By Ann Jacob, Staff Writer
With less pageantry and lots of speculation, after President Barack Obama addressed the nation in the State of the Union address last Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered the opposing party response. While the former is required by the constitution and given by every president since George Washington, the latter only became tradition in 1966. Is this tradition of granting the opposing party a platform to propose alternatives to the President’s plans effective? Should the response to the State of the Union be eliminated?
This year, the response Sen. Rubio gave has been affectionately dubbed, “Watergate,” for the sip of water the senator took towards the end of his speech. Many commentators have criticized the senator for not abiding by proper live broadcasting decorum, and rightly so.
However, what is even more significant than “Watergate” is the content of Rubio’s speech. The senator, who made headlines shortly before giving his speech for voting against the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a “Senate bill [that] would provide services, like shelters and legal help, for abuse victims regardless of their sexual orientation or immigration status,” fell short on the high expectations many placed on him. He delivered a pre-planned speech that criticized Obama on policy goals on which they both agreed on or the president did not address. For instance, on Medicare, the senator called on the president to put out a new plan right after the president addressed Medicare in his address. Similarly, Rubio repeatedly urged the president for less spending and smaller government directly after the president urged Congress for more effective and efficient government. These instances might point to why the opposing party response in not an effective outlet to propose alternative ideas.
In fact, most of Rubio’s speech was similar to Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign stump speeches. With regards to energy policy, Rubio stuck to Romney’s stump speech about the need for more coal and oil. The only difference between the two politicians might be their backgrounds and life stories. However, even Rubio’s middle-class upbringing was scrutinized after the press learned that his house is on sale for $675,000. In addition, the second response to the State of the Union, given this year by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) only illustrated the fractured state of the Republican Party.
Among Boston University students, opinions of the speech were diverse.
Justin Kenney, a College of Arts and Science junior and member of the BU College Democrats, was skeptical of the content of Rubio’s speech.
“This is just a young face on an old message, and he was able to deliver that same message in a way that was more credible because of who he is and where he comes from,” said Kenney. ”I don’t think the message itself was any different than what we’ve heard in the past four years. If you liked the old message, you loved what Senator Rubio had to say.”
However, for others the speech was moving and represented a new leader’s rise.
Sophie Miller, a College of Arts and Science junior and president of the BU College Republicans, advocated for Rubio’s content and delivery of the speech.
“I found it to be inspiring. He successfully pointed out the logistical flaws in President Obama’s proposals, particularly his economic policies and outlined better alternatives,” said Miller.
These contrasting perspectives of the speech are inevitable, and often lead to partisan bickering. However, the question remains: should the opposing party speech be eliminated?
Steve Kornacki, senior writer for Salon.com, proposed that the Chairs of both parties sit down and decide together to eliminate the response in an interview, he said on the Rachel Maddow Show.
I, for one, agree. The response does not boost the opposing party’s favorability. In fact, most times something goes wrong. Perhaps, Rubio should have taken some tips from PolicyMic.com prior to his speech and avoided providing SNL with comedic material.
Regardless of whether your attention was focused on “Watergate” or Michelle Obama’s lovely dress, the take away from Tuesday night hopefully was the bold and inspiring phrase the president repeated, “They deserve a vote!” This phrase not only got both parties in both chambers to stand and applaud for the many victims and families of gun violence, it demonstrated the power of the bully pulpit and the significance of the night. While the response to the State of the Union will continue to garner interest, it is in the interest of the opposing party to stand in solidarity with the president during the State of the Union address and eliminate the response.
Marco Rubio’s “Watergate” moment: