Last night in Nevada, as the depressing vote totals poured in showing that Nevada Republicans, or at at least about 45% of them, have the minds of desert toads and the ethics of Vegas Strip pimps, (that is, really want Donald Trump to be President of the United States of America, Peewee Herman having chosen not to compete, journalists waited to see what Marco Rubio, supposedly the choice of the GOP “establishment,” would say in his concession speech. He didn’t give one, however. Fox News reported that “the Senator has gone to bed.”
That’s it. That’s signature significance, conduct that all the spin in the world cannot reconcile with a man having the requisite character and values to lead a nation. Rubio has a nice face, a good personal story, a polished speaking style and, most of all, ambition, and until last night, an opportunity. With that weak, lazy and pusillanimous demonstration, Senator Rubio proved conclusively that this is all he has. It’s not enough; it’s not nearly enough. As much as I and any sane and responsible American citizen want someone to block Donald Trump’s frightening march to the Republican nomination, Marco Rubio is no alternative.
I have, apparently foolishly, not allowed all of the many warning signs regarding Rubio’s leadership skills and character to cause me to label him a lost cause. Early on, he proved himself unable to handle his campaign finances ethically or competently. As a Florida state senator, he abused his power and engaged in a scandalous conflict of interest. As a U.S. Senator elected by a tea party surge, he showed himself to be feckless and expedient. He has also been a lousy Senator, seldom showing up for votes. When he began running for President, Rubio even stated that he hated being a Senator, and abandoned any pretense of doing his job—but he continued to collect his salary, because, he said, he needed the money.
While his chief rival, Donald Trump, worked—yes, it is work—around the clock to get in front of cameras and on the air as often as possible, Rubio adopted a minimalist campaign style, never going off script, seldom subjecting himself to interviews where he would have to improvise answers and actually think. Rubio’s debate performances were entirely dependent on whether he could use portions of his stump speech to answer questions. When a skilled ex-prosecutor, Chris Christie, placed him under cross-examination for this weakness, Rubio devolved into an old Star Trek episode computer, repeating the same programmed phrase as metaphorical smoke billowed out of his ears. Then he ducked accountability for his meltdown, insisting that he was just staying on message, until his advisors finally convinced him that denial wasn’t working.
With all of that, in part because of utter desperation, journalists, Republicans and Americans who are horrified at the prospect of having no better candidates to choose from than the delusional Bernie Sanders, the corrupt and dishonest Hillary Clinton, and the vile and inexperienced Ted Cruz, continued to hope that Rubio could rise above his obvious flaws and be someone with the capacity to grow into leadership.
That hope, always faint anyway, is gone now. Not one of the other Presidential candidates would have willfully avoided the opportunity to give a defiant and inspiring concession speech that would be played on the networks and cable channels repeatedly today. Indeed, not one of them could have been stopped from giving such a speech. Nor would any of the past Presidents or unsuccessful but nominated candidates for the office within my lifetime. Why is Rubio different?
He’s a coward, for one thing. (Teddy Roosevelt once gave a campaign speech after he had been shot in the chest!) He is unable to control his emotions and demeanor under stress, so he ducked the cameras and the pressure. If Rubio didn’t know this would look terrible, he’s too stupid to be President, but since he undoubtedly did know (How many advisors must have told him,“Senator, you have to go out there!”?) and still couldn’t muster the resolve and determination to lead in the face of defeat, we now know that Marco Rubio would roll over and put the pillow over his head when that 3 AM phone call beckens.
It’s as simple as this: weenies can’t be Presidents, and last night, Marco Rubio proved that he’s a weenie.
There is all sorts of speculation over what was going on in Rubio’s head. Ann Althouse even had a reader poll on it. Her choices:
- They said he went to bed, so I assume he was just very sleepy.
- As they said on TV, “he as a lot of work to do between now and super Tuesday.”
- He was so distraught, he was unpresentable, not camera-ready.
- There was no way to do it without congratulating Trump, which he resists.
- He saw that Trump now has the nomination, so there’s nothing left for him to do.
- He’s now the voice of the GOP elite, and these people never know what to say
…none of which is the real reason. Marco Rubio is an empty suit, a small man with the ambition to be President without the qualities of character leadership requires. One theory is that he doesn’t want to aggressively oppose Trump, because he thinks he could be Trump’s vice-president. That’s disgusting, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. Not after last night.
One of the early disillusioning moments of my political life came in 1968, when I became an admirer of Senator Eugene McCarthy. It wasn’t that I agreed with him on everything, but I was impressed with his honesty, humor and clarity of thought. His bold protest candidacy changed the national debate, but as the Democratic Convention turned into raw power maneuvering inside and violence outside, it was obvious that Hubert Humphrey would be the nominee.
Gene had an opportunity to speak to the throng and a live TV audience, and an obligation to, if only to offer some closure to the many young citizens who had knocked on doors and handed out pamphlets, if only to make an inspiring statement—and he could make a great one–to give the young protesters getting their heads beaten in by Mayor Daley’s cops that night hope that there were still politicians with integrity who might prevail some day, some time. But McCarthy never came down to the convention floor, even as his advisers urged him to (“Senator, you have to go out there!”). It was at that moment, or non-moment, that I realized that Eugene McCarthy, for all his admirable traits and skills, wasn’t qualified to lead a nation, or, as it turned out, even a movement.
I still admired McCarthy, and once, by pure luck, had the chance to sit next to him, just the two of us, at big round table during a U.S. Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He was friendly, witty and unguarded, and I desperately wanted to ask him the question that had been bothering me since that August night in 1968: “Why didn’t you give the speech, Senator? Why?” He had never answered that question, after all the intervening years, and never did.
I was the weenie that time; I couldn’t ask it. Besides, I knew the answer.
Still, after last night, I would vote for Gene McCarthy before I would vote for a hollow, cowardly. lazy fraud like Marco Rubio.
And McCarthy has been dead for nine years.