Ruth: Rubio's ready, but is the nation?

Published May 15, 2014

Judging presidential politics is a matter of perspective. One man's Thomas Jefferson is another's Warren Harding.

So it isn't that surprising that Florida's plebe Republican Sen. Marco Rubio gazes into the mirror every morning and sees a veritable redwood of presidential timber staring back at him while others may view him as the Eddie Haskell of the Potomac.

In a recent interview with ABC News' Jonathan Karl, when asked if he thinks he is ready to become president of the United States, the commander in chief, the leader of the free world, Rubio stoutly replied, "I do." That might suggest Florida's junior senator is a man of supreme confidence, or that the minimum requirements for the job are somewhere below being a Lotto ticket pencil sharpener.

Or perhaps Rubio looked out across the landscape of potential rivals for the GOP presidential nomination: fellow tea party guys like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Sen. Rick Santorum.

"Hey," Rubio concluded, "compared to those guys, I come off like Abraham Lincoln, only shorter and without the beard."

Of course there is always Jeb Bush, who got everyone excited over a possible presidential run when he gave a speech in New York. He actually injected some inflection in his voice and occasionally gestured with his hands, giving rise to speculation the former Florida governor might have a pulse. Great chin-rubbing ensued.

Rubio has been making the rounds in New Hampshire doing what he does best, schmoozing, which in his mind qualifies him to have access to the nuclear codes.

In explaining to Karl why he believed he was ready to become president, Rubio noted he has served in public office for 14 years (including his time in the Florida House, the last two years as speaker), an odd bit of braggadocio in today's climate where claiming to be a career politician is akin to touting one's bona fides as a professional elephant poacher.

While he may have held public office for 14 years, Rubio has little to show for it. During his time in Tallahassee, Rubio was never the prime driver behind any significant legislation that changed the course of the state.

In nearly four years in the U.S. Senate, he has introduced more than 60 bills. Only a handful have passed the chamber, most notably a resolution honoring the 2013 NBA champion Miami Heat. Another designates September as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month. And there is the measure requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release data that determines flood insurance rates. We're not exactly in Founding Father heights of legislative accomplishment here.

To be fair, Rubio did champion immigration reform for about 20 minutes. After it passed, he ran away from his own legislation when the tea party types started harrumphing.

One might argue it is important for presidential contenders to grasp that they live in the real world. But not President-in-Waiting Rubio, who despite vast evidence of man-made global warming doesn't accept the conclusions of science and argues government should play no role in addressing the crisis.

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Ready for the presidency? Rubio isn't ready to be promoted to sixth grade.

There has been no small amount of conjecture over a Rubio White House run in 2016, a timetable complicated by the fact the Colossus of Miami would have to forgo a re-election bid to the Senate if he runs for president.

So it's now or never. By 2020 it will be too late for Rubio, who would only be 49 six years hence, for the cruelest of reasons. It's not the passage of time that bedevils Rubio. It's the passage of follicles. The once fair-haired boy of the Republican Party is quickly becoming the fair-domed, middle-aged guy of the GOP.

You might think this is being unfairly facetious. Perhaps so. Still, consider that the United States has not elected a bald guy as president since 1956. But Dwight Eisenhower had defeated the Third Reich.

In Rubio's case, the hairline is disappearing. He might be able to survive the 2016 presidential primaries and the general election. But by 2020, it's not millions from the GOP's Daddy Warbucks, Sheldon Adelson, that Rubio will covet. It will be comb-over tips.

So Rubio insists he is ready to run in 2016, if only by a hair.