1. Opinion

Ruth: Don't ask Rubio to do the heavy lifting

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped write the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, has shifted back to his original position that piecemeal legislation is the way forward.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who helped write the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, has shifted back to his original position that piecemeal legislation is the way forward.
Published Oct. 31, 2013

First, a confession. It is probably true that I've watched Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington too many times.

A naive young man finds himself appointed to the United States Senate and heads off to the nation's capital believing he will be able to do good things, improve people's lives and make a difference. Did I mention Frank Capra's movie is a delusional, surreal fantasy?

Now we have "Mr. Rubio Goes to Washington," the melodramatic tale of an ambitious Sammy Glick of the Potomac, a smooth operator who sees his Senate seat not as a noble call to public service but as an entry to the best front and center table at Fox News.

Sen. Marco Rubio isn't a weather vane, tacking to the latest polling whim. He's the perpetually spinning propeller atop the freshman beanie. Where does he stand on anything? What time is it?

Since being elected to the Senate in 2010, Rubio has passed more fundraising buffet tables than legislation. For a nanosecond, he had a chance to lead, only to finally say: "My immigration bill? What immigration bill? Who said anything about an immigration bill?"

Rubio this week abandoned a sweeping immigration bill that he helped pass with bipartisan support in the Senate that provides an eventual path to citizenship for those in the country illegally but after a lengthy period of time and payment of a fine.

Now Rubio says it would be too hard to get the measure through the House. Instead Rubio calls for itty-bitty, baby-step immigration reforms.

Passing legislation is supposed to be hard. It's supposed to require wheeling and dealing, horse-trading, compromise and negotiation. That's what real senators do.

Given Rubio's aversion to heavy lifting, you could argue he's not a U.S. senator at all. He's a U.S. City Council member — with a book deal.

To serve in the United States Senate, even with the bickering, partisan dysfunction and glacial pace, is an opportunity to try to accomplish big things and affect the course of the nation's history.

Not for Rubio. It's too hard.

The water carrier from the Heritage Foundation has been too busy caressing his ambitions and avoiding any semblance of believing in anything that hasn't been poll-tested.

First, Rubio opposed immigration reform. Then he supported a piecemeal approach. Then he was in favor of comprehensive legislation. Now he's signed up again for piecemeal immigration reform. He opposed the Affordable Care Act but disappeared when Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas attempted to blow up the economy with C-4-laden green eggs and ham. Then he materialized again as an ardent foe of Obama just as the website proved to have fewer working parts than the Senate itself.

Now Rubio is against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act because . . . well, it prohibits employment discrimination? Really? Too hard?

One day, Rubio, R-Boo!, will shuffle off this mortal coil. And what will be said of a man who once served in the United States Senate? Perhaps something along these lines.

Marco Rubio once represented Florida in the United States Senate. He was a man who thought small and found no issue that couldn't be reduced to the sum of its parts. He believed in a la carte governance.

The senator was dedicated to furthering the one worthy cause he cared about — himself. He stood for nothing unless it was before the Iowa caucus. When called upon to lead, he ran away faster than the hapless knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When the going got tough, he was on the next plane to New Hampshire.

He gave good speeches and collected big checks. He staunchly opposed Fidel Castro. Yet he feared offending radio talk show hosts and the his tea party supporters.

Rubio squandered his rare gift to do great things, to enhance the lives of people, to be remembered as a hard-working, bipartisan legislator because — it was too hard. He was a politician who took the easy way out.