Rubio’s False Bio: Why It Matters

October 24th, 2011 at 12:12 am | 98 Comments |

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The more I think about the Rubio scandal, the more I am troubled by it. It’s not just that having lived in the Soviet Union for a quarter century, I find it offensive when people falsely claim themselves or their families to have been victims of Communist oppression. I am really concerned about the “Palinization” of the political right.

If you are a politician caught in a lie, I want you to take it like a man, show some humility, admit the lie in a straightforward manner and apologize as sincerely as you can, then just move on (unless some more drastic step – e.g. resignation – is warranted).

In this particular case a 50-word statement from Sen. Rubio would have sufficed and the whole scandal could have been a one day affair. Instead the senator went on the attack, continued lying, feigned outrage, accused the fact checkers of lying and insulting his family (although at the same time he quietly rewrote his official biography on the Senate website).

What’s much worse, conservative media immediately jumped to his defense and joined him in his attack on the Washington Post. They ridiculously claimed that the only reason for the article was the leftist media’s fear of Hispanic conservatives and that the Post would never have done that to a liberal (at the same time they cheerfully reported that the very same newspaper had just given Joe Biden its Four Pinocchios award for lying about potential effects of Republican opposition to the Obama jobs bill). So you see, Marco Rubio is a victim here, not a perpetrator.

The Right has to break with the relatively recent tradition of treating any inconvenient facts as outrageous attacks. It also has to come to grips with the fact that one of its rising stars has lied about an important matter and keeps on lying and ponder what all this may tell us about his character.

First of all, we need to recognize that Rubio lied. Until more than a day after the publication of the story, his biography on the Senate website contained this sentence: ”In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” It is not an embellishment or exaggeration – it’s a lie. There’s no way to spin it. At the time his parents came to America Castro was living in exile in Mexico. He had not even started his takeover yet. In his counter-attack Rubio suggests that he made an honest mistake rather than lied: “My understanding of my parents’ journey has always been based on what they told me about events that took place more than 50 years ago — more than a decade before I was born. What they described was not a timeline, or specific dates.” With all due respect, this tortured explanation is itself a lie.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you come to America as an immigrant you never forget the moment. I immigrated two decades ago. My first child was born just two weeks ago. But you can bet that when he’s old enough to understand dates he’ll know the “timeline” and ”specific dates”. And Marco Rubio expects me to believe that his parents never told him anything and that he never ever was curious enough to ask them when they immigrated or how long they have lived in America?

Furthermore, the Cuban revolution was the central event for his family and families all around him when he was growing up. That event was constantly talked about, and Rubio himself admits that when he claims having a deep understanding of what it means to lose one’s country (never mind its total irrelevance to American politics). Yet he never asked his parents what it was like to live under Fidel Castro, or how long they lived under him, or what it was like to leave Cuba at that time, or any other question that might possibly give him a clue that his parents never actually lived in Communist Cuba?!

We also need to recognize that it was a substantial lie. Rubio is often called “Republican Obama”. There are in fact many similarities between them. Each of them had a very thin record of actual accomplishment before getting elected to his current office. Neither of them has ever been a policy wonk. Neither is very effective in office. Each of them got nominated thanks to the same lucky break: even though a stronger and better qualified rival was favored to win the nomination, a significant segment of the party base was very eager to punish that rival for some highly symbolic ideological transgression (voting for the Iraq war in case of Hillary Clinton, giving Obama a hug in case of Charlie Crist).

But the most important common factor is identity politics. Obama would not have become a senator, let alone president if his father had been a graduate student from, say, Switzerland rather than Kenya. Rubio would not have become the Florida House speaker (especially at such a young age), let alone senator if his parents had immigrated from Ireland rather than Cuba.

And since identity politics has been central to Rubio’s political career, his lying about his identity is a much, much more serious matter than a typical run of the mill white lie in politics, like the first lady telling New Zealanders that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary.

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98 Comments so far ↓

  • Bingham

    Rubio puts me in mind of the white flight Venezuelans who left, not without reason, after Chavez was elected.

    • Carney

      Um, did you read the article? The whole point of it and this controversy is that Rubio’s parents had nothing to flee from. Castro was not in power.

