I have to admit, I was shocked to learn that “prebuttal” is an actual word. Look it up in a print or online dictionary and it’s there. In my defense, there are perfectly legitimate factors that justify my suspicion of “prebuttal”. We live in an age that has given us such utter gibberish as “effortful” and “ginormous.” “Prebuttal” sounds like something from along those same moronic lines. On top of that, it was Republicans– John Boehner and Mitt Romney to be precise– who were throwing it around on Monday. The Republicans are the same guys who really and truly think humanity has played no role whatsoever in climate change, that the evidence for the theory of evolution is somehow not overwhelming enough for them , and that gave us whoppers like “corporations are people.” Would any of us be shocked if they made up a word, especially one that sounded that lame?
Even more to the point, the very concept of the prebuttal tells you everything you need to know about the Republican Party right now.
It’s the equivalent of saying “hold it right there. I know exactly what you’re going to say.” It’s like Groucho Marx singing “whatever it is, I’m against it” if Groucho was devoid of a soul. These guys went out of their way to tell anyone within earshot that they had zero interest in anything Barack Obama had to say in the State of the Union address. I realize that the State of the Union address is hardly a secret before it’s actually given. The text of the speech is usually made known to the press before the address itself. John Boehner and Mitt Romney quite probably knew the details before issuing their prebuttals. But they wanted to make sure everyone knew, or at least thought, that they were prebutting (boy it sounds even stupider as a verb) Obama’s every word.
To most rational people, the very idea of the prebuttal is silly. It’s the very definition of narrow-mindedness. Dismissing an idea before you’ve even heard it? Thinking an idea is bad merely because of its source? That’s foolish. That’s provincial. That’s, that’s…
That’s how you win the nomination if you’re a GOP Presidential candidate.
In the Republicans’ world right now, prebutting an Obama speech isn’t pigheaded or the height of intransigent rigidity. It’s noble. It’s being uncompromising because that’s a virtue now. It’s being tough and fighting for freedom and taking a stand and saving this country from becoming a communist dictatorship and not just being the Party of No, but being the Party of Hell No!
And being the Party of Hell No is a source of pride to the Republican Party. Fighting for an idea even if it’s as ridiculous as thinking the Obama health care plan is socialism or as unfair as taxing millionaires and billionaires at microscopic rates. That’s what makes you a Republican. That’s what will get Republicans to vote for you. Showing how absurdly obstinate you can be.
But not just absurdly obstinate to anyone or anything. You’ve got to be absurdly obstinate in a focused targeted way. Foused and targeted on Barack Obama.
Charged up as it was in places (“anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about” was pretty strong stuff), the State of the Union address still followed the pattern we’ve come to expect in State of the Union addresses, and specifically what we’ve come to expect in Barack Obama’s State of the Union addresses. There was a brilliant rhetorical performance (love him or hate him, it must be admitted the guy sure can give a speech), a whole lot of exhortation that didn’t get too deep into specifics, and a whole lot of claims that stood up to fact-checking with varying degrees of success. Really not all that terribly shocking. There were some talk of cutting tax breaks for manufacturing companies that built plants here in America and didn’t export jobs, something you would think Republicans could get behind.
Didn’t matter. None of it mattered. These guys decided long ago that Barack Obama was the Devil himself. He could have said water was wet and the next day there would be a Dry Water wing of the Republican Party. He could have said that no American anywhere should have to pay another penny in taxes ever again and because that would’ve included the poor never having to pay taxes again, it would have been labeled as class warfare.
Of course, they didn’t do anything like that. They would have needed to actually read or hear the speech before coming up with some specific bizarre reaction to it. And of course they prebutted the speech before they read or heard it. At least that’s why they wanted their base to believe. That’s what their base loves. That’s how you get them to elect you.
The rest of us will continue to leave off the P and stick with rebuttal. We’ll wait until the Republican party does or says something ill-informed, poorly thought out and crazily overwrought and hysterical. Then we’ll get all over them.
We usually don’t have long to wait.