WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio sounded tired, and simply turning on the TV in the past week explains why.
The Florida Republican has been everywhere promoting his book, from countless cable news shows to The View and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
An American Son is part ode to his Cuban immigrant parents, part textbook of his wild ride to the top of national politics via the 2010 election against Charlie Crist. But it also delves extensively into past controversies, such as Rubio's use of a Florida GOP credit card, and it reads like a man with future ambitions trying to clear the air.
His tour continues today at Inkwood Books in Tampa. Here's an edited transcript of a Tampa Bay Times interview with Rubio:
Did you write knowing that journalists and political opponents will scrutinize you in the future?
I didn't think about it that way. I just told my story. I made the decision I was going to write it in an open and honest way, that I wanted people to learn from both my successes and from my mistakes. That's one of the lessons that I've taken away, that just because you think something looks a certain way today, someone will view it five years later, 10 years later through a different context. But I certainly didn't write the book with that in mind.
Do you ever think that if Crist or his allies had not leaked a plan that you would leave the Senate race and run for state attorney general, history would be very different? It's likely that Crist would be senator now.
I don't know. Everything I knew about politics told me I was going to lose. I was behind in the polls, I couldn't raise money, I couldn't get anybody to support me. All I had was my beliefs and my principles, but at some point I thought it wasn't enough. I'm not sure I wouldn't have reached the same conclusion a few weeks later on my own. I'd like to think I would have. The bigger point I was trying to make is we all experience doubt and uncertainty and concern when we think things are out of our control. But I learned a lot from that.
You question whether you entered politics too early, knowing it has been a burden on your family life. How much has that experience changed you?
I don't feel sorry for myself. I think there are other people who have it much worse; they don't control their own schedule. I have people I went to law school with and their boss is like, 'Hey can you come in Saturday to work on this case?' And they know that if they want to make partner, they are expected to come in. But their son has a T-ball game. I know people who are fighting for their businesses and have to work Sundays just to keep the thing afloat. I worry I don't always get it right. One thing I hope people will take from the book is that the greatest thing my parents gave me is a strong and stable home where I was secure and felt loved and was encouraged to dream. My kids deserve that just as much as I did. But that's work.
Have you and your wife reassessed whether to live in Washington? (His wife and four children live in West Miami.)
It's been tougher this year because of the book stuff, and we're not going to do it here in the early fall, either. Part of it is my mom is older now and her health unfortunately deteriorated a little bit last year so I need to get back and see her as well. What I've learned is there are drawbacks and advantages to moving your family here and commuting.
The conversation shifted to immigration. Rubio had been working on a proposal to grant legal status to some children of illegal immigrants when President Barack Obama announced he was doing something similar, drawing fierce objections from Republicans who labeled it amnesty.
Is President Obama's new immigration policy amnesty?
I think there are some people that would define amnesty as anything that involves not enforcing the immigration laws. But in my mind, amnesty has always been a special pathway to citizenship that circumvents existing law. (Neither his plan nor Obama's does that.)
Republicans and Democrats say something needs to be done at a federal level, so why wouldn't you continue to press your idea and maybe broaden it?
We continue to develop the idea and work on it. I've just made an observation, which is given that (Obama) decision, it's going to be harder to get anything done before the election and harder to do it in a bipartisan fashion. As I've said repeatedly, I hope that I am wrong.
So you're not giving up on it?
I never said I was. What I said was when he made that decision I thought it was going to be harder to get something done in the short term before the election.
You oppose the full Dream Act because, among other things, you say it could encourage chain migration. Isn't your family story a form of chain migration? Your parents followed relatives who had moved to Miami from Cuba. (Those relatives sponsored Rubio's parents.)
It's important to remember my parents immigrated legally in 1956. I don't oppose family-based immigration, but I think when you discuss it in context of the Dream Act you are creating a special pathway to citizenship and using that pathway to bring in people other than the kids. I think it creates an incentive for future illegal immigration.