Why I Mocked Watergate*

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, February 13, 2013 9:58 EDT
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So this happened during the speech. True story: I was about to recommend drinking more water before speaking on Twitter and right before I hit send, Rubio went for it. You could just tell that his mouth was gumming all up from nerves and he really needed a drink of water. I made much fun of this on Twitter, since the gif possibilities were endless, but had no intention of blogging about it this morning. It was, in my mind, the Super Bowl blackout of the State of the Union festivities: an opportunity to make jokes on Twitter, and nothing more. Winning the internet, like playing poker, can get your adrenaline up, but it’s important not to take it too seriously.

Apparently, focusing on this was a controversial choice. Erik Loomis accused folks like myself of being Maureen Dowd, except Twitter doesn’t actually pay me an ungodly sum a year to crack mean girl jokes, whereas Dowd, I hear, is not a volunteer for the New York Times. Raw Story’s own Roxanne Cooper suggested the howls of laughter were a bit much. So now I feel duty bound to defend all the Donald Glover gifs and Twitter ya-yas that were had over the drink of water.

1) I doubt anyone making fun actually thought that there was something terribly unprofessional about taking a sip of water while speaking. It’s not that he took a drink of water. It’s the way he did it. The panicked look in his eyes. The way you could tell that his mouth was drying up from nerves because it sounded like he developed a sudden lisp. And ultimately, the lunge. That bottle might as well have been full of flop sweat.

The thing is that Rubio was choking under pressure during the entire speech, and the water moment was the moment that crystallized it. The water moment is classic synecdoche, which is not an uncommon rhetorical device in the deployment of humor. In the 140 character format, synecdoche is especially fun to play with.

2) I know that the assumption behind complaining about the water jokes is that they are being made in lieu of substantive analysis of Rubio’s ideas. Hell, it’s not an unspoken assumption; Erik asserts this directly.

Look, Marco Rubio is an awful guy. He wants to destroy the middle class, make abortion illegal, etc., etc. The only reason Republicans are looking at him as their savior in 2016 is that he’s brown. There’s all kinds of things to attack him on. Go for it. Tear his horrible ideas to shreds.

In theory, yes. But in order to engage someone’s ideas, it helps if they would offer them. For those of you who wisely snapped off your TV before Rubio spoke, here’s the text of that speech, which was an incoherent and contradictory set of attacks on the President that was only intended to rile up stupid people who don’t really understand much beyond how much they hate the President. His response to climate change was, in sum, “nuh-uh!” and he kind of implied that you could trust that he’s not out to destroy the middle class because it would affect his property values. But mostly it was just reiteration of a bunch of buzz words that give conservatives hate erections, and are meaningless to anyone else. Paul Waldman gamely mounted a rebuttal, and his assessment was the same as anyone else with two working ears and common sense, calling the speech “insipid” and “a combination of calumny and cliché that demonstrated just why Republicans are having such problems appealing to voters”.

Next year, instead of sending one of their supposedly promising politicians up to derail his presidential hopes with a pointless rebuttal speech, I recommend instead that the Republicans put up a sandwich board filled with buzzwords—”Solyndra”, “big government”, “job-killing”, “more taxes”, “moral breakdown”, “America’s decline”—and put this guy next to it:

Conveys the same message, but without sacrificing a politician’s dignity to do so. I don’t see why not. At this point, they have nothing to lose.

*Title stolen shamelessly from Roxanne Cooper.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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