Marco Rubio's Stephan Seely Moment
By now Marco Rubio's Poland Springs water-bottle moment just three days ago seems old news: first laughed at, then mocked, then satirized, and now dismissed and forgotten almost as if it were Michael Dukakis in a tank or James Stockdale at the '92 debates. The moment the epitaph was written. (Warning: “You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore” was such a moment, too.)
The best thing I read on the ordeal was posted by Ian Crouch on The New Yorker site. It's pretty funny:
By the second minute of Marco Rubio’s official Republican response to the President’s State of the Union address last night, it was clear that the Senator’s body was betraying him. His lips caught each other in the way they do at moments of stress, when we are suddenly confronted, after long lapses of unthought, with the actual mechanics of speech. Under the hot lights, Rubio’s mouth went dry. A few minutes later, sweat trickled down his right temple, and he moved his hand instinctively to wipe it away. The dry mouth persisted, and, at times, his eyes flashed with a kind of pleading and mounting desperation: the speech was less than halfway over, with words and words to go. His hands, already large in the frame when he kept them low in front of him, flashed a few times to his lips. And then back to his temple.
By the eighth minute, he seemed to have adjusted, and it looked as if he might push through to the end. But then, three minutes later, he made a gamble and reached for a water bottle offscreen: he lurched down to his left and fumbled a bit, making a terrifyingly intimate moment of eye contact with the audience before taking a quick sip from an unfortunately tiny bottle and then ducking to put it back. He quickly returned to his speech, and spun out the final few minutes. But, by then, those eyes had turned faintly sad; while continuing to perform the words, Rubio looked as though he knew he’d made a mistake, and that all anyone would remember in the morning would be the image of him stooped to the edge of the frame, sheepishly grasping for the smallest plastic bottle of water in the District of Columbia.
Crouch focused less on the water bottle and more on the reason for the water bottle: the nervous, dry mouth. In this way, too, Rubio reminded me less of a potential presidential candidate (how he's been touted for years) and more of Stephan Seely.
Name ring a bell? Did you ever watch SCTV? Stephan, played by a bewigged John Candy, was the co-host, along with the bouncy, zippy Alexis (Catherine O'Hara), of “Preteen World,” which was a takeoff on “Zoom,” or “Wonderama.” And while Alexis was glib, Stephan, bless his heart, always put in a good effort but he could never get the words out. Too nervous. Mouth too dry. Half his time was spent hard-swallowing mid-word. I think he made me laugh harder than any John Candy character. His discomfort was such a joy to me. Probably because I identified. Even at that age, my body was constantly betraying me.
I couldn't find a good clip online of Stephan but this one isn't bad. He's only in the first minute or so, and his dry-mouthed swallows are subtle, but you get the idea:
Yes, we're a shallow culture to knock out a potential presidential candidate because of one dry-mouthed moment; but Rubio wouldn't be where he is if we weren't already shallow. He's there because his politics fit the base (rabid), his ethnicity fits the demographics (growing), and because of the way he looks (handsome). Plus the focus on the water bottle probably did him a service, rather than a disservice, since his speech was the usual GOP BS.
Hell, I might actually have a bit of sympathy for Rubio now. He reminded me, for one brief, vulnerable moment, of Stephan Seely, patron saint of the betraying body. In that moment, and only that moment, he seemed like the type of guy I'd want to have a beer with. Or at least buy one for.
Stephan Seely (right), patron saint of the betraying body.