NICOLE RUSSELL: The GOP response to Biden's SOTU was embarrassing

Biden's State of the Union was a disaster, but the GOP response — delivered by Alabama Sen. Katie Britt — wasn't great either. This was a wasted opportunity for the Republican Party, which clearly has an upper hand over Biden.

The state of the union has generally become a useless annual tradition. While some presidents have done well, Biden had an unusually bad night. In a little over an hour, the President flitted from topic to topic, slammed Trump often (though not by name), and struggled at times to even properly enunciate words. He gave a rambling, angry, divisive speech Thursday night that polarized the nation even more than it was.

Enter the Republican Party, due to give a rebuttal. If the state of the union is difficult, the rebuttal is even trickier. There’s no live applause to play off or energy in the room to give the speech a lift. Still, it continues to be something Republicans participate in and they continue to flub it.  There are a dozen good examples of men and women who could have given a good rebuttal, despite its difficult nature, and perhaps Britt was one of those. She’s attractive, intelligent, and has a “girl next door” look about her.

Unfortunately, it was one of the worst rebuttals in recent memory. Though her content was good, Britt’s delivery was poor, and this is what people remember. Sitting in her own kitchen in poor lighting, Britt seemed overdramatic, overwrought, and often went from happy to sad to angry in 30 seconds. At times, Britt seemed to be whispering in hushed tones then she’d become loud again — emotional rather than steady. Instead of sounding like a strong, Republican leader and communicating that the GOP was strong, Britt sounded more like a dramatic Stepford Wife acting on a bad television show and communicated that the GOP is emotional and unreliable.

This clip is the best example of solid content but dizzying delivery:



The reactions on social media in real time and the next day have been brutal. Even Republican women didn’t care for it and it was obvious that was Britt’s targeted demographic.

To be clear, Britt had a tall order to fill and few could achieve it: She probably wanted to be likable and relatable. Americans are struggling right now and she mentioned this repeatedly. Perhaps a consultant thought sitting at her kitchen table rather than in front of a podium would make her seem more like an “average” American. She wanted to seem passionate but empathetic, informed but not arrogant. This would be impossible for almost anyone but definitely for American women in politics.

In fact, our disappointed reaction to her reaction speech points out a jarring juxtaposition for women face in politics and showcases why it's hard for women to be really successful in politics. We don't want them to act like men, but do we really want them to act like women?

We say we want politicians to be relatable but we don’t actually want them to sit with us at our kitchen table do we? Imagine Margaret Thatcher at her kitchen table grinning one minute and near tears the next. As Fox News commentator Alyssa Farrah Griffin observed, “The staging of this was bizarre to me. Women can be both wives and mothers and also stateswomen. So to put her in a kitchen...felt very flat and was confusing to some women watching it.”

Britt seems like a talented, kind woman and politician thrust into an already difficult position giving a rebuttal to a terrible presidential speech. She may have been more effective if she could have simply been herself — her own authentic self. I’m loath to slam my own party but the GOP needs to discover what we stand for, who we’re trying to reach, and how best to do that. This was not it. The State of the Union rebuttal was a great opportunity to start taking advantage of Biden’s weaknesses and we missed it.
 

Image: Title: Katie Britt
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