  • Graychin

    Obama was elected BECAUSE he is a Kenyan? That’s ridiculous.

    It’s less ridiculous to believe that Rubio’s alleged background had strong appeal to Florida’s large bloc of Castro-hating Cuban voters.

    But you are wrong about the original lie – it didn’t matter. What does matter, as usual, is the coverup – the extra lies.

    Poor Rubio – finished before he even started. Marco, we hardly knew you. And we didn’t even know you as well as we thought we did.

    Do Republicans have a Plan B for winning some of the Hispanic vote? We can forget the Doofus/Rubio ticket now, so the #1 GOP appeal to Hispanics is going to have to be that electrified border fence.

    • Bingham

      Are you hiring, Graychin?

    • theCardinal

      The general public must be confused why Rubio bothered to lie about this at all and in fact it is ridiculous. The lie may have been necessary in his early days where the distinction between exile and immigrant is relevant but the lie was unnecessary for the Senate run. No one outside of Miami-Dade County even realizes that “exile” and “immigrant” cannot be used interchangeably.

  • shecky

    You go off the rails when you make the comparison with Obama.

    I find it plausible that Rubio didn’t know much about the dates of his parents arrival to the US. The cult of victimhood and exile is strong among Cuban immigrants of a particular age. It’s quite possible his parents adopted the exile story for whatever reasons they may have had, and raised young Marco on that myth. Less believable that he was completely ignorant up until the discrepancy made news in the last week or so. Possible that this was an honest mistake. But a hard story to swallow.

    Rubio needs to man up and take his lumps. Being indignant over the issue just makes him into a defiant sleazeball.

    • Andrew Pavelyev

      I don’t find it plausible that his parents concocted some elaborate internally consistent story covering several years of their lives and always remembered to stick to it in minute details whenever there was even a possibility that Marco might hear them talking (besides, at least some of his siblings were aware of the truth and would have had to participate in the conspiracy to dupe Marco). Theoretically it is possible to do that, but in practice people need really strong motivation for pulling off something like that – e.g. being wanted for war crimes.

      • drdredel

        You and I share a similar background, so, I can, from personal experience, concur that such a near term family history conspiracy would make absolutely no sense. I was born in the USSR in 71 and came here as a 7 year old in 79. My sister was born here and has a very vivid and accurate understanding of what we were fleeing from, and precisely how our flight looked. If she ever writes a memoir, it will withstand historical scrutiny, even though she had no more personal experience in the immigration process than her American peers (who know absolutely nothing about it).

        As to Obama, I think you should correct your statement to note that the thing that helped Obama was the fact that he had African American ancestry… not that it was Kenyan, specifically. Americans couldn’t generally find Kenya on a map, or even tell you what continent it’s on, with any great conviction, so, the specifics of *which african (and non african) countries Obama’s parents were from were immaterial to his presidential aspirations.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          Do you really think that a white man with such a scant record of actual accomplishment in public office would enjoy such a meteoric rise in politics?

        • Chris Balsz

          Yeah. His name was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

        • Elvis Elvisberg

          You have been misinformed as to Obama’s record before becoming president. See:

          I follow some issues pretty closely, and over and over again, Barack Obama kept popping up, doing really good substantive things. There he was, working for nuclear non-proliferation and securing loose stockpiles of conventional weapons, like shoulder-fired missiles. There he was again, passing what the Washington Post called “the strongest ethics legislation to emerge from Congress yet” — though not as strong as Obama would have liked. Look — he’s over there, passing a bill that created a searchable database of recipients of federal contracts and grants, proposing legislation on avian flu back when most people hadn’t even heard of it, working to make sure that soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened for traumatic brain injury and to prevent homelessness among veterans, successfully fighting a proposal by the VA to reexamine all PTSD cases in which full benefits had been awarded, working to ban no-bid contracts in Katrina reconstruction, and introducing legislation to criminalize deceptive political tactics and voter intimidation. And there he was again, introducing a tech plan …

          More details and information at the link.

          As to the point of this article, I have to say you’ve convinced me. My first reaction to the Rubio story was “who cares.” I mean, if Ronald Reagan hadn’t been allowed to exaggerate a little bit when he told stories, he’d hardly have been allowed to speak at all. There’s a long tradition of political tall tales.

