Monday, January 22, 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: Beware of social media targeting kids

Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

Ignoring all available evidence that screen time and social media exposure can be harmful to kids, Facebook recently unveiled a new messaging app targeting children under 13. It’s yet another battlefront for parents who have to constantly combat the ...
Published: 01/21/18
Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

Editorial: More talk, answers needed on future of USF St. Petersburg

The Florida Legislature’s abrupt move to strip the University of South Florida St. Petersburg of its hard-earned separate accreditation and transform it back into a satellite of the major research university lacks detail and an appreciation for histo...
Published: 01/18/18

Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18