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Daniel Ruth

Marco Rubio ducks and covers

What would we call this sterling example of political bravado? The Red Badge of Porridge?

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Here's a lesson for all you aspiring officeholders. If you want to glad-hand, baby-buss and back-slap your way to the top of the hustings ladder, you need to portray yourself as a fighter, always fighting for you and you and, of course, you.

You want to fight special interests. You want to fight for freedom. You want to fight for justice. You want to fight for the American way. That's because you are a fighter. You're tough. You're steadfast. You're a brawler for democracy is what you are. Ooooooh, so scary.

Why you're the Sean Penn of the Bill of Rights, that is until things begin to go a little south for you and you suddenly find yourself cowering in a corner like the slapped, shell-shocked soldier in Patton.

You're Marco Rubio, R-Little Lord Fauntleroy-Lite.

Until very recently things had been going fairly swimmingly for Rubio in his quest to wrest the Republican U.S. Senate nomination from Gov. Charlie Crist and his perennial running mate — Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder.

Rubio has been rising in the polls while raising gobs of cash. And he's been anointed the beefcake boy of the Tea Party cultists, the Scientologists of American politics. Good times, good times.

But as disclosures have mounted in recent days that during his tenure as the speaker of the Florida House Rubio treated his office — and the Republican credit card that came with it — as his own personal ATM machine after running through some $600,000 in political funds while seeking the job, the Senate candidate has mysteriously become less visible (and accountable) than the last time Dick Cheney dined alone.

Instead, Rubio, R-The Man Who Came To Dinner, and Breakfast and Lunch, opted to respond to questions about his spending, including at least $34,000 in unexplained expenses, by way of video press releases and sycophantic flacks in an effort to tut-tut and harrumph-harrumph away the perception that in the former speaker's hands, political committees and a Republican Party credit card were weapons of mass self-indulgence.

To be sure, when your entire raison d'etre for your candidacy is that you are a tight-fisted, penurious nickel-squeezer, it probably doesn't help to be exposed as a free-spending Imelda Marcos Rubio, who also dropped nearly $20,000 in political funds on family members.

Rubio's reaction to the controversy swirling about him has been to rely on more surrogates than Melissa Etheridge, while insisting: A) his expenditures were perfectly swell, B) any accounting errors were the result of lowly minions and C) that big meanie Charlie Crist is picking on him.

Now there's a buck stops here/Nathan Hale moment of courage for you.

This sort of Monty Pythonesque tendency to "Run away! Run away!" when the going gets tough is hardly limited to the Republicans' answer to Robert Vaughn in The Magnificient Seven.

When Democratic New York Rep. Charles Rangel was admonished for a host of ethics violations relating to accepting gifts and avoiding taxes on a Caribbean residence, he insisted he didn't realize he was breaking rules and threw his staff under the bus for any errors that may have happened.

How was Rangel supposed to know all this arcane tax stuff? He was only the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

So it's hardly surprising in this age of the wussification of politics that Marco Rubio, R-Duck & Cover, would suddenly make a cloistered monk look like a Chatty Cathy.

When your campaign is predicated on fiscal conservatism to the point of vilifying Charlie Crist for appearing in the same time zone as the president of the United States, it doesn't help to be saddled with an image of a guy who not only spent vast sums of contributed money to bail out his tony lifestyle, but seems unable to explain where all the money went.

Was this a tea party, or a cocktail party?

Little wonder then that Rubio would wimp out and pull a Palin by carefully orchestrating his public appearances before fawning supporters, while leaving the whining alibis and obfuscations to his factotums.

If Rubio isn't willing to man-up and fight for his reputation on his own two feet and with his own voice, without the help of handlers, spin doctors, supernumeraries and front men, why would anyone think he would be any more brave-hearted when it would come to fighting for the interests of his constituents?

In the spirit of charity, something he knows about all too well, Rubio, R-Brother Can You Spare A Dime?, should feel free to adopt the above suggestion as his 101st idea for Florida's future, not to mention his own.

Marco Rubio ducks and covers 03/18/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 7, 2010 11:28am]

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