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? Continue reading