          Your point about his reaction is quite right, though, as is your point about the right’s rallying around him as if he were a victim of someone else’s lies, rather than his own. That’s a consequence of the tribalism of today’s Republican Party.

        • MSheridan

          Leaving aside his state level experience, it was his keynote address at the 2004 DNC that brought Barack Obama to national attention, and in my opinion it was his semi-”blank slate” status, in combination with his rhetorical gifts, that helped to propel his rise. He has said as much himself. Then too, either through principle or pragmatism or both he had staked out the position on the Iraq War that best resonated with the base of the Democratic Party (plus a lot of independents), a tack all the easier for him in that when he first adopted it he was a state senator who did not have to worry, as Clinton did, that he would appear “weak on defense” or pay a political price for opposing the President. I cannot speak for others, but I never believed that Hillary Clinton ever actually thought the war was a good idea. But like most of the others in her caucus, she allowed herself to be persuaded.

          A large segment of the American people were sick of the war and sick of the politics that led up to it. We don’t have to veer into questionable Geraldine Ferraro logic to explain Barack Obama’s victory on an “advantage” granted him by his race. He was simply more inspiring at a time people were desperate for inspiration.

        • nitpicker

          I’m sorry, but what great accomplishments had Bush achieved before his election to the presidency?

    • theCardinal

      I am about Marco’s age, grew up and Miami and am Cuban-American – it is beyond the realm of possibility that he didn’t know the true story. Every Exodus story to Miami is unique, but not that unique. All parents held something back in the story (out of shame, pain, sadness, etc.) but we, our generation, became so well versed that it was easy to parse the truth from the fabrications. I mentioned in another comment that there is no way that friends and family wouldn’t have mentioned at one time or another of how they came to the US. Just not plausible at all.

      • shecky

        This is precisely why I find it plausible that Rubio might not have known much about the truth of his parents arrival. The Cuban exile narrative simply dominates the community to such an extent that I have no trouble believing someone (like Rubio’s parents) embellishing their own story to conform with the one that speaks so well in the community. If this was the case, I can also see them raising Marco with the myth for the sake of conformity and solidarity.

        Being plausible, however, does not mean probable. I think it unlikely that Marco was so dim and/or incurious that he never at least found the truth out for himself.

        It seems that he was aware of the truth for some time before the WP story broke, so I can certainly find fault for him plugging his family myth up until the bitter end. For this, he can clearly and justifiably be criticized.

  • the lee

    I’m an economist and a statistician. I live and die by the numbers, so let’s look at the numbers!

    In US history, there have been six black senators and four black governors since the Civil War (none prior to the Civil War obviously).

    Senators are elected to 6 year terms, 2 from each state, and the Civil War was 146 years ago.

    146 years, divided by 6 years gives us 24.33, 6 year terms. Let’s estimate the average number of states over that 146 years was about 40 per year, which gives us 973.20 senate terms for the entire USA. Double that for the number of senators gives 1,946.40 senate terms. Each of the 6 black senators in US history since the Civil War held 1 term each (or less).

    6 divided by 1946.40 = .0030826

    African Americans have held 0.3% of all US Senate terms since the end of the Civil War.

    African Americans represent about 13% of the US population and thus under-represent themselves in the US Senate by a factor of 43.333.

    Another way of putting it is that ONE non-black person chosen at random from the population has the same odds of becoming a US Senator as 43.33 random African Americans.

    Andrew Pavelyev, are you sure Barack Obama’s race was an advantage in his election? All prior quantifiable statistical precedent would indicate that being African-American is a serious impediment to pursuing higher political office.

    It might emotionally feel like being black helped Obama, but the math would indicate that it overall hurt him.

    A population that is 13% of the whole, but only .3% of a given occupation must have some statistically significant reason for being so. The odds that this outcome is purely a result of chance is probably 1 in a 100 million or so. Gee, if we eliminate chance….how else can we explain this statisically significant observation? Hmmm……

    • Andrew Pavelyev

      This statistics is totally irrelevant. He won the general election by unsealing the divorce records of his opponent. And in the Democratic primary his race definitely was an advantage since the party wanted him. Furthermore, his race helped his political career even before that (once again, the real action was in the primaries).

