Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Marco Rubio's Water-Bottle Moment : The New Yorker:

It was a defensible act, and perhaps several minutes overdue, but physically clumsy to such a magnificent degree that it smudged out the actual meaning of everything he had said before and everything he would say after. That such a thing could happen, that Rubio’s very human need for water in a time of stress could become the defining moment of a fourteen-minute policy speech, will be cited by many contrarians as further evidence of the shallowness and vapidity of the media class and of the public at large. Well, fine, but that’s scoring easy points—and no one will suggest that what Rubio said about the housing crisis, government spending, or which party cares more about solving the immigration crisis is somehow not important or worth discussing. But it is significant, too, that the people watching the speech, people who are at once an audience to entertainment and participants in the civic enterprise, found it so transfixing. Twitter, which gives quick voice to the American cultural id, was the venue for a flood of mocking and gleeful gut responses. (The best, for my money, came later, from the flop-sweat extraordinaire Albert Brooks: “I didn’t see Marco Rubio’s speech but I just got a residual check.”) Yet the flexing cleverness may have obscured a deeper feeling that we, as seasoned viewers of bland and staged political theatre, had just made an uncomfortable personal connection that we were not expecting, and did not enjoy.