Meet The Candidates #4 - Marco Rubio: Thirsty for Success, Thirsty for Water

Important PSA

Marco Rubio is this guy:


A Daring Pre-Escape

Rubio came up telling his family’s “true American story,” a daring tale of escape from Communist Cuba in 1959, just as a young Fidel Castro was seizing power and changing lives irrevocably (look for the more interesting version in our Ted Cruz rundown).  Unfortunately, a few years ago we learned that the most basic and gripping fact about that story - the year it happened - wasn’t true.  Rubio’s family did escape a civil war if that counts?  But they actually moved to Miami in 1956, three years before the Cuban Revolution ended and many years before any private land there was nationalized.  So that’s cool.  

Also the US once tried to deport his grandfather but it...didn’t work?  This was in 1962 and his grandfather flew here without a visa.  Though he was issued deportation orders, he never left and ultimately we were like, “eh, he’s Cuban so it’s cool.”  Minus his last-minute reprieve for being Cuban, it’s actually a story that feels very similar to those of millions of Central and South American immigrants.  This is where we remind you that Rubio’s biggest liability in the party is the fact that he’s MODERATE on immigration.  (Also, it’s worth noting here that, though his family members are among the many that began their lives elsewhere and came here looking for opportunity, he can afford to be moderate and not progressive on immigration issues because his family and other Cubans are granted special status when the come to the US.  Your Jewish grandparents that fled the Nazis had a harder establishing residency here than Rubio’s grandparents.  Just sayin’.)

Rubio’s family settled in Miami save some years in the late 1970s when, in one of the more bizarre footnotes in Rubio’s biography, his family schlepped their shit to Nevada and joined the Mormon church.  Marco was baptized in the Church of Latter-Day/Weird Saints at the age of eight and was apparently very involved in whatever church happenings Mormons are involved in well into his teens.  Here’s the most important to take away from that era: he formed a singing group with his sister that, in the words of NPR, was “a la The Osmonds.”  A LA THE OSMONDS.  He was known as very dedicated, but as soon as the family left Nevada the spell was broken and they went back to being Catholic and wearing normal, un-magical underwear.  Marco Rubio: Flip Flopper.

Back in Miami, Rubio made a name for himself as a (potentially kind of short?) high school football player and was accepted to Tarkio College in Missouri, a school we’ve definitively never heard of and sounds almost fake, on a football scholarship.  Before heading off, he met his wife - eventually slated to be a Miami Dolphins cheerleader - at a party in the neighborhood.  She and the other would-be Florida first-lady share a lot in that neither is ever seen on the campaign trail.  Who are these women?  Do they exist?  Does Florida exist?   Did the rumored friendship between Marco Rubio and Jeb “I Can Fix It” Bush ever exist?  Are unicorns real?


Political Viagra

Rubio’s first major political job was as Bob Dole’s campaign chairman for a couple of Florida counties in and around Miami.  He was 25 and ambitious, but also didn’t deliver votes in any way, shape, or form.  Ironically for the man now getting called the “Obama” of the right, he told Maclean’s magazine: "If this election was an audition for host of a talk show, Dole wouldn't stand a chance...This is a campaign that will truly test whether we're a nation of substance or style."  Adorable.  Also, it’s fairly obvious we are and always have been a nation enraptured by style and cheesy optics.  Don’t be an idiot, Marco Rubio.

In 2014 Dole apparently didn’t feel all that loyal to his young campaigner when he told The Hill, “A number of the younger members, first-termers like Rand Paul, Rubio and that extreme-right-wing guy Ted Cruz — all running for president now. I don't think they've got enough experience yet.”


A Golden Age, Florida Style

After a stint as the Miami City Commissioner, Rubio was elected into the Florida State Assembly in 2000 and became the Speaker of the House in 2005.  When he was sworn in Jeb! Bush gave him a weird sword that seems both nerdy and threatening as a gift but was apparently taken as a sign that they would be BFFs for years to come.  Its magical sword powers evidently only lasted ten years.

Meanwhile, Rubio’s time in Florida government just happened to coincide with what Mother Jones calls “a golden age of corruption” in local politics there, so naturally he’s been involved in more than one juicy political scandal.  The most major is a bizarre FBI/IRS investigation that named several high-ranking state GOP officials in Florida and revolved around them improperly using their Republican Party AmEx cards.  Rubio, then Speaker, was one of the named because his credit card records were downright suspicious. Apparently it was all the rage to cover personal expenses using these cards and Rubio did, charging $10,000 towards a family reunion, $134 for a haircut, $181.56 at the Museum of Natural History in New York City, $1000 towards personal car repairs, and making many smaller purchases from a local grocery store and wine shop near his home.  The real scandal here is perhaps that the $134 haircut still left him with unfortunate, typically bad Republican hair.  