      • Slide

        Absurd. Divorce records? Please. Shame because most of your article was right on but once again Obama derangement syndrome makes you go off the rails.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          If you characterize an opinion that Obama is overrated as “deranged”, I wonder what words you have left for those who (unlike me) believe at least some of the following items: 1) Obama was born outside the US, 2) Obama is a Muslim, 3) Obama hates white people, 4) Obama wants to damage (or even destroy) America.

      • Ray_Harwick

        Divorce records, he says.

        The absurdities just keep on coming. You should have just stuck with the subject of Rubio while you had a foundation in truth and an even better foundation in morality.

      • Graychin

        I followed the 2008 election very closely, and I can’t even remember an issue with McCain’s divorce records. What the hell are you talking about?

        “Since the Party wanted him.” Huh? This isn’t the (former) USSR. The Party doesn’t run things in America.

        If you can’t accept that Obama earned his win by being a great candidate, and need an excuse to explain McCain’s loss, I’m here to help you out.

        1) America didn’t want four more years of Bush.

        2) The economy went into meltdown during the campaign.

        3) McCain’s response to the meltdown was confused and indecisive.

        4) McCain’s age.

        5) Sarah Palin.

        The “birther’ foolishness, Secret Muslim foolishness, ACORN foolishness, and Jeremiah Wright weren’t enough to offset Obama’s “advantage” of being Kenyan. :D

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          Are you really sure that The Party does not run things in Chicago?!
          And of course, I was answering the question about Obama’s election to the Senate, not the White House.

      • Redrabbit

        He won the election because of divorce records? Are you actually serious?

        He won the election for several reasons…

        1.The nomination of Palin turned MANY people off the McCain ticket.

        2.McCain’s ridiculous stunt after the Lehman crisis. (Suspending his campaign.)

        3.The public was VERY disenchanted with the GOP after the Bush years.

        4.The Obama team had a major GOTV effort which brought many young voters to the polls.

        None of which has to do with unsealing divorce records.

      • jamesj

        “He won the general election by unsealing the divorce records of his opponent”

        As a lifelong Conservative, I am honestly ashamed of anyone who’d make this claim. With statements like this, aren’t you contributing heavily to the “Palinization” of our Republican party?

      • indy

        He won the general election by unsealing the divorce records of his opponent.

        Man, that’s the best one I’ve heard yet. Is this the Republican orthodoxy on the matter? If so, the party is so divorced from realty there isn’t even common ground any more.

      • Carney

        What all the guffawing, braying ignoramuses are making obvious is their lack of knowledge. The reference to divorce records is not about the 2008 presidential campaign. It is understandable given his scant experience for people to think that is the only election Obama was ever involved in. However, the reference is to the 2004 US Senate race in Illinois.

        Obama’s opponent in the general election for US Senate in 2004 was to have been Jack Ryan, a handsome, wealthy investment banker (Harvard Business, Harvard Law, Goldman Sachs, etc.). Ryan had spent time as a teacher in an inner city school, and basically crossed many T’s and dotted many I’s getting ready for a move into politics.

        Previously Ryan had become divorced from the actress Jeri Ryan (best known as the glamorous former Borg, “Seven of Nine”, on Star Trek: Voyager). Thanks to a lawsuit from a pro-Obama newspaper before a friendly judge, the Ryans’ sealed custody (not divorce) records were released despite their mutual direct request that they remain sealed. The records revealed embarrassing allegations from Jeri about Jack. Although the claims, which had been made in the midst of a heated custody battle, did not involve adultery, and although Jeri publicly praised and defended her ex-husband, the scandal was devastating and ultimately fatal for Jack’s campaign.

        In desperation, without a candidate, the Illinois GOP turned to Alan Keyes, ensuring Obama was not only elected but elected statewide by a big margin with enough white, moderate, and Republican support to enable Obama to be hailed as a the great hope for racial reconciliation, unity, redemption, etc. – and the hype machine for 2008 was set in place.

