Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Rubio's Rubicon: crossing tea party

There was a time when Florida's most junior Sen. Marco Rubio, the Eddie Haskell of the tea party movement, seemed like such a nice young man. He was ever solicitous of his patrons' delusions, so eager to pander at a moment's notice, and more than happy to participate in a tin-foil hat folding bee.

"Why, that's a lovely hoop-skirt you're wearing today, Mrs. Cleaver."

But that was then, back when young master Marco wanted so very much to win his U.S. Senate seat. In those long-ago halcyon days of hustings bootlicking, the candidate embraced his tea party mentors, practically hitting the stump in a coonskin cap and marching in lockstep with a musket.

If the Senate had been Rubio's only ambition, he could have wiled away a couple terms safely ensconced in his upper chamber's booster seat, showing up back in Florida every six years to bemoan the Marxist/Socialist/Trotskyite plot to provide health care to poor people.

Alas, Rubio is also a political animal of Falstaffian appetites. And since his 2010 election, he has started to hum Hail to the Chief while daydreaming about playing with the nuclear codes aboard Air Force One.

And therein lies a problem. It's one thing to win a Senate seat with the backing of the Villages' Revolutionary War Re-enactor Club. It's quite another to be taken seriously as a potential presidential candidate when you are perceived as getting your foreign policy advice from a Patrick Henry impersonator in a tricorner hat.

Rubio finally realized he actually had to go work to prove to people he was not simply the Koch Brothers' hot walker.

Since Hispanic citizens have demonstrated they would rather cast a ballot for "The Man of La Mancha" than vote for a Republican, it fell to Rubio to become the GOP's face in the current immigration reform debate in Washington. No good would come from this for the man who would be the King of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now Rubio is being vilified by the stocks of tea party activists, accused of betraying the guiding principles of the Yosemite Sams of the Constitution that originally landed him in the Senate.

Earlier this week, during a tea party rally in Washington led by Glenn Beck, right-wing radio's answer to Elmer Gantry meets Huey Long, the mere mention of Rubio's name invoked outraged boos amid accusations of being a traitor to the cause of returning America to the pelt standard.

Poor Marco Rubio. One moment he's being carted around in a sedan chair on the shoulders of Fox News interns. And before you can say, "Where's Barack Obama's birth certificate?" junior is recast as the Tokyo Rubio of the Beltway.

The senator committed several acts of apostasy, not the least of which was taking part in a bipartisan effort to shepherd an immigration bill through the Senate that would grant legal status to some 11 million undocumented workers currently in the United States and eventually a pathway to citizenship at least 13 years down the road.

But Rubio was particularly tainted by serving on the Gang of Eight ad hoc committee that also included New York's preening Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, who gives the powdered wigs of the tea party the vapors inasmuch as they view him as the Tony Soprano of the Communist Party.

It doesn't take much to gall these humorless folks. When Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — who only represents Doral in the Miami area — spoke Spanish recently in a speech about the immigration bill, he was booed by tea party types who yelled at him to "learn English."

Could have been worse. Diaz-Balart could have blurted something out in French.

By turning on him as if he was a subtropical Quisling, the tea party folks may have done Rubio's presidential aspirations a favor.

The junior senator now has a golden opportunity to proclaim that he is Free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty he is free at last.

After all, if Rubio isn't willing to stand up to the forces of the tea party, how could anyone trust him in the same room with Vladimir Putin for fear the Russians would try to steal Alaska back?

Comments
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18