Rebutting a State of The Union (SOTU) address by the opposing team is a sticky wicket. It’s prime time to denounce policies, call out failures, and downplay outright successes, and someone must take a hit for the team and give the talk that disparages the winners and pumps up the losers. This go ‘round, the Democrats plucked a quiet, progressive thinking Representative Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) to tear apart the president’s address as they slunk off to pour generous cocktails, cross their fingers, and hold their collective breath.
They didn’t have long to wait, as his remarks were over before the talking heads could grab a water and freshen their makeup.
Representative Kennedy is a third-term congressman, a twin, a graduate of Harvard (no surprise there), and he is, apparently, the best the Democrats could come up with to counter Trump’s message that America is winning under his leadership. Speaking at an auto body vocational school in Fall River, MA, he started his speech with a nod to immigration.
He appeared nervous and did not actually rebut the President’s speech. He went back to Hillary Clinton’s bag of tricks, complete with thinly veiled calls of racism and bigotry, railing against Wall Street, and of course, bringing up LGBTQ issues and drug addiction.
Kennedy delivered a nothing burger – lacking even the pickle spear or salty chips. It was a Democratic Party recruiting speech with no in-depth policy analysis, and was chock full of vague utopian scenarios scattered about with warnings of potential Armageddon should the Silent Majority be allowed to vote again.
There were high points; Kennedy spoke with a perfect accent in Spanish to assure Dreamers that the Democrats were the only ones who cared, which is in direct conflict with Trump’s big announcement of prepping 1.8 million Dreamers for citizenship. At one point, he claimed – and I am paraphrasing – that the child on our shoulders would watch us build a wall, and that their generation would tear it down. I’m guessing this Kennedy does not possess any artful negotiating skills.
No mention, as he spoke of the middle class, that Trump’s tax reform doubles child tax credit and will pad bank accounts, or that unemployment rates for black and Hispanic Americans are at an all-time low; no, that wouldn’t translate into votes down the line.
He did agree with Trump on the state of the economy, and stated that Americans were “hopeful, resilient and enduring.”
This raises an interesting question: Did he watch the entire SOTU, and mumble at every ovation, “Yeah, so?” Or did he not watch at all?
There was, however, no doubt that a Kennedy was in front of the camera. He is as handsome as his great-uncle John F. Kennedy and grandfather Robert F. “Bobby” Kennedy, with a bright shock of red hair and an easy smile. He’s well spoken. But he was dead wrong in his nebulous assessment of the first year under number 45 – regardless of his smooth delivery.
Political operatives, red or blue, work with a formula for the SOTU, and every potential rebutter knows what to cover in fewer than 20-minutes. Chastise and call for bipartisan cooperation, pick away at the current President, and promote one’s party agenda and superiority. He accomplished those goals, even if his oratory lacked definition – he could’ve been speaking at a student assembly for all we could garner. But those of us who remember the power of JFK and earnestness of RFK, well, we were a tad disappointed in the Kennedy lad. He looks like a Kennedy, and he’s a Democrat like a Kennedy, but that’s where the similarities end. In the words of former Senator and vice presidential candidate, Lloyd Bentsen, “you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
The Democrats must be relieved that he kept his head and navigated the shark-infested waters without a confirmed fatality. Granted, that’s not hard to accomplish with no clear rebuttal directives. But Rep. Kennedy failed in his task to slay Trump. On the contrary, he made the president look like the leader of the free world – and no amount of speaking in Spanish could diminish the powerful message of success, strength, hope, and compassion that President Trump delivered to the greatest nation on earth.