Recent articles published in the Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times delve into the family story of Marco Rubio, Florida’s junior senator, implying that he’s embellished it for dramatic effect. It’s no surprise that Rubio is the subject of increasing amounts of scrutiny from the mainstream media these days, as he’s rapidly become one of the most articulate voices for conservatism in America.
Rubio’s rise to national prominence began when he challenged Florida’s Republican governor, Charlie Crist, in the GOP primary in 2010. Although he had been speaker of Florida’s House of Representatives, Rubio was virtually unknown outside of Miami. He ran a perfect campaign, with support from the Tea Party: they saw Crist as a “RINO” who embraced President Obama (literally and figuratively). Rubio drove the once extremely popular Crist out of the Republican Party — he is now a pitchman for ambulance-chasing attorneys.
After being inaugurated in January, Rubio waited until June to give his “maiden speech” on the Senate floor, the last of the freshmen senators to do so. Since then he’s been actively attacking President Obama and his policies, on everything from the debt to foreign policy. He’s been a frequent guest on the conservative talk radio circuit, as well as on Fox News.
So compelling is Rubio’s rhetoric that he has been speculated about for the number two spot on his party’s ticket before the top slot is even filled. Though most of the talk has been about Rubio as a running mate, many conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin, have openly asked why Senator Rubio isn’t running for president.
That speculation about a potential President Marco Rubio has resulted in a high degree of scrutiny among the mainstream media performed with a fervor they never had when it came to investigating the junior senator from Illinois in 2008.
First, Univision ran a piece about Rubio’s brother in-law, who was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the 1980s when Rubio was a teenager. The piece backfired when Rubio staffers alleged that Univision offered to spike the story if the senator would agree to appear on one of its shows. As a result, several of the GOP’s candidates for president said they would boycott any debate hosted by Univision.
Undeterred, the Marco Rubio inquisition continued. A contingent claims that Rubio is not eligible to be president because his parents, who are from Cuba, were not American citizens at the time of his birth. However, Marco Rubio was born in the United States, both of his parents were here legally, he is a citizen of the United States, he has never been a citizen of any other country, and he never had to be naturalized.
In attaining records about the residency status of Rubio’s parents at the time of his birth, reporters have discovered that they migrated to the United States legally in 1956, a couple of years before Fidel Castro took power in Cuba. That’s only significant inasmuch as Rubio has portrayed himself as the child of exiles from Castro’s Cuba. The Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times have now accused Rubio of distorting his family’s history to make it more compelling.
The exact date that Rubio’s parents left Cuba for the United States is a detail that is of little importance to most people outside of South Florida’s Cuban-American community, most of whom came over to flee the Castro regime. Were Rubio’s parents really exiles? The answer is a definite maybe.
First of all, it’s important to set the context. Prior to 1959 there had been a circular migration pattern between Cuba and Florida dating back centuries, as both were Spanish colonies. That continued even after Florida became a state and on into the 1950s when the doors to both countries were open to each other’s citizens. Cubans often came to the United States and then returned to Cuba, as my maternal grandfather did once.
It’s clear that Rubio’s parents did not leave Cuba in reaction to Fidel Castro’s rule, but there is reason to give people like the elder Rubios the benefit of the doubt on claiming to be exiles. In 1956 when the Rubios left Cuba, the armed insurrection led by Fidel Castro and his bloodthirsty Argentinean sidekick Ernesto Che Guevara was already well underway. There was a lot of political and social turmoil in the country. Whether the insurrection contributed to their decision to leave or not only they would know. But even if it played no part in their thought process, the fact remains that Castro came to power and changed Cuba radically. So much so that Rubio states that his parents could never go back. In a press release issued by his office, Rubio claims that his mother did return to Cuba in 1961 with the intention of having her husband join her to stay permanently. Upon realizing the direction the country was headed in, she decided to leave for the United States again.
Rubio’s parents did not become U.S. citizens until 1975. It’s quite possible that when they left Cuba in 1956 they had no intention of staying in the United States forever, and we can’t assume that they did. But while they were here, a revolution occurred in their home country that was so radical and catastrophic that — like more than a million of their countrymen who have since fled — they believed they could never go back while the illegitimate Castro regime remained in power.
Does that make them exiles? It’s good enough for me.
The “Rubio embellishes … ” headline is a twofer for the liberal media. Not only do they get to take a shot at a rising star in the conservative ranks, but also at a Cuban-American. As escapees from the socialist model that leftists revere, Cuban-Americans reject anything that resembles that ideology. This puts Cubans in a very small minority of reliably Republican Hispanics.
It should be noted that the Washington Post has expressed its disdain for Cuban-Americans before. In 2007 they published an outrageous cartoon by Pat Oliphant depicting a boatload of Cubans being shoved off by Uncle Sam, because the cartoonist viewed their opposition to then candidate Obama’s hopey-changey agenda as “interfering with the ’08 election.” Also, Manuel Roig-Franzia — the reporter who penned Thursday’s Rubio hit piece — has written several rosy portrayals of the Castro regime in Cuba and its alleged reforms. Roig-Franzia recently sold a book on Rubio to Simon & Schuster. I’m betting it won’t be flattering.