After I read the Washington Post “embellishment” story about Marco Rubio last night, I reached out to a number of people familiar with Rubio, his campaign, and his record. No one was shocked by anything Rubio said, or by the fact that the Post would publish such a piece.
Welcome to vice-presidential vetting!
Among those I contacted was an old friend, Pat Shortridge, a key strategist on the 2010 Rubio campaign. The Post reporter “completely missed the fundamental point of Marco’s discussion of his parents,” Shortridge says.
“The story is not about their flight from Cuba; it’s about their life in America, about the life they were able to build here, especially for their children.”
Echoing a reporter from the Miami Herald last night, he says: “In all the times I heard him talk about his family leaving Cuba and coming to America, I don’t think I ever heard him mention dates, or Castro, or anything else in terms of the specifics. Certainly no dramatic embellishments designed to win political points or impress an audience.”
“His family story is about why America is special,” Shortridge says, “about the endless opportunities that are made possible by limited government, about the ability to pursue your dreams and give your kids even bigger ones.”
That’s why it resonates. While showing love and admiration for his family, the story he has told is about much more than the Rubios.
As he does in the Senate now, “Marco talked often of his fear that the experience of his community in losing their country would be repeated by this generation here in America if we don’t act to solve the really serious problems facing our country,” Shortridge continued.
He adds: “Marco’s family story strikes such a chord, and I think especially among people whose families have been here for generations, because it makes us think about things we’ve long taken for granted, makes us think about the wonder of our country as seen through the eyes of a community of people who understand how blessed we all are as Americans. As more and more Americans feel the things that make us special slipping away, the power of that message only grows.”
“Any politician receiving extensive national attention for the first time can expect to receive additional scrutiny,” notes Bob Sanchez, policy director at the James Madison Institute in Tallahasee, Florida, and a former member of the Miami Herald editorial board. “Fair enough. However, if that politician happens to be a conservative, the aforesaid scrutiny may well come in the form of a hit piece in the liberal news media.”
But with Senator Rubio, it’s of the kind Clarence Thomas can tell him all about.
“The hit piece will be especially vicious,” Sanchez remarks, “if that conservative politician happens to be member of a racial or ethnic minority whose members are supposed to maintain a sheep-like loyalty to the liberal orthodoxy that keeps these minorities in a state of dependency on government programs. African Americans and Hispanics, in particular, are supposed to remain docilely in the corral of the political party that takes their loyalty for granted and whose media allies demonize those who dare to hold different views.” The more national attention Rubio gets, the more he can expect to be demonized as an “Tio Tomas,” Sanchez predicts.
Sanchez points to Ruben Navarrette’s recent “Has Marco Rubio sold out?” piece in the Post. “All too predictably, this plays to a stereotype of Hispanics suggesting that immigration is the only political issue they care about. As Mr. Rubio well knows, however, Hispanics — especially Cuban Americans and others who fled various forms of tyranny and economic collapse—also care about a lot of other things, particularly maintaining their freedom from the kind of socialist dogma that morphed into despotism in their homelands.”
Anyone on the left is “scared to death of him . . . and they should be,” another political vet told me. “It’s also why Clinton was trying to engineer Meeks dropping out in favor of Crist last year. The Dems know Marco will be on the ticket at some point and is very formidable.”
As Shortridge puts it: “The Post story, on top of the recent Univision shakedown attempt, demonstrates the fear Marco strikes in the hearts of many liberals. They really fear the power of his voice, his ideas, and his personal story. That’s sad because he’s not a calculating, ambitious politician. He ran to help solve serious problems and it would be nice if the other side extended a hand and worked with him to do that rather than attack out of fear.”