News & Politics

Marco Rubio, Defense Hawk, a No-Show at 9/11 Committee Meetings

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Least surprising news story of the day:

In the anxious weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Florida House hurriedly assembled an elite group of lawmakers to develop plans to keep the state safe.

A spot on the Select Committee on Security was a mark of prominence in Tallahassee. Some of the airplane hijackers had acquired Florida driver’s licenses and trained at flight schools in the state, and legislators lobbied furiously behind the scenes in hopes of being named to the 12-member panel tasked with addressing the state’s newly exposed vulnerabilities.

It was little surprise that Marco Rubio, a promising and charismatic young lawmaker from Miami, secured a coveted position on the committee.

 Rubio did not give the job the attention that legislative leaders expected. He skipped nearly half of the meetings over the first five months of the panel’s existence, more than any of his colleagues, according to Florida legislature records. He missed hours of expert testimony and was absent for more than 20 votes — prompting the state House speaker who had given him the assignment to express concern, the committee’s chairman said.

Worth saying again: he’s the Barack Obama of the right, a man who ran for the Senate for the sole purpose of running for president. He’s a man of no fixed principles, a con man with only his own advancement on his mind.

At times, Rubio befuddled his colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans. After apologizing for arriving late to a debate in February 2002 about a proposed system to track foreign students, Rubio argued passionately that the proposal would unfairly target law-abiding immigrants, such as those who’d entered the country as refugees or to seek political asylum. But he quickly backed down in the face of opposition and, then, despite his publicly stated misgivings, went ahead and voted for the proposal…

Rubio’s role on the panel foreshadowed many of the traits that he has been criticized for during his rise to the top tier of the Republican presidential field. The first-term U.S. senator, who has missed more votes than any of his colleagues, has been attacked by some of his rivals for not doing his job. At a debate in October, former Florida governor Jeb Bush charged: “You should be showing up for work.”

And Rubio’s positions on the student tracking proposal followed the same arc as his high-profile role on immigration reform in the U.S. Senate. In both cases, he initially took on his colleagues in favor of immigrant rights, only to publicly wrestle with the issue, then pull back.

It would be great if South Carolina would put paid to his candidacy, but the media will cheer him no matter how low he finishes.