It has been a long time since the nation has had an articulate leader. Contrary to the fawning of the mainstream media, and the loyalty of the usual progressive suspects, our current president is not articulate. Not even close.
The word articulate implies at least a modicum of substance. To be articulate, one has to be right at least some of the time. Barack Obama hasn’t been right about anything since he told us that he would fundamentally change the nation. He’s bad for, as the lawyers phrase it in their objections, assuming facts not in evidence. What he is is glib. When the teleprompter is working, we can sometimes go so far as slick. But he’s not articulate.
Another dimension of articulateness is clarity. Obama fails this test as well. A favorite tic of the late House Speaker Tip O’Neill was to preface some horrendous whopper with, “To be perfectly truthful.” (Tip looked as much like a dodgy Boston politician as it is possible to look, which was convenient for him as he was a dodgy Boston politician.) Obama’s variation of this is, “Let me be clear,” which he often uses before saying something that is anything but. When unscripted, he wanders in search of the plot. He has a distinct preference for the vague over the concrete, the better to disguise the lack of thought and knowledge behind his words. And the better not to be pinned down later.
To be nonpartisan about this, Obama was preceded by a man who, despite degrees from two (count ’em — two) overrated Ivy League universities, is not comfortable with his native language. George W. Bush does not so much speak English as he wrestles it to the ground. This made it hard for Americans (or our enemies and allies) to understand his administration’s policies. To the extent that he had clear policies, he was unable to state them clearly, leading many to wonder if he understood them himself. It made listening to him, even when one agreed with him, painful.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida will announce tonight in Miami that he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. As far as articulate goes, he is its very soul. He’s not only the best orator of this cycle in either party, he is probably the most articulate candidate on the national scene since the Gipper himself.
(I’ve left Billy-Bob Clinton out of this declension. He was/is smart as a white rat and twice as cute. He can talk a blue streak, all in clear declarative sentences. But, staying with bipartisanship, like with Tricky Dick, there wasn’t the first reason to believe a thing he said.)
During the 2009 and 2010 Florida U.S. Senate campaign, which I wrote about extensively for TAS, I enjoyed a fair chunk of face-time with Rubio. I found him to be not only an extremely skilled and engaging speaker, but very smart as well. He has an impressively large fund of knowledge on issues, foreign and domestic. He has no trouble relating what he knows to policy, and to his conservative philosophy. A conservative philosophy he does not feel called on to soft-peddle or apologize for, as Jeb Bush often does. He can relate hypothesis to fact. He can relate how conservative policies are good for all, and how America is a force for good in the world, in a way that is understandable and not offensive to any save aged-in-the-barrel leftists or yellow-dog Democrats (pardon the redundancy).
For these reasons, as well as for a terrific biography, for his status as a Hispanic, for the fact that his last name is not Bush, and for his popularity in a critical swing state with 29 electoral votes, the Republican establishment in general and Jeb Bush specifically should take this guy very seriously. His poll numbers aren’t impressive now, but they will climb as more voters hear him, as we can here.
The Republican establishment has underestimated Rubio before. There were lots of yawns on K Street when in the spring of 2009 Rubio announced as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. All the “smart” money and endorsements went to the “sure winner,” which was then Republican Florida governor Charlie Crist. (Yes, that Charlie Crist — one party and one non-party affiliation ago.) But Rubio said what Floridians wanted to hear while Crist, the most vacuous politician in Florida’s history, perhaps the most vacuous in the nation’s history, never said anything more substantive than “I love Florida” and “Let’s send some Florida common sense to Washington.” On Election Day Rubio whomped the establishment’s sure winner by 20 points.
Rubio may be far more challenged to pull off this David over Goliath in regulation stunt again. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are far better politicians than Charlie Crist. But Rubio is an attractive, energetic, confident, and vastly skilled campaigner. Other Republican candidates in what is expected to be a large Republican 2016 field may announce and then sink without a trace. Don’t expect this to happen to Marco Rubio. My guess is Jeb Bush doesn’t. Whether this understanding has reached K Street yet is another matter. What history teaches us about the Republican establishment is that the Republican establishment doesn’t learn much from history.
There has never been a Floridian on a national ticket — top or bottom slot. It appears 2016 could be the year. But which Floridian?