Published Saturday, February 23, 2013
Now we have literally seen it all. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida takes a few sips of water in delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union address, and it becomes the coldest “splash” the media have allegedly seen in years. But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- with gasoline as high as we’ve seen it -- advocates increasing the gasoline tax, spilling an entire gallon of potentially politically flammable liquid with virtually no media interest.
The absurdly over-the-top coverage given Rubio’s decision to grab bottled water for a moment while delivering an eloquent rebuttal to President Obama’s address is clear evidence of how the political insiders who make up the Washington media elite are out of touch with the general public.
Does anyone really believe that sipping some water during a speech is a career-ending move for a public official?
We watched then-Gov. Bill Clinton drone on for an eternity to the point that his own fellow party members were jeering him off the stage during his speech to the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. That’s the same Bill Clinton who won the presidency four years later and is now thought of as one of the most gifted political orators of our time.
What Rubio did was human, and any focus on taking a swig of water from a plastic bottle is merely designed to make a mountain out of a molehill for a rising Republican who might actually pose a threat to Democrats, and some fellow Republicans, in future years.
In the instance of the U.S. Chamber and its president’s statement that the organization favors “reasonable increases” in gasoline taxes, well that’s another matter. Yes, we all know the nation’s infrastructure needs to be addressed, and as they say in business, “you have to spend money to make money.” But could the Chamber have chosen a worse possible time to take such a position?
Gasoline prices are sky-high. It costs a fortune to buy groceries. Wages seem stagnant in this allegedly grand economic recovery. And, as most Americans recall, we spent a fortune on “shovel ready” projects during several stimulus efforts during the first four years of the Obama administration.
With a president who offered a State of the Union speech that, although well delivered, was the most liberal address delivered by a president since LBJ, or perhaps even Franklin Roosevelt, or perhaps ever, the last thing Americans need to hear from Washington-based business big-shots is anything related to taxes. And certainly not a tax increase on the gasoline they have to use as they struggle to get to and from work -- or, even worse, search for a job.
We get it, Chamber types. Yes, we have to modernize our highways, bridges and roads. And we all realize that other sources of funding just are not in the near future. In fact, in past years, it has made sense to utilize a consumption-based revenue source, such as a motor fuel tax, in place of alternatives such as sales or income taxes that are more broad-based, to address a more specific user-related matter of transportation. We truly get it.
But for goodness’ sake, while we are staring at potential military cuts, asking future seniors to consider revamping (and downsizing) expectations as to Medicare and in general trying to force a president who has never met a tax he didn’t like to stop seeking new “revenue increases,” that’s when the U.S. Chamber pops its head up and starts pushing for an inflation-indexed gas tax hike?
Who advises these people? How many handmade suits, silk ties and self-appointed political expert CEOs did they have to hoodwink into agreeing to such a slap in the face to the average working person at this moment in time?
Marco Rubio delivered a strong and cogent argument for the conservative cause and, by reaching for some water, somehow destroyed the conservative movement and his future political career. Well, if so, let me suggest that the U.S. Chamber took its credibility and any hope it had to convince the public that it is in touch and set it completely on fire. There would not be enough water in Rubio’s water bottle to douse the flames such Washington-like arrogance could create.
(Matthew Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage. His column is distributed by Morris News and Creators’ Syndicate.)