One would have thought the twin Republican responses to President Obama's State of the Union address by Florida Senator Marco Rubio (shown in foreground) and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul (shown on left) should have been almost identical in opposition to the president. But they ended up a study in sharp contrast. Where Rubio deployed vague and glittering generalities in a series of platitudes, Paul emerged as the adult who unveiled specific policy proposals in his Tea Party Express response to counter Obama.
On the surface, both the Republican senators appear to be coming from the same point of view: Both were elected with Tea Party support in 2010. Both supported a balanced budget constitutional amendment. Both claimed to oppose new taxes and more regulations. Both strenuously opposed Obama's new proposals to curb the right to keep and bear arms.
“More government isn't going to help you get ahead. It's going to hold you back,” Rubio said February 12. “More government isn't going to create more opportunities. It's going to limit them.” Likewise, Paul explained of Obama's heavy borrowing policies, “This massive expansion of the debt destroys savings and steals the value of your wages. Big government makes it more expensive to put food on the table. Big government is not your friend. The president offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor.”
That's red meat for exciting the Republican base. But a closer look reveals that the red meat on Rubio's plate was only the plastic beef that children use on their Playskool kitchen sets for childish afternoon “Tea Parties.” Rubio liberally dispensed slogans and clichés against big government, but his speech was bereft of — to use a phrase popularized by Bill Clinton in the 2012 campaign — math. Rubio's response — the official Republican Party response — failed to outline even a single specific recommendation for a cut in federal spending. In fact, other than criticizing Obama's deficits (which, incidentally, were also approved by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives), Rubio's only mention of numbers was the following:
But if we can get the economy to grow at just four percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.
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Photo of Rand Paul and Marco Rubio: AP Images