        That’s why the custody records issue was crucial to Obama’s campaign. Without it, he’d have faced a tough, credible GOP candidate who might have defeated him or at least, in defeat, would certainly have held Obama to a much more narrow win, preventing the Messiah narrative from forming.

        • indy

          Uh, that’s what I was referring to. Ryan trailed Obama by double digits before the records were released. Ryan would have never won with or without the records. It would have been closer than Obama v. Keyes, I’ll grant you that. Saying Ryan was going to win without the records is wishful thinking.

      • drdredel

        You know the expression “When you realize you’re digging yourself into a hole the first thing to do is stop digging”?

        [Dr.Dre'del taps own nose nose with index finger]

        I think you’re right that the statistics posted by Lee are immaterial to this particular conversation, but you need to step back and consider that Obama won the election on his own merits, which do include, a certain “it’s about fucking time” sentiment from the population, but it could not have been possible if he wasn’t also an incredibly moving, charming, intelligent, charismatic, and accomplished human being. America wasn’t going to just elect *anyone who happens to have a father from Africa. You can’t be taken seriously as a political analyst if you aren’t willing to objectively rate Obama as a really fantastic politician. You may disagree with him on every issue, and you can even argue that he’s not a effective leader (I would disagree on the last one, but there’s certainly a conversation to be had there). But as soon as you try to reduce him to some sort of affirmative action charity case, you lose all credibility because any objective examination of the man shows just how capable and impressive a politician he is.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          Can you name one thing that this capable and impressive politician actually accomplished before running for president? By contrast, Clinton and Dukakis (neither of whom I would ever dream of supporting) competently governed their respective states for many years and could easily point out actual things that they did (besides merely winning elections).

        • drdredel

          I’m not sure what you mean by “accomplished” but your comparison to Clinton & Dukakis suggests that you’re intentionally misunderstanding me. I made it clear that his actual leadership skills are a terrific subject for an honest argument. But if you genuinely need me to run off his list of personal and political accomplishments, or if you fail to see the raw political acumen of this indidivual when you you watch him speak, then you’re simply not prepared to have this conversation, and I don’t have the time or inclination to either school you, or (seeing as you most likely do have the facts and just don’t want to give credit where its due) argue with with a demagogue.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          I’m just curious about how you explain why an individual with such “raw political acumen” has at best even odds of being reelected at a time when the opposition party is highly dysfunctional. Please don’t blame the economy. He had his whole term to fix it. His best shot was the stimulus and he botched it. He outsourced it to Reid and Pelosi, even though it was THE most crucial moment in his entire life. His place in history and his legacy rides entirely on his reelection. So the economy (especially the unemployment part) should have been his top priority from day one. Instead he spent his political capital on his preexisting agenda (of health care and global warming). So 1) the badly designed stimulus failed, 2) Obama looked like the economy certainly was not his top priority and 3) trying to create a brand new huge entitlement like universal health care during the worst economic crisis in recent memory is just unbelievably dumb (because the voters feel anxious rather than generous). A man with real political acumen would have realized even before the 2008 election that while the crisis meant the election was his to lose, it also meant that his term would have to be about crisis management, not about his agenda (which would probably have to wait till his second term).

      • the lee

        “This statistics is totally irrelevant. He won the general election by unsealing the divorce records of his opponent. And in the Democratic primary his race definitely was an advantage since the party wanted him.”

        If the above statement is true Andrew, then you need to show me the legions of African-American candidates that have won primaries to run for Senate and Governor. Of course, that’s a trap. I know you can’t produce those figures because they don’t exist.

        If I may be so bold Andrew, I think you wrote something that emotionally *FELT* accurate.

        “Obama would not have become a senator, let alone president if his father had been a graduate student from, say, Switzerland rather than Kenya.”

        You seriously put that statement in writing. The problem is that there are no objective facts, no statistics, no evidence of a non-subjective nature to support your argument.

        Andrew, I put all my numbers out there for anyone to see. Please do the same. It’s easy to just say that Obama would have lost if his dad hadn’t been from Kenya. That’s just an opinion. If that opinion is accurate, then produce the factual basis on which that opinion was formed.

        Here are some fabricated examples that would support your argument.

