This was no doubt a great moment for our young senator, Marco Rubio, to be invited by Nancy Reagan to give a speech at the Reagan Library. Too bad he doesn’t have much to say, and what he utters often is a cliche or nonsense.
The handlers there on Tuesday touted him as possibly the next thing to the Great Communicator that Ronald Reagan claimed to be. But was Rubio? If you have the strength, here’s the link to the whole event on C-Span. You’ll see him lose his place several times, check the text and jump around. Guy could use a teleprompter! Great communicator? Not!
Near the end, during the Q-and-A, he tries a ghoulish joke with his empty smile. Asked if he’d accept the nomination to be vice president, he said, “I have no interest in serving as vice president for anyone who could possibly live all eight years of the presidency.” This was not a slip of the tongue, because he preceded it by saying “As I joked earlier today.” So this is something he’s actively turning over in his mind. If I were president, I’d certainly never go hunting with VP Rubio, nor eat his barbecue or drink his mojito.
The audience, by the way, didn’t laugh for so long that he kinda reminded them it was a punchline.
Here’s a Think Progress short piece on one aspect of his speech, where he condemns Social Security and Medicare and declares that these backbone social programs have made Americans lazy. The Think Progress analysis is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t take the further step of asking why a US Senator doesn’t have a better mind. Why is he so shallow in his analysis of Medicare and Social Security? Well, I don’t know either.
There so many other aspects to these programs that have saved widows, the disabled and the elderly from poverty. Medicare is in long-term financial trouble because of skyrocketing medical costs, not because Americans have “become lazy.” Social Security, far in the future, will have trouble paying current levels of benefits because tax rates are capped for the wealthy.
What does he say has happened? We used to save for these eventualities, but then the government took over the responsibility, and we got lazy, stopped saving.
This even though his own family has benefited from these programs, and he must know from the inside that’s not the way it goes. You can’t save enough now to have one serious illness with a week in the hospital, a bout of surgery, plus regular followups for the rest of your life.
In my family this has happened repeatedly. My father died of a heart attack at age 47, and survivor’s benefits provided a safety net for my mother and two younger sisters. I was already too old at 20 to benefit. Years later one of my sisters became a widow when her husband died in a traffic crash, and again, survivor’s benefits were essential support for her and her 11-year-old daughter. Years after that, I’m a heart patient on Medicare and getting decent doctoring — after paying into the system for 35 years. And I’m still paying two premiums, for Medicare and for the supplemental insurance, plus co-pays. And no one ever accused me of being lazy or not saving during my work career. Wake up, Senator! You must be dreaming.
I wonder: To whom does Rubio’s shallow portrayal of life in the United States ring true? We aren’t lazy. My mother and sister both went back to work when they become widows. We saved when we had a chance. We are not living off Social Security. We in retirement are living off our savings and investments, and Social Security provides a monthly minimum that helps maintain a careful lifestyle.
If Rubio thinks Ronald Reagan really hacked away at government spending, he’s flat wrong. This piece in The New Republic has an excellent chart showing the Reagan years with steady government spending as a percentage of GDP. Our Bill Clinton stands out for years in which the government’s spending declined as a share of GDP.
Rubio says we’ve built a government we can’t fund and calls this “an extraordinarily tragic accomplishment.” Really? Tragic? Can it possibly be “great communicating” to say we’re a tragic country? And the depressing effect of that pronouncement is not lifted when Rubio ends by saying the US still has to be a world leader.
The audience was seldom roused to applause though they did clap repeatedly when Rubio railed against government regulations. He did not mention the economic fiasco that followed lack of regulation of Wall Street.
The Rachel Maddow show’s report, of which I don’t find a video link, started with the stumble that Nancy Reagan, a frail 90 years old, took as she came ever so slowly down the aisle on Rubio’s arm. The Maddow show had a headline saying that the gallant Rubio had rescued her from the fall. Well, I choose to see it differently. He was too eager to get to the podium and was rushing her. You can’t see it in the side view on the C-Span video, but if the Maddow show ever provides a link I’ll try to put it up and you’ll see that he’s ahead of the ancient first lady, whose steps are six inches if that, and he probably caused her to stumble in his impolite haste.
Maddow also makes good fun of what he said about infrastructure. He declares he is not against infrastructure, but it should only be “for economic development, not a jobs program.” How the heck do you separate those?
One last note. Rubio’s memory of his own wedding may be off. He told the crowd that he had only walked down the aisle with two people, his wife and Nancy Reagan. Well, we saw him walk Nancy Reagan down the aisle — albeit with difficulty. But what was his own wedding like? Usually it’s the father of the bride — not the groom — who walks her down the aisle.
I’m saying the guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He just makes it up.