By Kevin Price, Publisher and Editor in Chief, USDR.
Getting a national platform, like providing a rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, should be a dream gig for anyone, but recent history indicates otherwise. In recent years we have seen a future “leading” presidential candidate’s career fade almost entirely after giving such a rebuttal as he looked like a deer staring in the headlights and another one’s credibility fade as he desperately sought a drink of water while delivering his response. You would think these events would make anyone think twice, but a recent announcement from the offices of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicates there are always individuals willing to jump in such a precarious limelight.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) this week announced that U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) will deliver the Republican Address to the Nation following the State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.
With great enthusiasm, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said “Sen. Ernst brings a unique perspective to the Senate. She is a mother, a soldier, and an independent leader who serves in Washington because Americans voted for change in the last election, and Joni understands that middle-class Americans want Congress to get back to work and that they want Washington to get refocused on their concerns, instead of those of the political class.”
Meanwhile, in the US House, Speaker Boehner stated that “Sen. Ernst’s life is a quintessential ‘only-in-America’ story. She built a campaign by listening to the people of Iowa and focusing on their priorities, especially jobs and our still-struggling economy. She knows that our federal government is too big, our spending is too high, and our tax code is broken. And, she knows first-hand the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make to keep us all safe in a dangerous world.”
Finally, Senator Ernst has chimed in, stating “I am truly honored to deliver the Republican address. It’s a long way from Red Oak, Iowa, to Washington, D.C. But now that I am here, I am excited to get to work in order to craft and implement real solutions as we chart a new path forward for our great nation. During this Congress, we must help grow a vibrant economy, see to it that our veterans receive promised quality care and that our military has the tools to defend our nation’s security, and ensure the federal government begins to run more effectively and efficiently.”
The BBC describes the minority response job as “cursed”, pointing out that “the rebuttal format – giving a speech alone to a television camera – versus Obama’s oration in front of an audience, has tripped up numerous Republican politicians in recent years. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Florida Senator Marco Rubio both tackled rebuttal speeches with mixed results. ‘Bobby Jindal didn’t really work with the camera very well,’ (University of Northern Iowa political scientist Donna) Hoffman says of the 2009 effort. ‘He looked very startled and I think it was very difficult to get past some of his mannerisms.’ Rubio fared little better in 2013 when he paused mid-speech for a refreshment. ‘What we remember Marco Rubio’s response for was his drink of water,’ she adds. ‘What did he say? Nobody knows but they know he took a drink of water in the middle of it.'”
Friends of the GOP leaders will say that they gave Ernst a plum reward; but it seems to be an odd or even risky choice for two very cautious individuals like Boehner and McConnell. After all, Rubio embarrassed himself as a newly elected freshman Senator in giving his response. According to Slate, the former Lt. Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard is one of the most conservative members of the US Senate. On the campaign trail and in the Senate, she has advocated for the end of the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Department of Education, as well as other positions outside of the “mainstream” of the political conversation today. In light of the fortunes of recent politicians put in this role and the new Senator’s policy history, many will be asking the question of whether this was a gift by the leadership or a curse to torpedo a new senator’s career. You will have to wait until Tuesday night to get the answer to that question.