        1. 1 in 10 US Senators has a parent that was born overseas, but only 1 in 100 Americans can say the same.
        2. 50% of Kenyan-Americans are elected to the US Senate.
        3. 25% of Democrats are African-American, but 70% of Democratic primary winners are African American.

        THAT’S how you counter an argument like mine. You find some statistics that strongly demonstrate that African-Americans have an advantage in electoral politics. Just spouting off on what *feels* right is……that’s what dumb people do. No offense.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          Do you seriously deny that both parties go out of their way to recruit credible minority candidates?! Your argument is disingenious. It is impossible to show comparative statistics of the rate of success among credible candidates by race because the number of available credible candidates is unknown. I’ve been doing mathematical modeling for almost 30 years, so I know that statistics can be used to obscure things just as easily as to reveal them.
          But if you insist, let’s try your medicine. Let’s use a reasonable proxy for credible candidates. Since so many politicians are lawyers, let’s use the number of lawyers in different ethnic groups as such a proxy. Now, 3% lawyers in the US are black. But 8% of the members of Congress are. What does this fact tell us? That among potential credible candidates a black one is three times likelier to end up in Congress than a white one!
          Of course, this numercial analysis is almost meaningless, but so is yours.

        • the lee


          Hehe! It is hard to admit that you’re wrong, so you have my sympathy.

          You wrote

          “Obama would not have become a senator, let alone president if his father had been a graduate student from, say, Switzerland rather than Kenya.”

          I wrote. “African Americans have held 0.3% of all US Senate terms since the end of the Civil War.

          African Americans represent about 13% of the US population and thus under-represent themselves in the US Senate by a factor of 43.333.”

          I guess we’ll let others be the judge of whether your statement is right or wrong, but I think you know that no man of science/math/logic/reason could ever take a statement like yours seriously in the face of a statistic that lop-sided. You have to get the feelings and emotions out of it and just take a cold, hard look at the facts. Opinions *feel* right, but they’re inherently untrustworthy.

    • SerenityNow

      I believe that Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke served two terms between 1967 and 1979.

      • the lee

        Roland Burris was appointed to finish Obama’s term. Therefore the two of them jointly were only in for one single term. The total is six even though Brooke served two terms because Burris and Obama only have 1 term between them.

  • Bingham

    “Butters, I hate you with every inch of my body.”

    -Eric Cartman

  • paul_gs

    This isn’t as big an issue as Obama’s long term association with Reverend “God Damn America!” Wright or Obama’s fabrication about his mother being denied medical coverage for her cancer treatments but the sooner Rubio gets ahead of this and just says “Oops, I was wrong”, the sooner he can put this story behind him.

    • Bingham

      Does Rubio have to clear his apology with the six Bachmann staffers who went AWOL? Because if that’s the case, we’re in for a long and monotonous winter. Not that AOL won’t be on the case morning, noon and night seven days a week for God knows how long.

  • the lee

    I agree with paul_gs that this ‘scandal’ is pretty minor. If Rubio just admits he embellished the facts, it would be over. But blaming anyone but himself is obviously self-serving and stupid. The fact that it undermines the GOP’s elevation of personal responsibility……doesn’t help either.

    Rubio’s actions and decision to blame others has already made this story a story with legs. Embellishment of personal history is bad, but not awful. Deflecting responsibility for said embellishment is definitely beyond bad and decidely in the realm of awful.

  • Demosthenes

    At the time his parents came to America Castro was living in exile in Mexico. He had not even started his takeover yet.

    Castro’s revolutionary war began on 26 July 1953 when he attacked the Moncada barracks and massacred the Cuban Army soldiers there. 26 July is still an extremely important holiday to the Communist government of Cuba. That was three whole years before Rubio’s family left.

    Also I suggest reading this link:

    The Washington Post is having an identity crisis. It isn’t their identity that is at play– it’s Sen. Marco Rubio‘s, one they challenged because the Senator misstated the exact date of his parents’ exodus from Cuba. Those few years, they contend, turn the exodus into an emigration, and their trauma into fraud. Sen. Rubio responded in kind, writing in a column in Politico that it was “an insult to the sacrifices my parents made.” He’s wrong– his parents aren’t the ones the Post has insulted, but the parents of all million or so Cuban-American exiles, and the intelligence of its readers… [WaPo's] principal assumption—that Cuba was a free and capitalist society where decent families could live in peace before midnight on New Year’s Eve, 1959– is woefully myopic at best, and maliciously disingenuous at worst.

