I once hoped Marco Rubio represented the future of the Republican party, and more important, American conservatism. Now, after his puerile behavior and increasingly vocal — if not slavish or unqualified — support for Donald Trump, that hope is dashed.
I didn’t ignore others’ misgivings about his lack of experience, though arguably it rivaled Ted Cruz’s. I was and am still willing to forgive him for his role in the Gang of Eight; I support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and recognize that Rubio was never actually for “open borders.”
But now I admit that those who warned about his poor judgment and apparent opportunism seem to have identified persistent flaws that led to his downfall.
His “robot moment” on the New Hampshire debate stage might have doomed his presidential bid, but the downfall to which I refer didn’t begin until he descended into the mud with Trump. Rubio gave oxygen to Trump’s ridiculous tweets and insulted his person, commenting, among other things, on his — wink – “small hands.” It was embarrassing for everyone — which Rubio admitted, to his credit, but the damage was done.
The childishness hasn’t stopped.
Philip Klein wrote a piece in the Washington Examiner slamming Rubio for his opportunistic support of Trump amid pressure to run to keep his Florida Senate seat after he had repeatedly stated that he would return to the private sector in January. Trump himself is also now encouraging Rubio to run for re-election.
Klein made good points: Rubio hadn’t just disagreed with Trump on policy but had labeled him a “con artist” who threatened the GOP and was too dangerous to be entrusted with the nuclear codes. Now Rubio has gone from reluctantly upholding his pledge to support “the nominee” to saying he’d attend the convention and would be “honored” to help Trump.
This is how Rubio responded to Klein:
Funny piece by @philipaklein. Easy to be a "keyboard cowboy".I actually ran & spent year away from home trying to prevent choice before us
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 27, 2016
Ross Douthat’s reaction to Rubio’s tweet says it all:
Rubio wanted credit for telling the truth about Trump, but he didn't want to be bound by the implications of that truthtelling.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) May 27, 2016
I have praised Rubio’s positions, plans, and political rhetoric. And I stand by the first line of an article I wrote: “Senator Marco Rubio’s performance in CNN’s GOP town hall Wednesday was a 45-minute lesson on how to articulate conservative Republican ideas.” His performance at that town hall and the majority of his campaign speeches have much to teach the GOP (perhaps a lost cause now) and conservatives concerned about broadening their appeal. Rubio’s numbers among women, youth, and minorities were exceptionally high within the Republican field. The GOP will have to win at least marginally more of these voters in the near future.
I hope a mature, wise, experienced candidate emerges either now or in 2020 who joins actions and convictions with impressive conservative rhetoric.