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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio, in unpublished interview, compares Bush and Crist

In August 2011, Sen. Marco Rubio sat down for a video interview with the Florida Legislative Research Center, discussing his career in elective politics starting with a run for West Miami City Commission and talking about highlights and regrets of his time as House speaker.

The interview, which wasn't published, does not contain any surprises. But two notable areas are where Rubio sizes up his political mentor and nemesis and discusses the brinksmanship he faced over an autism bill that was his last decision as speaker.

Q: Can you compare the styles of Governor Bush and Governor Crist and tell me how they were similar and how they were different?

A: Well, the similarities are not as easy to find as the differences. I mean, I think Governor Bush was very policy driven and driven on pursuing public policy. I think you know, in frankness, I think Governor Crist was usually more interested in some of the political implications or the public opinion implications of some of his decisions. It's not an invalid way to govern. I think that’s important. You can’t outrun public opinion on these issues. I mean, you can only go as far as the people will allow you to go; and then part of governing is convincing people that your position on an issue is the right one, and you can't get too far ahead of the public on some of these issues. That’s why some issues take time to accomplish, and I respect that.

But they were very different. Governor Bush had a large legislative agenda that was based on what he thought was what Florida should do, and he pursued those very actively and aggressively. Governor Crist kind of fell back into a more traditional role for Florida’s governors, which is you let the legislature legislate, and then the governor will get involved at the right time whether it’s through the veto pen or to the bully pulpit. They were just very different styles of governing. Q: What is the one thing that you wish you had known before you went to Tallahassee that you didn’t know?

A: I didn’t fully appreciate the fact that some people are willing ... to pass a bill on the last day of session and send it to you with no time left and put you in take it or leave it positions. There was a bill to help kids with autism and related disabilities, and it came up during my last session as speaker. And l knew that if I sent this bill to the Senate with enough time left that they wouldn’t take the bill. We sent it to them with about a day left, and they amended the bill, took out all the stuff we wanted to see made a part of that bill, put their stuff on it, named it after a senator, and sent it back to us as the very last bill of session.

And the choice that I had to make was do we pass this bill or do we let it die? And if we pass it, we weren’t helping nearly as many kids as I wanted to help. But if we let it die, we’ll be helping no kids at all. And it was the very last decision I really had to make, legislative decision I ever had to make as Speaker. Your pride would say, 'You know what? You know, let’s kill the whole thing.' The way the press covered it was, 'Here’s the Senate outfoxing Marco Rubio again. They sent him a take-it-or-leave-it bill. They even slapped him in face by naming it after some kid.' I remember a reporter in the kind of the wrap-up to session …  and she was saying that it was a slam dunk in my face. And I’m here thinking, this is a bill. This is not a bill about whether we name a road or a post office after somebody. This is a bill about autism and children.

We passed it even though it wasn’t what we wanted because the mature decision was 'better helping someone than helping no one.' And in hindsight, I learned that. I wish I had known that, and maybe we could have you know, our strategy could have been a little bit better and ultimately gotten it done, but I don't regret the decision that we made. And, and you know, years later, I think at the next couple of years, the legislature actually came back and did a lot of the things we wanted them to do.

But I still think there’s too much of that. I think the legislative process is still played and covered by the media as some sort of a sport. Who won and who lost? And for this reporter to write, 'Oh, it was a slam dunk in the House’s face. Once again, being outfoxed and outmaneuvered.' We weren’t outfoxed or outmaneuvered. We knew exactly what we were doing. But for us, it was about the autism issue and actually being able to do something about it. Not being able to score some legislative points somewhere that the media said was so brilliant. So I wish I had I think I knew that, but I wish I had appreciated that more going in, but I still would have made the same decision.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 4:48pm]


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