“People buy into my agenda,” Marco Rubio blustered, repeatedly, during last night’s #StudentsStandUp event on CNN.
Nobody in the live audience was buying into Rubio’s agenda, though. Rather, the crowd was becoming increasingly hostile, with moderator Jake Tapper having to repeatedly ask them to be quiet. Perhaps the crowd would have been less vocal if the contrast between what was happening onstage and what usually happens at live events with politicians weren’t so evident.
Last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is proving different from other tragically frequent mass shootings in recent years. It’s been almost a week, and all around the country we’re still talking about it. Part of the reason the shooting has remained forefront in the conversation is the surviving students. They’re extremely online, and thus savvy enough to deflect right-wing conspiracies. They’re stunningly adept at organizing. And perhaps most importantly, they’re resolute in their convictions.
During the #StudentsStandUp event on CNN, they proved just how committed they are to their beliefs about gun restrictions by squaring off against polished politicians–and dunking on them. Teachers and parents of slain students were also on hand, and certainly made an impact, but it was the students who truly showed what an interview with a politician looks like when the interviewer is emboldened by not having his or her job on the line.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch: "This individual was nuts. … None of us support people who are crazy, who are dangerous to themselves, who are a danger to others, getting their hands on a firearm." https://t.co/V50uSV8IiG #StudentsStandUp https://t.co/P5SiokWN3S
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2018
Emma Gonzalez, who has emerged as a superstar activist over the past week, comes out with a big swing, telling NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, “We will support your two children in a way that you will not.”
It’s a bit harsh, but fair for the person who has accused liberals of using schools to teach children that Trump is Hitler. Gonzalez then asks Loesch if she thinks it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic weapons and modifications to make them fully automatic, such as bump stocks. Loesch takes this opportunity to call the shooter “this insane monster,” and switch the focus to mental health, rather than gun restrictions. Gonzalez keeps a polite listening face, and even helps Tapper calm down the audience’s boos, but she refuses to let her original question remain so far off track.
“I’m going to interrupt you and remind you that the question was, ‘Do you think it should be harder to obtain semi-automatic weapons and modifications to make them fully automatic such as bump stocks?'” Gonzalez says.
It’s just that easy. Don’t let them change the subject. Don’t let them off the hook. Many veteran TV interviewers seem to be constantly forgetting that this is how it should be done.
Later on, another student survivor, Cameron Kasky, gets the chance to confront Florida senator Marco Rubio, who has received at least $3.3 million from the NRA over the years, and whom the NRA gives an A+ rating.
Florida school shooting survivor Cameron Kasky challenges Sen. Marco Rubio: "Can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA?" https://t.co/LiU42QFBEv #StudentsStandUp https://t.co/p6jlUGFxOs
— CNN (@CNN) February 22, 2018
Cameron immediately asks Rubio, point blank, whether he’ll continue accepting money from the NRA. He looks nervous, like an actual person, because he is nervous. But when Rubio segues into a series of related talking points instead of answering the question, Kasky asks the follow-up question an actual person might actually ask. Apparently, once teens live through a horrible murder spree at their school, they figure out the trick to embarrassing politicians on live TV is simply not letting them get away with their usual BS.
After Rubio continues deflecting, Kasky asks, “So, more NRA money?”
Through it all, he highlights the fact that Rubio refuses to say he will not accept NRA money in the future. He basically just made Rubio’s future political opponents’ campaign attack ads for them.
Of course, if someone were to make an ad for last night’s CNN event, it might look like this:
Here is a summary of the CNN Townhall with Marco Rubio pic.twitter.com/J6pb36aYlV
— Billito Cipher (@CzarIito) February 22, 2018