    • Bingham


    • Andrew Pavelyev

      The attack on the Moncada barracks was totally irrelevant. Castro later chose to hype it for self-serving reasons. But the reality is that there was absolutely no revolution in Cuba in subsequent three years – at least until Castro’s return to Cuba aboard Granma (and arguably for several months afterwards).

      • Demosthenes

        Even granting the above for the sake of argument, does it then necessarily follow that by 1971 his parents were not “exiles” from their native land, or that Rubio was not the “son of exiles” as he has described himself? I am not trying to excuse his fib, but as a matter of historical fact it does appear that independent of the temporal sequence of their departure his parents were indeed exiles (if not exactly political dissidents/refugees, which Rubio has pointedly never claimed them to be) by 1971.

        Also I am definitely not rbottoms, as I am sure he would be happy to confirm.

        • Andrew Pavelyev

          Since with the exception of some BRAC personnel nobody in Cuba in mid 1956 was even thinking about the possibility of Castro’s takeover, what follows is that Rubio’s parents did not want to live in Cuba and wanted to live in America for some totally different reasons (and let’s not forget that in the era of very limited immigration nobody got a green card without really, really wanting it). It’s really a stretch to call them “exiles”. Furthermore, the problem with Sen. Rubio is not just that he called himself “son of exiles” but that his official Senate biography contained an unambiguously false statement.

  • hisgirlfriday

    You seriously compare voting for the Iraq War as the same sort of “symbolic ideological transgression” the same as Charlie Crist giving Obama a hug? WHAT?

    The Iraq War wasn’t and isn’t a symbolic ideological transgression (even if those weasel words make it easier for embarrassed conservatives to take). Support the Iraq War was a DEFINITE PRACTICAL MISTAKE.

    Oh and LOL at your claim that Obama couldn’t get elected senator of Illinois if his father was from Switzerland instead of Kenya.

    First of all, remember the bang-up job the Illinois GOP did in importing Alan Keyes as Republican nominee. Obama could have won that general election if his father was from Mars. And if Obama had an identity politics advantage in that race it was because of his white mom!

    But in reality, there was no big symbolic fanfare about Obama’s race in that Senate election even when Obama was gearing up to run against Jack Ryan because Illinois had already elected an African-American to the Senate just 10 years earlier.

    • Andrew Pavelyev

      The vote was very lopsided. Hillary could have voted either way without affecting the outcome.
      Alan Keys was not the issue. The issue was Obama’s prior political career. It is hard to believe that the party would have been equally eagerly promoting a white politician with such a meager record of accomplishment. Similarly, do you think we would ever hear of Sarah Palin if she were a man?

  • Stan

    “It is hard to believe that the party would have been equally eagerly promoting a white politician with such a meager record of accomplishment.”

    Other than choosing him to give the 2004 keynote address, I can’t see that the party promoted him. I thought he didn’t have a chance when he announced his candidacy in 2007, and I don’t recall any big name endorsements until it became apparent that he was a contender. And if we were still nominating presidential candidates the way we did in the pre-primary days, Hillary Clinton would be president.

  • CuffyMeh

    First of all, we need to recognize that Rubio lied. Until more than a day after the publication of the story, his biography on the Senate website contained this sentence: ”In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” It is not an embellishment or exaggeration – it’s a lie.

    You know what else is a lie? Andrew Pavelyev’s bio:

    Andrew Pavelyev is a scientist specializing in mathematical modeling in medicine. He emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1992 and now resides in Charlotte, NC.

    The Soviet Union did not exist in 1992.

    But you can bet that when he’s old enough to understand dates he’ll know the “timeline” and ”specific dates”.


    • icarusr

      C’mon. “Emigrated from the Confederation of Indepdent States” sounds so much less anti-communist.

