side stood. Not letting full-time minimum wage workers live in poverty? One side stood. Equal pay for women? One side stood. These are political gifts! You should run to them like a celebrity to a swag bag.
Plus, what stops you from rooting for early childhood education? I guess it's fitting, since John Boehner looked like a child who was given a "time out" for the full hour. Don't worry, Johnny, the tanning booth will still be there, when you get back!
The Sip Seen 'Round The Web
We live in a world defined by moments. Americans and the American Media can't help themselves when the unexpected takes over. So it makes sense that after President Obama's first State of the Union since reelection, the night's water cooler moment came from a dry mouthed, sweat-soaked Marco Rubio in the Republican response. Trying to parch the desert behind his teeth for 10 long minutes, Rubio leaned to his left for the best product placement Poland Spring has ever received. Voila! A YouTube moment is born and suddenly the GOP's best hopes to win over the Latino vote in 2016 were drowning.
Granted, the opposing party's response to a sitting president's State of the Union is always an uphill battle. The Commander-in-Chief has a historic setting and a captive audience for both houses of congress with standing ovations for positive reinforcement. The response often ends up with one person in a room with a camera and a couple of lights. It's set up for embarrassments by comparison, let alone the self-inflicted wounds by Michele Bachmann's off-camera gaze in 2011, Bobby Jindal's awkward delivery in 2009 or Democrat Tim Kaine's stale response to President Bush in 2006. Still, if you've got a history of dry mouth with a big speech on the way, keep water closer!
Democrats' 2014 Contest Mid-Term Hopes Got A Boost From Republicans
Sometimes, your best political work is done by an opponent who's caught looking bad. If they don't understand the power of a TV cutaway, even better. President Obama's hope and optimism was contrasted by a caustic GOP response from Marco Rubio and a Speaker of the House who couldn't help but blow his nose in the middle of the address! (Johnny, bad enough you have a cold, but do you have to check out your dirty handkerchief?) As President Obama ticked off his list of actions, Republicans looked, well, ticked off. While he addressed real-world issues like climate change, they looked like they just wanted to put their heads back in the sand to avoid all the science. He could solve all the world's problems and still be treated like a Real Housewife on a reunion special who'd been caught criticizing the other women in a tabloid.
What's behind all that hate? Some Republicans had it in for Clinton but just look at his popularity now. Small victories are possible. As hard as McCain tried not to, he couldn't keep that grin off his face when acknowledged. It made him and the president look gracious.
The Commander In Chief gave an inclusive, grounded and forward-thinking approach. Republicans looked like Grinches. I loved his remark that we can't drift from "one manufactured crisis to the next." It was a shock to the system of a party that thrives on crisis and distraction. Just like past presidents, Democrat and Republican, he's been forced to use Executive Actions when faced with their obstruction on basic issues. Now, the opposition is stuck. His party's obvious energy and optimism was countered by the arms crossed, stubborn look across the way. I give Kelly Ayotte and John McCain credit for offering big applause, but too many of their colleagues don't see that the world is changing and they'll be left behind like a white dress full of red wine stains.
A Good Night For Latino Voters
Yes, Marco Rubio couldn't get through his speech without sweating and thirsting, simultaneously, but give credit where credit is due. His speech marked the first time in history a response was delivered in both English and Spanish. The fact that he was the one who gave the response shows progress in his party. Also, there was broad bipartisan public support for immigration reform. Republicans applauded the move. Sure it followed their years of kicking and screaming, but still... Everyone seems to be coming around. After all, the State of the Union was even broadcast in Cuba. I'm not saying Castro will be waving an American flag this year, but you take your victories where you can get them.
America Needs To Fix Its Voting System (I'm Talking About Us, Florida!)
You can see my love for Florida on The Real Housewives of Miami. But this Housewife is saying we need to get our House in order! Only in this state would a 102-year-old have to wait hours to vote. I applaud Desiline Victor and her appearance at the State of the Union, but why should this woman have to face lines this long, when wealthier districts have more voting booths and shorter lines across town and throughout the state? Governor Rick Scott should be ashamed and he'll be out of work after the election if he doesn't handle this now.
Show Some Respect, Scalia
Antonin Scalia (Can I call you Andy?) refused to attend the State of the Union because, he says, it's become "a childish spectacle." It's disgraceful. Granted, he hasn't gone since the mid-'90s but this night is important and D.C. is a town that lives on tradition. Then again, he should know all about "childish spectacles" after his decision on the 2000 presidential election.
The State of the Union is reality TV gold. Sure, the speech is scripted (and so are some reality shows) but you've got huge personalities, amazing water cooler moments, priceless cutaways and enough tension to make Andy Cohen jealous he didn't produce it (You know I love you, Andy!). However, there was one thing that would've been nice. Given the departure (for now!) of Hillary Clinton on the world stage, a mention would have given her a proper send-off (no matter how temporary before the 2016 race kicks in).
We Love a Big Finish
Leave it to this man to know the need for a big finish. Gun control is not easy on the Hill, but he waited until the final leg of his speech for emotional impact. His introduction of victims and parents of victims of gun violence and his "They deserve a vote" lines were perfect for a culture that needs a catchphrase to cap a movement. Gabrielle Giffords and other gun victims standing up while NRA-backed bullies just sat in silence was moving and telling to millions of voters at home.