Politics & Policy

Living It Up with the Rubios

Marco Rubio with wife Jeanette and their four children. (Joe Raedle/Getty)

The candidate treated most unfairly by The New York Times is a coveted slot in the Republican presidential field, and it is owned, at least for the time being, by Marco Rubio.

The self-styled newspaper of record ran two stories about Rubio and his wife that were so laughably tendentious and unfair that they earned mockery and eye-rolling across the political spectrum.

According to the Times, Marco Rubio is basically a scofflaw who has tottered on the brink of financial ruin, and his wife is his partner in crime.

The personal finances of a presidential candidate are fair game, but the Times fashions as hostile a narrative as possible, and treats life as lived by most Americans as alien and even suspect.

We often say that we want politicians who aren’t self-funded or otherwise rich, but then when someone like Marco Rubio comes along, who started with almost nothing, the reaction of the Times is “Eek, a mouse.”

The Times led off its vetting of the Rubios with an exposé of their traffic tickets, perhaps because it couldn’t get access to their cable bill or recycling bins. The newspaper had to investigate both Marco and his wife to boost the overall ticket count into something approaching minimal newsworthiness.

Marco has accumulated four tickets in 18 years. Yes, four, a pace of one ticket every four or so years that won’t exactly shock the conscience in parts of the country where people drive all the time. It is the 13 tickets of Jeanette that gets the number up to a combined 17 citations, which might be a concern if first ladies were expected to do their own driving and rigorously honor the speed limit.

The story on the Rubios’ finances was headlined “Marco Rubio’s Career Bedeviled by Financial Struggles,” although the report doesn’t mention any bankruptcies, defaults or liens. It says that Marco began his public career “in a deep financial hole of his own making,” by which it means he had a student-loan debt of about $150,000.

Another central element of the story is Rubio’s alleged “luxury speedboat,” an $80,000 purchase that’s supposed to illustrate his extravagance, even though it amounted to 10 percent of an $800,000 advance for his memoir.

When a photo of the actual boat emerged, an unassuming fishing vessel, it came as a shock to landlubbers expecting to see something like the swank speedboat Notorious B.I.G used in the video “Hypnotize” to outrun pursuing helicopters.

A video review of the EdgeWater 245CC Deep-V Center Console in question by the former editor of Boating magazine notes some of the luxurious qualities and features: It is “safe, durable and light”; it has “comfortable seating”; and it has “storage behind the seats.”

Another extravagance, the story suggests, is the Rubios’ 2005 purchase of a home twice the size of their previous one. The Times fails to note that the Rubio family was growing at the time — they have four kids — but does stipulate that the house is more expensive and newer than other homes in West Miami, featuring an in-ground pool and big windows.

What of this manse? Well, it’s one thing to have one of the nicest homes in, say, Coral Gables; it’s another to have one of the priciest in West Miami, a largely Latino working-class community.

All that said, Rubio clearly got overextended 10 years ago when he owned three houses, including one he recently sold at an $18,000 loss. And he will always be on the defensive about how his personal and party expenses got mingled in Florida, but this appears to have been sloppiness, not corruption.

Student-loan debt, a house underwater, a splurge on a boat — none of this will be unfamiliar to most Americans. If the choice is between Mitt Romney, who made a fortune in a business that is difficult to understand and easy to malign, and Marco Rubio, whose financial lapses are fairly ordinary, it’s not even a close call.

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