Why Do State Of The Union Rebuttals Always Suck? 10 Examples From 2004-2013 (VIDEOS)

Animated GIF with Marco Rubio snatching a drink of water during his SOTU rebuttal

“Rubio is thirsty” from Gif.MockSession.Com.

Anyone who saw Senator Marco Rubio (F-FL) deliver the GOP’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech last night must be wondering, “How could an astute, charismatic politician like Rubio screw up so badly?” But if you take a look at all of the Presidential opposition speeches from the past 10 years — five from Republicans during the Obama administration, and five from Democrats during the George W. Bush administration — you’ll realize that looking like a total loser while delivering an SOTU rebuttal speech is pretty par for the course.

Maybe it has something to do with the stark contrast between a commander-in-chief shining majestically in the spotlight, while speaking in ringing tones to vast crowds of cheering supporters; versus a lone figure in a drab, dimly lit room that is often cursed with dark, walnut-colored paneling. The lack of an audience lends the SOTU rebuttal speeches a peculiarly canned, flat, infomercial-like quality, which makes sense when you consider that politicians tend to be extroverts who draw positive energy from interacting with crowds. No wonder charismatic presidents like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama never gave one of these types of speeches.

In any case, the 10 photos, summaries, and videos below will clearly show you why — so far — no one who’s delivered a SOTU rebuttal speech has ever been elected president since the tradition started in 1966. Former President Gerald Ford — who responded to Lyndon B. Johnson’s State of the Union address in 1968 as a congressman (R-MI) — doesn’t count, because he wasn’t elected, he just took over when President Richard Nixon resigned.

Marco Rubio

#1. 2013: Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

Here’s a guy who apparently can’t contain his thirst for power — I mean water — for even 14 minutes and 38 seconds. How could this jewel in the increasingly tarnished crown of the GOP — who’s normally so smooth that a Univision staffer found it necessary to warn her fellow Latinos about this Tío Tomás in sheep’s clothing — possibly screw up so badly? Must be something in the water.

Here’s the video:


Mitch Daniels

#2. 2012: Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN)

Mitch WHO? Believe it or not, the GOP saw this guy as their potential savior from President Obama, until he decided not to seek the GOP presidential nomination. Fans saw his rebuttal as clear, concise, courteous, sensible, and reasonable. The rest of us saw it as … [yawn] BO-ring. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. No amount of issuing “Greetings from the home of Superbowl 46” can change that.

Here’s the video:


SOTU rebuttal Paul Ryan 2011

 #2. 2011: Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Ryan did well compared with the other nine victims speakers in this article, and even became Sarah Palin with a pen*s the Republican’s Vice Presidential candidate in 2012. Then again, we know how that turned out. Although the chairman of the House Budget Committee came across as appealing, strong, smart, and reasonable, his speech turned out be riddled with factual errors. Plus, Americans weren’t buying those program cuts Ryan was selling.

Here’s the video:

 Bob McDonnel 2010 SOTU rebuttal

#4. 2010: Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA)

McDonnell has the right idea, when he puts himself in a brightly-lit, official-looking room with a large, crowd of people to punctuate his insufferably dull speech with spatters of applause, and laugh at his lame jokes. But — Look! His supporters and administration are diverse! See! There’s an Asian American guy, a black woman, and a jar head! Yawn, why can’t these Republicans stop talking about our debt? And if you want cooperation instead of partisanship, can’t you just ask your party to cooperate? And … three cheers for off-shore drilling! Nonetheless, this is one of the better SOTU rebuttals, and future speakers could stand to learn from the astute staging, if not the message.

Here’s the video:

 2009 Bobby Jindal SOTU Rebuttal

#5. 2009:* Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA)

*Technically, Jindal did not give a State of the Union rebuttal. Because it was the first year for Obama’s first term — and new presidents don’t give State of the Union addresses — Jindal responded to the president’s First Address to the Joint Session of Congress. In any case, Jindal’s hokey, faux-folksiness was roundly panned by puzzled Democrats and Republicans wondering why aliens had stolen Jindal and replaced him with Mr. Rogers. “When we come together, there is no challenge we can’t overcome … and here comes Mr. McFeeley the delivery man with that Hurricane Katrina Aid package my party never sent!”

Here’s the video:

2008 SOTU Rebuttal Kathleen Sebelius

#6. 2008: Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS)

Now that the tide is turning against the EEEEE-ville President George W. Bush, and Obama’s out there doing that hopey-changey thing, let’s seize the day and get Democrats psyched for the upcoming fight with a … yawn … State of the Union rebuttal that slowly and inexorably lulls you into a deep and lasting sleep from which you may never awaken. Remember how the drab, grey, and flat the landscape of Sebellius’ state appears in the beginning of “The Wizard of Oz?” Such is the emotionless, intonation-free monotonous drone of this formerly-up-and-coming politician.

Here’s the video:

2007 Jim Web SOTU rebuttal

 #7. 2007: Senator Jim Webb (D-VA)

Yegads, even outgoing Senator Jim Webb — the former presidential hopeful and charismatic Vietnam war hero from Virginia, who drew from a long-standing tradition of Southern populism to inspire crowds — couldn’t hack a decent response to Dubya’s State of the Union Speech. His down-home Southern drawl sounded thick-tongued and lumpish, his powerful physique looked squat and stolid, and when he pointed at a black and white photo while enumerating all the family members who’d served in various wars, we wondered when he’d get to the heroic cave paintings from his Stone Age ancestors.

Here’s the video:

2006 SOTU Rebuttal Time Kain

#8. 2006: Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Dear God, what in Sam Hill is going on with Kaine’s left eyebrow? The animated GI to the left (which I culled from three screen shots) basically captures the essence of his speech, because it was impossible to concentrate on anything he was saying with that big old thang lurching around the screen. And where is Kaine’s left eyebrow now? Rumor has it that the luxuriant and expressive facial feature ran off with the Russian Inspector’s nose from Nikolai Gogol’s short story, and they lived happily ever after.

Embedded video not available, but you can watch it on the CBS News Web site.

2005 SOTU Rebuttal, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Read, American Gothic

#9. 2005: Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Pelosi and Reid are both smart, articulate, earnest, well-loved, and well-hated politicians, so you’d think they’d know how to not be boring. But when you watch their televised SOTU rebuttal speech, you’ll see how dreadfully wrong that assumption would be. The Democrats’ demeanor was so grim, it inspired no one other than the wag who Photoshopped the homage to Whistler’s “American Gothic” on the left. The only bright spot was Reid’s reference to the movie “Ground Hog Day,” which proved prescient because the Republicans keep forcing us to live through their mistakes over and over again, and they never learn.

Embedded video not available, but you can watch it on the C-SPAN Web site.


#10. 2004: Senator Tom Daschle (D-SD) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

This video looks exactly the same as the one above — Nancy Pelosi’s sitting in some dimly-lit, official looking room with dark walls and a fireplace with a not-roaring fire. She’s accompanied by a gray-suited colleague, only this time, it’s Senator Daschle. Jeez. Bush and his cronies have just blatantly stolen an election, and started a colossal and expensive war on false pretenses. Pelosi’s words make a damning case against the sitting president, but … where’s the outrage? Where’s the indignation? It all sounds so dull and respectable and prim. Time to storm the barricades, for Pete’s sake!

Embedded video not available, but you can watch it on the C-SPAN Web site.

Elisabeth Parker Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, “friend” her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Pinterest boards. For more Addicting Info articles by Elisabeth, click here.