Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks to supporters, Dec. 5, 2015, in Miami.
Photo by Luis M. Alvarez/AP

In race against Trump, Rubio takes aim at Obama

When much of the country saw unrest in Chicago surrounding a Donald Trump campaign event, a variety of Republicans, including GOP candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich, were quick to condemn the frontrunner’s role in encouraging violence. Marco Rubio, however, went in a different direction.
 
As we discussed over the weekend, Rubio said he doesn’t hold Trump responsible for violent confrontations, at least not entirely. Instead, the Florida senator points the finger at the man he hopes to replace: “President Obama has spent the last eight years dividing Americans among haves and have-nots, along ethnic lines, racial lines, gender lines in order to win elections. I think this has gone to the next level here, and we’re seeing the consequences of it.”
 
The next day, the Washington Post reported that Rubio doubled down on this line of attack, insisting “there’s no doubt” that President Obama has helped stoke the caustic rhetoric and violence displayed at Trump events. In fact, Rubio was even gracious enough to offer proof of his thesis.
Asked in an interview to give a specific example of how Obama has divided the country, Rubio cited an April 2011 speech used to criticize a budget proposal written by then-House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). With Ryan sitting in the audience, Obama said that the GOP’s budgeting vision “is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America.”
Oh, I see. In Marco Rubio’s confused political vision, if a president criticizes a budget plan on substantive grounds, it’s an example of Obama dividing the country. Indeed, in Rubio’s mind, presidential criticism of GOP fiscal policy – criticism that was entirely accurate, for what it’s worth – coarsens the public discourse and contributes to violent confrontations.
 
Keep in mind, we’ve been told for months by pundits and Republicans alike that Marco Rubio is supposed to be the smart one.
 
Much of Rubio’s candidacy is based on the idea that President Obama is “dividing Americans” along every possible line, and when asked for proof, the senator’s best example – the one he offered the Washington Post as documented proof of a provocative thesis – was a substantive critique of a budget plan during a speech most Americans never saw or even heard of.
 
It’d be laughable if it weren’t quite so sad.
 
Rubio added over the weekend, in reference to Trump, “All the rules that once governed our discourse have been blown away and we’re headed in a very dangerous direction.”
 
Look, as recently as last month, Marco Rubio and his top aides pushed a very specific message: President Obama is a treasonous traitor who’s conspiring to destroy the United States on purpose. Soon after, he started attacking his leading campaign rival in the most personal way possible, accusing Donald Trump of urinating on himself and having small genitals.
 
If “the rules that once governed our discourse,” were in effect, Rubio would have been deemed a crackpot whose career was ruined by his public espousal of unhinged garbage. Instead, the senator solidified his position as the darling of the Republican establishment and Beltway media.
 
It’s a little late in the game for this guy to claim the moral high ground on mature and responsible political rhetoric.
 
Business Insider’s Josh Barro explained very well over the weekend that Rubio, as much as anyone, has contributed the toxic climate the senator now seems eager to condemn.
This is an aspect of Trumpism that establishment Republicans like Rubio have failed to reckon with. They have spent seven years running around the country, accusing the president of being a fifth columnist hell bent on destroying our country. If Obama’s America were as bad as people like Rubio say it is, the civil unrest fomented by Trump would be justified.
 
Now the Republicans who fed this narrative are watching in apparent horror as they see voters have taken them all too seriously…. “I think we all need to take a step back and ask whether we’re contributing to this,” Rubio said Saturday about the unrest. He should start with himself.
That’s good advice, which the struggling candidate will very likely ignore.
 
 

Donald Trump and Marco Rubio

In race against Trump, Rubio takes aim at Obama