Not that he needs it or wants it, but I’d like to defend my friend David Axelrod from a recent charge in a Washington Post blog that he engaged in “Bigotry 101,” in some comments he made about Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/axelrod-its-all-about-identity-politics/2012/06/05/gJQAv1MtFV_blog.html ) According to the blogger, Axelrod’s “slur” occurred when he said that selecting Rubio as his vice-presidential running mate shouldn’t give Republican front-runner Mitt Romney a “get out of jail free card” given all of his previous policy positions. The blogger interpreted this comment as reducing Rubio to only his ethnicity, ignoring all else about him, including his qualifications.
Saying — or at least strongly implying — that someone is a bigot sets the bar pretty high for me. On its face, this comment does not come close to bigotry. Vice presidents are selected for three basic reasons. First, can they make a good president? Second, what political advantages and baggage do they bring? Third, are they somebody you want hanging around your office for four to eight years. David’s comment was clearly about this second category of consideration. It is well known that one of Romney’s political considerations for a veep pick might be to restore his woeful ratings with Hispanics. Indeed, David’s answer was to a question on this very topic. David was signaling, as others already have, that to simply assume a Rubio pick would wipe out concerns among Hispanics about Romney’s record is mistaken. One could even argue that David was making the very point that the blogger seems to be making — that Hispanics, like everybody else are diverse, capable of thinking for themselves and not likely to ignore voting records in favor of ethnic loyalty. It may very well be that when voters — Hispanic and otherwise — do that calculation on Rubio, they will conclude that he is a strong choice for vice president or beyond.
Bigotry, to me, is something like “He isn’t qualified to be vice president because he is left-handed and left-handed people make lousy presidents.” Or, “I can’t stand left-handed people; I don't want to be in the same room with them.” To complete this strained analogy, what David said was something like: “Just because someone is left-handed doesn’t mean they would be good for left-handers.” That hardly sounds bigoted to me.