It was an excellent theory- rational, objective, and thoughtful. And we can't hold Maddow Blog's Steve Benen responsible for being wrong, or at least partly wrong, given that his stab at an explanation occurred 13-14 hours before, rather than after, the State of the Union addresses and the rebuttals to it.
Benen noted there would be several GOP responses to the President's Tuesday evening speech. The official response would be given by ultra-right wing Joni Ernst, the new senator from Iowa. Freshman Representative Carlos Curbelo of Florida, an outlier among Republicans in his support for a path to citizenship, would offer what Benen understandably described as the "’Spanish-language response, which will reportedly mirror the substance of Ernst’s speech." An official Tea Party response would come from Representative Curt Clawson of Florida, with Rand Paul and Ted Cruz also responding to the President.
For those keeping score at home, that would be five(5) rebuttals, so Benen understandably argued
As we talked about last year at this time, let’s not forget that there used to be one Republican response because the party wouldn’t tolerate any other scenario. GOP lawmakers who deliberately chose to step on – or worse, contradict – their party’s scripted message risked raising the ire of party leaders and insiders. Only one SOTU response was given because no Republican in Congress would dare challenge – or even think to challenge – the party’s message operation.
Those norms have collapsed. “There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist, said last year. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”
Rand Paul clearly wants to be President and Ted Cruz, who wouldn't mind being in the Oval Office, has an underestimated interest in someday being Senate Majority Leader. And an official Tea Party response gives credibility to Joni Ernst (and congressional Republicans, whom she clearly was representing; video below) as being something other than a well-dressed, reasonably articulate, female neo-Bircher with a smile that never ends.
The response by Carlos Curbelo was of quite a different nature, however. Politico reports
Republicans sent mixed signals on immigration in their two official rebuttals to President Obama Tuesday night: Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s rebuttal made no mention of the topic, but the Spanish-language version of the rebuttal, delivered by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said Republicans wanted to work with Obama to fix the immigration system.
“We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy,” said Curbelo in Spanish. “In the past, the president has expressed support for ideas like these. Now we ask him to cooperate with us to get it done.”
Earlier on Tuesday, House Republicans had described Curbelo’s response as “the Spanish-Language translated address of Sen. Joni Ernst response.” That language was later removed from the release, according to Mother Jones.
The addition to Ernst's speech may have been a mistake or the immigration-friendly congressman going rogue. Not quite, however, inasmuch as
In an interview after the speech, Curbelo said he chose to focus on immigration as well as other issues personally important to him – such as education and Cuba – aside from the party’s broader economic message that was reflected in Ernst’s rebuttal.
He had asked for a copy of Ernst’s prepared remarks a few days in advance of Tuesday’s address, and then made his own additions, including the references to immigration. Leadership saw the remarks beforehand and were fine with them, Curbelo said. “I did not get any pushback whatsoever.”
Of course he didn't. In the GOP's defense Ernst, prudently, said nothing about immigration. Still, inclusion of support- in Spanish- of creating "appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system" in what was promoted as a mere Spanish translation of the Party's official response clearly was a shout-out, a thumbs-up, to Hispanic voters, who overwhelmingly reject the approach of the Repub Party.
It's not only Democrats who can read the political tea leaves, or demographic charts. Repubs understand as a win-win a successful effort to chip away at the Hispanic vote while opposing policies which might actually help Latinos: raising the minimum wage, lowering the cost of a college education, requiring sick leave, reducing the relative burden of taxation upon the middle class, or implementation of carbon-reduction initiatives.
The GOP's popular base may not understand the Repub Party will not fight to the death only immigration which includes an achievable path to citizenship. The co-existence of a rebuttal in English and an altered one in Spanish, delivered to predominantly different audiences, fits in well with a strategy of guys and gals determined to keep their real intentions from the average people who vote for them. If the Party consistently votes as one (or close to it) to destroy the aspirations of the middle and working classes, the least it can do is treat them as children and keep them in the dark.