Rubio has spent years claiming off-and-on that he plans to release the records of these expenses because he’s got nothing to hide, but so far he’s resisted giving people more information about his grocery store preferences (thanks?) and whatever costs $181 at the Museum of Natural History (Moon rocks?  Pencil sharpeners?  Stuffed cheetahs?  Certainly no knowledge of science was purchased, that much is clear).  Everything we do know about the expenses was leaked by to the Tampa Bay Times a few years ago, which released some of the records while Rubio was embroiled in his first US Senate campaign.  At the time Rubio accused Florida perma-campaigner and Republican-charading-as-a-Democrat Charlie Crist, his opponent in the race, of causing the leak and insisted that he’d paid the party back monthly for the card charges, a claim Politifact disputes.  What Politifact doesn’t dispute is the hilarity of Charlie Crist’s commentary on the situation.  He told Fox News, "He charged $130 haircut, or maybe it was a back wax. We are not sure what all he got at that place."  Rubio has never apologized for this incident, but he has expressed a desire to have never made the charges it in the first place.  We all wish we’d never done things that turn out to be terrible ideas, so in this sense Rubio is at least a confirmed human.   

Rubio’s ethics issues didn’t end there.  In 2010 a complaint was filed against Rubio by the Florida Ethics Commission, which said that his “negligence” in the use of his card was “disturbing.”  Then they threw out the complaint because...well...never change, Florida.  In a related investigation, however, Rubio was forced to reimburse the state for a few flights for which he’d “double-dipped,” charging both the party and the state of Florida for his travel expenses.

Rubio has also faced questions about use of funds for two political committees he started in the early 2000s, which made bizarrely high payments to his family members for “courier” services and have never released any accounting of their finances (which is unusual for groups like this).  They, too, had suspiciously high credit card expenses, so Marco is a man who obviously loves free money and did not take home economics in school.  Is there a way we can make him return for just one more semester to complete this?  America as a whole could be on the hook if we don’t - credit, after all, is a major part of how the government’s budget operates.  Just sayin’ #2.

Two other scandals of note:

  1. The “Taj Mahal” courthouse drama in Tallahassee, which occurred during Rubio’s tenure and was Florida’s answer to NYC’s historic and hilariously corruption-fueled Tweed Courthouse.  Too delicious.
  2. Rubio’s BFF/ ex-roommate / gay lover of some sort because when else do two grown men buy a house together ever(!?) David Rivera who is under investigation at the state and federal level for a litany of charges relating to the misuse of political funds.  Mother Jones describes one scandal in particular, relating to campaign financing, as a “scheme and cover-up that reads like an over-the-top Hollywood script.”


Immigration Woes

In 2013, now firmly ensconced in the US Senate as the Senior Cuban Republican, Rubio joined the Gang of 8 (not to be confused with the Gangs of 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 14), a bipartisan group that was going to overhaul our immigration policy and finally, FINALLY figure that shit out.  They drafted a proposal that went absolutely nowhere and included such GOP non-starters as a path to citizenship for young undocumented people, who, it cannot be overstated, did literally nothing to deserve their sucky immigration status and are now Americans in every way minus having rights or equality.  Despite this proposal being the absolute bare minimum we could do, Rubio suffered politically for his involvement in this Gang, which went to non-physical war with the House’s Gang of Nutbags and wound up seeing no action on their plan.  Sigh.

After that debacle, Rubio decided to change course on immigration because political failures are always a good excuse to flip-flop IF YOU HAVE NO PRINCIPLES.  Luckily, Rubio is unencumbered by those, so he’s since backed away from that proposal and decided we need a “piecemeal” approach (code for: no approach) to fixing our immigration system  One thing he definitely wants to do is get back into the business of deporting undocumented people who came here as children because...he’s heartless?  He’d also like you to know that Trump is a flip-flopper.  Maybe he’s projecting.


Rubio Unzipped

Since Rubio declared his candidacy for president, we’ve learned a few things about the largely boring man who could be the GOP establishment’s last hope:

  1. He has large ears and there’s just nothing a person can do about that.
  2. He’s, according to an interview with TMZ (??????!!!!), “The only member of the hip-hop caucus in the Senate.”  Loves him some Tupac, Eminem, and Afrika Bambaataa.  Stop it.
  3. We can’t remind you enough, he is the exact same age as the older and grumpier-looking other Cuban (/Canadian) in the race, Ted Cruz.  Genetics are a funny, funny thing.
  4. He’s among the poorest Senators.  Possibly not for long though!
  5. His hometown paper and Jeb! Bush personally are PISSED that he’s basically not doing his job because he’s on the campaign trail and think he should resign.  
  6. Nobody in Florida should be making up campaign slogans or logos.  Case closed.