Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rubio’s Story

The St. Petersburg Times — via the Miami Herald — looks at the discrepancies in Sen. Marco Rubio’s story of how his family came to the United States. It seems he’s changed it somewhat since he was profiled on NPR while running for his current job.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has come under fire for incorrectly linking his parents to the Cubans who fled Fidel Castro beginning in 1959. He insists they are exiles nonetheless, and angrily denounced the suggestion he misled for political gain.

“My upbringing taught me that America was special and different from the rest of the world, and also a real sense that you can lose your country,” Rubio said in an interview.

But the visa documents cast clearer divisions between his parents, who came for economic reasons, and the Cubans who scrambled to leave their homeland but thought they could soon return. And they come to light amid new discrepancies since Rubio’s timeline came under scrutiny last week.

In a 2009 interview with NPR, then-Senate candidate Rubio explained his mother returned to Cuba in 1961 to care for her father, injured in an accident. He said the family wanted to go home to Miami but were blocked by Castro’s government for nine months, and that influenced their thinking about leaving for good.

In a widely read piece in POLITICO on Friday, Rubio did not mention the accident and said his family was making preparations to move to Cuba but “after just a few weeks, it became clear that the change happening in Cuba was not for the better. It was communism.”

The difference between “exile” and “immigrant” is not a big deal to anyone outside of Little Havana, and the GOP establishment that sees Mr. Rubio as their next great hope — he’s handsome, he’s straight, he’s Tea Party-ish — could care less when his family came over. (It goes without saying that if Mr. Rubio was a Democrat, he’d be hounded from Calle Ocho as if he was wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt.) Even if they can’t sell him as an escapee from communism — red-baiting is so 1960’s anyway — they probably figure that the average GOP voter doesn’t know a Cuban from a Mexican, anyway.

If they can keep the birthers quiet, they’ll be able to push him as their defense against the claim that the GOP is just a bunch of cranky middle-aged white guys: “Hey, we’re backing a Latino! Who says we’re racist?”