JESSICA BADER: If the opposition party’s official response to the State of the Union address is memorable, that is usually not a good thing for the politician who delivered that response. Just ask Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana and onetime rising star of the Republican Party. Tapped to respond to Barack Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress two years ago, Jindal’s speech is remembered for an ill-advised remark about volcano monitoring (which would end up looking even worse when a volcano erupted not long after the speech) and for his uncanny resemblance to Jack McBrayer’s Kenneth the Page character on 30 Rock. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, steered clear of mocking efforts to manage natural disasters in his response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, but he couldn’t escape the resembling-a-TV-character trap.
The Paul Ryan/Matthew Morrison resemblance doesn’t quite reach the gold standard of “Non-Acting Famous Person A looks just like Actor on Hit FOX Show B” (that honor would, of course, go to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and Omar Epps of House), but you’d be forgiven if, while flipping through the channels on Tuesday night, you thought you came across a special episode of Glee in which Will Schuester was giving a speech after Sue Sylvester switched his hair gel with shoe polish. That this wouldn’t make very much sense – Ryan’s budget “Road Map” would entail slashing of public services, while Morrison’s character on Glee is a public school teacher in a small Midwestern town constantly dealing with budget cuts that threaten his beloved glee club – is beside the point; Glee is often at its most entertaining when its plotlines don’t make sense, and most of the news coverage leading up to the State of the Union address was on the oh-so-very high school topic of which lawmakers would be sitting together at the big assembly. Also, Ryan pretty much nailed the painfully earnest tone that is the hallmark of Mr. Schu’s quasi-inspirational speeches to his students.
And yet, Ryan’s turn as SOTU responder is much more likely to be forgotten than Jindal’s was for a reason that has nothing to do with anything he said or did, as Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota delivered her own “Tea Party” response that was televised on CNN. This consisted of Bachmann bringing her usual brand of over-the-top wackiness while looking at the wrong camera. It’s too bad she doesn’t look a thing like Jane Lynch, because the Republican image these days is much closer to Sue Sylvester than it is to Will Schuester.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Paul Ryan’s resemblance to Matthew Morrison is both unsurprising and apt. Both have been greatly overhyped in comparison to the substance of what they provide-in Morrison’s case, the sophomoric Glee, in Ryan’s case, a budget guru whose basic math doesn’t add up.
Morrison is a pretty face, without question- and the Glee cast as a whole looks great on paper. So do Ryan’s claims that he can bring the budget into balance without any new taxes (and permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans).
Unfortunately, the Glee storylines leave me cold, as do the harsh realities of Paul Ryan’s budget numbers, claims regarding the Affordable Care Act, and even the stimulus.
When historians look back at the 2011 time capsule, my guess is that both Glee and Paul Ryan’s so-called expertise will not have stood the test of time.