Maybe it was just the end of a long, tiring day of campaigning. Or maybe Senator Marco Rubio's opponents have gotten into his head. But on Monday, Mr. Rubio, the Florida Republican, who has been under relentless criticism for uttering his talking points over and over in Saturday's presidential debate, had another repetitious lapse.
Marco Rubio confirmed many of the worst fears about his preparedness over the weekend, panicking during a debate and getting stuck in a recursive loop in which he mindlessly attacked President Obama's patriotism over and over again, using nearly the exact same words four times.
And last night, already facing ridicule, the overly scripted senator did it again. The New York Times reported:
You can watch the clip here. He begins by complaining about the difficulties of raising children "in the 21st century" in light of "the values they try to ram down our throats." And then, moments later, the rattled senator said nearly the same thing, complaining once more about how hard it's become to raise children "in the 21st century" because of "the values they try to ram down our throats."
If you watch the clip, pay particular attention to the 0:26 mark, when Rubio actually pauses. He seems to realize that he's stuck, once again repeating the exact same talking point, but he was unable to break free of the script.
I saw some journalists question last night whether this actually happened, or whether Rubio critics edited the video to make him appear foolish. The authenticity of the clip, however, is confirmed.
There are two broad angles to this. The first, obviously, is the fact that Rubio's bad habits are catching up to him at an inconvenient time. The senator has long struggled with depth of thought, preferring superficial scripts to meaningful analysis. And while that may dazzle some observers for a while, eventually someone is going to expect a candidate to come up with an original thought that wasn't written on a notecard and handed to a would-be president to memorize.
And on this front, Marco Rubio just isn't ready for prime time. It's almost shocking how unimpressive he can be when pressed to think for himself.
The second, largely overlooked issue here is the substance of the Florida Republican's pitch: since when does Rubio hate modern American culture?
It wasn't that long ago that Rubio didn't want to be the Republican Party's dour old uncle who always complains about Hollywood filth; Rubio wanted to be the GOP's cool young cousin who celebrates pop culture and connect with voters who haven't yet received AARP mailings.
In 2013, Rubio boasted, "I'm the only member of the Hip-Hop Caucus in the Senate." He went into a fair amount of detail at the time defending the late Tupac Shakur against boasts from Lil Wayne.
In 2015, BuzzFeed lauded Rubio's "pop culture fluency" that would "give him a generational edge" in the presidential race. Salon added at the time, "Senior advisers to presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio are betting on the candidate's fluency in youth pop culture as his comparative advantage against the elder titans" in his party.
But that was before the software upgrade. Now that Rubio has been turned off and back on again, there's a patch that has replaced his "pop culture fluency" with whining about "the values they try to ram down our throats."