OWL’S HEAD, Maine — This year's State of the Union, following closely on President Barack Obama's second inaugural address, seemed little more than an hour-long laundry list, though Republicans who painted it as traditional liberal demands were certainly wide of the mark.
For all the boilerplate, it was hard not to be moved by Obama's introduction of a 102-year-old black woman that Republican-driven legislation had made to wait for more than six hours to vote last November. And his closing demand that victims of gun violence "deserve a vote" was emotionally compelling as well as intellectually on target.
More interesting was Marco Rubio's surprisingly uninspired Republican response. Since we knew, after all, what to expect from Obama, the only drama would come from watching Time magazine's pick to save the Republican Party perform.
Give the Republicans credit. The party of aging white males is doing its best to show there's more to it than aging white males. Last year, it gave Bobby Jindal, their Asian politician, a go at it. He flopped, managing to make even Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party responder, look good; so this year it was their up-and-coming Hispanic who got the nod.
Rubio may have proved to be a better, if thirstier, presenter than Jindal — though even Rick Perry could have cleared that bar — the Republican response was obviously written before Rubio knew what the president’s message was.
He spent most of his time attacking a straw man, denouncing Obama for his "tax more, borrow more, and spend more" policies and ''his obsession with raising taxes." These are all Republican buzzwords, when in fact, Obama's approach seemed to be in the middle of the road looking for compromise.
Obama perhaps made his biggest mark with his dramatic push for gun control. Rubio's mundane acknowledgment that "gun violence" was a problem made it abundantly clear that his focus was the Republican primaries in 2016, not the presidential election. Maybe Paul Ryan should feel threatened, but if Rubio is the best the Republicans can do, Hillary — and/or Joe Biden — can relax.
Mac Deford is retired after a career as a foreign service officer, an international banker, and a museum director. He lives at Owl's Head, Maine, and still travels frequently to the Middle East.