Rubio hitches his star to Trump, trading decency for expedience
© Greg Nash

Once again, Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine I'm furious about Democrats taking the blame — it's time to fight back MORE (R-Fla.) is trading human decency for political expedience. With a roving eye toward the 2020 presidential election, Rubio reaffirmed his endorsement of GOP nominee Donald Trump even after the "Access Hollywood" tape with Trump boasting about sexual assault.

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Which prompts the question, does Marco Rubio believe in anything other than Marco Rubio? Does he have a values core or is he simply a vessel of personal ambition? His well-documented history of taking multiple positions on issues, depending on his political needs, would seem to suggest an answer.

Sure, you can't twirl a Miss Universe baton on Capitol Hill without hitting an extremely ambitious, calculating Machiavelli with big dreams and an even a bigger sense of their own place in history.

But Rubio is a special case.

Rubio's Senate career has been defined by his ostensible plan to end it as soon as possible with a gigantic leap into the White House. As an example, look at his four contradictory positions on immigration reform. Like a little sailboat in a storm, Rubio has tacked for and against reforming immigration laws with each gust of political wind.

When he was a potential vice presidential candidate for 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, he quickly ditched his previous support for immigration reform to join the GOP candidate in an anti-immigrant kamikaze attack.

After the now infamous GOP "autopsy" of Romney’s defeat, punctuated by a plaintive call for Republicans to support immigration reform, Rubio switched positions again and became chief promoter of the bipartisan Gang of Eight group of senators that successfully passed a reform bill in 2013.

But soon thereafter, the wind gusted in a different direction. The polls turned negative for Rubio as his Tea Party base, rightly, discovered that their political boy wonder had stabbed them in the back. Never afraid of letting coherency and constancy stand in his way, Rubio then embarked on a crusade to kill the Gang of Eight bill that he co-sponsored and promoted on every Sunday morning politics show and media across the country.

Why is immigration reform so important for Rubio's political fortune? His appeal to the Republican poobahs was not just due to his youth and TV-friendly looks, factors that could attract a new generation of Republican voters. More significantly, Rubio is one of the most prominent Latinos in the Republican Party, the same party that has lost the Hispanic vote with metronome-like regularity.

In some conservative sectors, there is a belief — perhaps isolated from the reality of the American Latino community — that fielding an arch-conservative Latino candidate, regardless of his or her policies, will magically result in greater support for Republicans from this fast-growing, increasingly determinant group of voters.

What may be less obvious to Republican leaders is that nobody likes a flip-flopper — and no one respects a man who sheds convictions like others change their socks. For American Latinos in particular, still smarting at the lack of immigration reform success under President Obama, Rubio is a vacillating changeling making promises about immigration reform on Spanish-language media and breaking them in English.

Rubio's position fluidity is a character flaw, an ugly crack in the veneer of the made-for-TV Latino candidate. The WikiLeaks disclosure that the Clinton campaign feared Rubio's appeal to Latinos underestimated the Hispanic voter. Rubio is particularly vulnerable to a facts-based reveal, exposing his craven political self-interest as he has repeatedly sacrificed undocumented immigrants at the altar of his ambitions.

And Latinos are unlikely to forget his deceptive biography scandal — claiming Cuban refugee status — a ruse meant to court conservative Cuban-Americans in Miami. As he eventually admitted, his family actually immigrated to the United States years before the Castro revolution.

In another example of his fluidity, even before the Trump "Access Hollywood" imbroglio, he continued to support him in spite of evidence that the GOP nominee broke the Cuban embargo — a policy that is the arch stone connecting Rubio to his South Florida base.

These gyrations are not leadership qualities that have endeared Rubio to Latinos.

So, full circle to Rubio's shameful hypocrisy of simultaneously slapping Trump on the wrists for his misogyny while continuing to support him for president.

As history teaches us, men and women in leadership positions manifest their true leadership qualities and reveal their soul and mettle only when tested by crisis. But Rubio has not been tested in any meaningful way, unless you count his self-immolation with penis jokes. This makes his serial metamorphoses that much more consequential and unpredictable.

By once again reaffirming his support for Trump, Rubio has chosen his careerism over real leadership. Perhaps he should have learned from his former mentor (and former rival for the GOP nomination), Jeb Bush, that gaining political power in exchange for surrendering your principles is the soul-killing path that voters will reject.

Then again, that premise assumes, in spite of the evidence, that Marco Rubio holds some real, immutable principles — besides the drive propelling him to greater power.

Espuelas is a Washington-based political journalist working in broadcast, digital and print media. He can be reached at contact@espuelas.com. Follow him on Twitter @EspuelasVox.


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