Like any presidential campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 candidacy was multifaceted, though much of his focus was on three specific people. The first, of course, was the outgoing president, Barack Obama, whom the Florida Republican was eager to replace.
Rubio’s pitch to voters six years ago was that Obama was actually a secret opponent of the United States, and the Democrat’s presidential agenda was designed to deliberately hurt Americans and “destroy the country.” The senator and his team made this argument repeatedly and explicitly, as if Obama were actually some kind of traitor. (Obama was not actually a traitor.)
In time, Donald Trump became the second target, since it was the television personality’s upstart candidacy that was thwarting his electoral plans. When Rubio wasn’t telling voters that the future president was a dangerous “con man“ and a “con artist,” the senator also told audiences that Trump might urinate on himself. Rubio even thought it’d be a good idea to make vulgar jokes about Trump’s genitals.
But the far-right Floridian was especially worked up in 2016 about Hillary Clinton — and her emails. The former secretary of state, Rubio said, “left sensitive and classified national security information vulnerable to theft and exploitation by America’s enemies. Her actions were grossly negligent, damaged national security, and put lives at risk.”
By “mishandling” classified materials, the GOP senator added, Clinton had “disqualified” herself “from becoming commander in chief.” Rubio was delighted, at least at the time, to see the FBI scrutinize the Democratic presidential contender.
That was six years ago. This week, after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, the Republican took a very different message to Fox News:
“I actually don’t think [FBI agents] went in looking for documents. I think that was probably their excuse, they found some Obama-donor-judge to write them a ruse. They found some Obama-donor-judge — not even a judge, magistrate — to write and give them a search warrant. I think they went in to see whatever they could find.”
In other words, when the FBI scrutinized Clinton, Rubio had confidence in the integrity of the system. When the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, Rubio concluded that the system — across two branches of government — had probably been corrupted, and it’s certainly not to be trusted. Rubio added in the same interview:
“What comes around goes around. And here’s what’s gonna happen now: Now, one day [Democrats] won’t be in power. And whoever is in power, there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on them to do it back to the other side. And now we do become a banana republic. Now we become like those countries come to America to get away from.”
The idea that Donald Trump might actually have done something wrong apparently didn’t occur to the senator — the same senator who warned Americans to be wary of this “con man“ and “con artist.” Indeed, the Floridian seemed wholly indifferent to the former president's possible guilt.
Worse, to hear Rubio tell it, it not only doesn’t much matter whether Trump broke the law, it also doesn't matter whether the Justice Department conducted its investigation in a fair and legitimate way. According to the Florida Republican, “what comes around goes around”: Even if Democratic officials operated in good faith, and acted by the book while honoring the rule of law, his party will likely seek retaliation anyway.
Rubio added on Twitter, “After taking power they first put their political rivals in jail or forced exile. Then when the supporters of your rivals protest you label them dangerous & criminalize opposition. We have seen this playbook in many other nations. And now the far left has brought it to America.”
No, they haven’t. Rubio and his party are rallying behind their corrupt and twice-impeached former president, whose legal culpability and possible crimes have been deemed wholly irrelevant by too many Republicans. The senator seems to think he and his cohorts have some kind of moral high ground, while reality makes clear that such a posture is utterly bonkers.