Monday, January 22, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Rubio stiff-arms public

With all the courage of a thousand lemmings, Florida's junior Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Duck & Cover, brought his tin cup tour to Tampa Bay last Friday to hustle for political contributions.

The good news is at last he figured out where Tampa Bay is. The less than charitable news is Rubio continued to stiff the public, once more refusing to hold a town hall meeting, or agree to speak with those who might want to ask him questions about health care, or Russia, or the current travails swirling about President Donald Trump.

Irony abounds.

Rubio spoke to about 300 attendees at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the Republican Party of Pinellas County at the Carillon Hilton Hotel. A principled Abraham Lincoln stood up in the face of a grave national crisis to preserve the union. He led the country with undaunted courage. And he attacked the scourge of slavery.

And Marco Rubio? The hand-wringing senator couldn't find a spare moment in his self-promoting big bucks hustling schedule to meet face-to-face with some 250 people carrying placards.

Indeed Rubio, R-Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid, boldly strode to the podium to deliver a scathing rebuke of the news media over its coverage of Trump, for its insistence on covering all the crazy, bumptious, bizarre, weird stuff the president of the United States says and does.

This from the man who makes himself less accessible to the press than North Korean President Kim Jong Un's food taster.

It is true that shortly after the Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio did manage to carve out a few precious moments to appear on Face the Nation to essentially say absolutely nothing about much of anything except that if the Trump White House has notes detailing the president calling fired FBI director James Comey a "nut job" perhaps it might be a good idea to turn them over to the Senate Intelligence Committee. Do you think?

Time for Face the Nation. Not a minute to talk with Floridians. Not a nanosecond of common courtesy for the people he is supposed to represent.

Rubio was introduced to the buffet of checkbooks by Rep. Gus Bilirakis, who belittled the demonstrators near the Hilton as "the liberals outside."

Bilirakis has had his own run-ins with angry voters showing up at town hall meetings who would like to know why he voted to gut the Affordable Care Act, which would result in stripping health coverage from millions of Americans, increasing premiums and reducing benefits.

These weren't "liberals" outside the Lincoln Day Dinner. They were Americans who wanted to have a conversation with their elected senator to simply explain himself.

And even if these people were indeed card-carrying lefties, what difference does it make? Are they not entitled to commune with their U.S. senator? Is political ideology a litmus test for constituent service? Does Rubio only speak to those who grovel in humiliation in his presence?

A sitting U.S. senator has not scheduled a town hall meeting with Floridians since Trump was elected last November. He skulks in and out of Republican banquets and fundraising events populated by fellow travelers. He dodges his critics and runs away from potentially confrontational gatherings because he fears someone might raise their voice and call him a dope, although to be fair on this point, truth is a defense.

Last year as a presidential candidate, Rubio ran as a tough-as-nails fighter who would stand up for this and stand up for that. Now he cowers at the prospect of standing toe-to-toe with a testy retired grandmother carrying a sign demanding he speak to her about health care, or Russia, or Donald Trump's tweets.

During his remarks, Rubio offered up some boilerplate blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada about Americans staying focused on its values as a bulwark against China and Russia. "You do not want a world where a brutal thug like Vladimir Putin has the most powerful military in the world," Rubio cautioned.

Perhaps so. But if the senator can't stare down a Birkenstock-wearing middle-aged pony-tailed hippie touting a protest sign, what makes anyone think Rubio would turn Putin into his poodle?

It's pretty evident that for a chap who has commander-in-chief aspirations, Rubio has all the presidential timber of Chinese drywall.

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