The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Whatever happened to Rubio’s integrity?

If Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has had the best post-2016-campaign period of any of the failed candidates (largely by staying out of sight and refusing to endorse Donald Trump), then New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (now mocked as a “manservant” to Trump) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have had the worst. It is especially painful for foreign policy hawks, reform-minded conservatives and pro-immigration Republicans to watch Rubio twist himself into a pretzel trying to stay true to his own message while supporting Trump. Watching this dismal sight, a foreign policy guru once favorably disposed to Rubio told me, “I’m so over Marco.”

Rubio seems constantly trying to massage his position, trying to sound just supportive enough of Trump (to attract the anti-immigrant voters who don’t like him anyway?) but not entirely ridiculous. He’s not succeeding. Buzzfeed reports:

“I don’t intend to spurn him or denigrate him. Anyone who watched the last 11 months is aware that Donald and I have some policy disagreements, and by the way I’m capable of working with people whom I disagree with on things,” Rubio said on a National Republican Senatorial Committee conference call, according to audio obtained by BuzzFeed News.
“So I guess the way I’ve told everyone is that I disagree with Donald Trump on a few things — there’s no doubt about it. But I disagree with Hillary Clinton on everything. I mean virtually everything. . . . I think we’re capable of working with people toward a common goal that we may have disagreements about on any given issue. But the things we disagree on, we just have to disagree on in a respectful way. We’re not going to denigrate anyone. Don’t expect him to denigrate us. But I most certainly don’t want Hillary Clinton to win. We’ll work our way through it. I have my own identity of course to the extent that there are those that have any problems.”

This is pathetic. Neither his opponents nor the media should give him a pass. It’s appropriate to ask:

  • Rubio disagrees with Trump on entitlements, the debt, our allies, nuclear proliferation, Syria, Russia, respect for judges, immigration and trade. Where are the things on which he agrees? Doesn’t he actually disagree with Trump on more items and more important items than the things on which he agrees?
  • Rubio said he’s not comfortable giving Trump the nuclear codes. Isn’t that a disqualifier right then and there?
  • Does he think Trump is an appropriate role model for his children and other people’s children?
  • When Trump was uttering racist epithets, insulting women, talking nonsense on policy and lying about his opponents in the primary, Rubio spoke out. Why shouldn’t he “spurn” Trump when he does this now?
  • How does Rubio expect to oppose Trump on controversial items after he is elected if he cannot do so now?
  • Does this all boil down to fear of pro-Trump voters?

Rubio seems to have lost his integrity in a matter of weeks, all for the prospect of a Senate seat. The politics doesn’t even make sense. (Florida is a diverse state; Clinton will almost certainly win it.) More to the point, Rubio is confirming the criticism of him made during the campaign — he’s too ambitious, too willing to cut and run, too afraid of incurring the wrath of the right. He’d still be a better senator than the wacky Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) or the truth-challenged Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.). But so far, his Senate campaign is actually Exhibit A as to why he’s not presidential material. He lacks spine.