As a conservative, you can imagine my disappointment in the reporting of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's GOP response to the president's State of the Union Address. It was a great speech by the Floridian, full of substance, vivid illustrations of his life, policy contrasts with President Obama, a direct talk to the American people, and a real display of the GOP approach to economic growth, job creation, and lowering the size and scope of government.
Here we are three days later and the U.S. news media is still transfixed on the speech; not on its substance, sadly, but on a five-second blip in the speech.
As we all know by now, in the middle of his speech, Rubio stopped to take a quick sip of water. With hot television klieg lights beaming on him from three feet away, he got overheated, he began to sweat, his mouth became dry, and he reached for a bottle of water.
And the fun began in the news media.
The morning after President Obama's address to the nation, the morning shows all understandably led with the president's speech. The SOTU speech is an important event. The president sets his agenda for the country. It is high drama and newsworthy.
And what of the speech by Senator Rubio? One would be hard-pressed, the morning after, to find one substantive analysis of his speech.
But they certainly did spend days analyzing the senator's sip of water.
It reached an almost childish crescendo Wednesday when CNN's Wolf Blitzer, host of the 'The Situation Room,' suggested that Rubio's sip of water might break his career. In fact, the CNN screen-scroll flashed the words "Career-Ender?" as Blitzer remarked "so, can a drink of water make or break a political career?"
Not to be outdone, CBS' Norah O'Donnell began her report on Rubio's speech by saying "Substance aside..." and then she vaulted off into the silly sip of water routine. Substance aside? How often did Walter Cronkite begin a news story with "substance aside"? Oh... and not surprisingly, Ms. O'Donnell never returned to the actual substance of the Rubio speech.
I'm not a journalist, but can I now assume that this is the 21st century standard for sound journalism? I certainly hope not!
On Tuesday night, a bright young conservative senator, from one of the largest states in America, stood before the American people to talk about the GOP vision for American. He did a terrific job. It was an outstanding speech; yet today more Americans know about Poland Spring water than they do the substance of Sen. Rubio's speech.
And we wonder why there are low-information voters in America.
Jeffrey L. Taylor is managing partner of USGRI. He is the former chief of staff to former Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.) and served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter at @USGRI_Lobbyist.
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