    • Andrew Pavelyev

      Yes, it’s a timeline. In all my life I was a permanent resident of only two countries – USSR and USA. I applied for US immigration while the Berlin Wall still stood (just for four more weeks). I got approval to immigrate while still living in the Soviet Union. I applied for permission to leave the USSR still to the Soviet government (on its last legs then). The Soviet government approved my request and issued my emigrant’s passport (back then it was different from a regular passport just for foreign travel) – yes, Soviet passport, with hammer and sickle on the cover. Then they sent me a card informing me of that decision and invited me to come pick my passport up – after jumping through some bureaucratic hoops. I received that card about two weeks before the end of the Soviet Union. So that was it – I was really done with that country.
      Furthermore, in the eyes of the Soviet government I was transformed from a resident of the country into, essentially, an American tourist. On the day my passport was issued (11/29/1991) the clock started ticking and I had six months to leave the country. I could not be employed, etc. etc. etc. Since I was a grad student at the time I applied for emigration, one the abovementioned bureaucratic hoops was to get an official document from Moscow U stating that I was no longer a student and that the university had no claims against me (among other things that meant that they gave me some forms and I had to go to various library branches, gym etc. to have them sign off that I did not have any items checked out). I also had to surrender various essential domestic documents without which I could not function normally in the country (e.g. get a library card or open a bank account – let alone get a job). I no longer had any official address. Etc. etc. etc.
      While I was jumping through all the hoops, the Soviet Union collapsed on me. Still, Russia at first had the same rules as the USSR, so I was never a resident of Russia – just a temporary visitor (the six months deadline was still binding).
      Just to put icing on top of cake, here’s a little detail. As I was finally leaving in March 1992, I had to fill the customs declaration at the airport. One of the questions there was “Which country are you departing?” I asked an officer what to put there and he replied “USSR”.

  • Moderate

    Andrew Pavelyev:

    I am really concerned about the “Palinization” of the political right.

    I see this as a trend predating Palin. George W. Bush, by his autobiographical admission, did not admit to mistakes or failings, since he equated the admission with weakness. Republicans in the past decade have followed suit. No matter how incriminating the evidence, the response is to brush it aside or outright deny it. The exception is when the party stands to be significantly hurt, as in the cases of Mark Foley and Chris Lee.

    Hence, Mitt Romney’s book is titled “No Apology.” Hence, Rick Perry refuses to apologize for calling Ben Bernanke “treasonous.” Hence, Michele Bachmann refuses to apologize for linking the HPV vaccine with mental retardation. Hence, John Boehner and Eric Cantor cynically refuse to condemn birtherism.

    There is an epidemic of reality denial, and Rubio is merely caught in the zeitgeist.

  • Southern Populist

    Lol, why don’t you tell us, Oh you Amazing Kreskin, how you know with a certainty the web bio was a LIE as opposed to a MISTAKE?

    Rubio has said it was a mistake.

    You don’t know the difference between a mistake and a lie?

    Incorrect information in the bio alone is not certain evidence he “lied.” You need to show he consciously and deliberately used incorrect information on purpose to establish with a certainty “he lied.”

    If people were saying “it’s LIKELY he lied,” or “he PROBABLY lied,” that characterization might be somewhat reasonable because it would acknowledge the possibility Rubio’s critics are not omniscient. But no, in an effort to smear Rubio with this triviality, people are going beyond what the evidence supports and claiming with certainty “he lied” when there is no way anyone can know that with absolute certainty,

    Now, I don’t know that he did NOT lie, but the burden of proof is not on me; it’s on the people claiming certainty rather than likelihood.

    What’s more plausible?

    1) Rubio was unaware of the precise dates just as he said.

    2) Rubio consciously lied about a key piece of family history, repeated the lie over and over again knowing that it was a lie, put the lie on his Web site for the world to see, all while knowing and in full awareness that he was telling a lie that could be discovered and discredited at any time.

    • Slide

      So you are saying he didn’t know whether his parents left Cuba because they were fleeing Castro and the communist takeover if Cuba or they left, like millions of other immigrants, for economic reasons? Can you really believe that he didn’t know that history? That he was D
      so incurious that he didn’t ask? If that extraordinary circumstance is the case why would he constantly talk about their experience? He has repeatedly used his family’s experience as defining as to who he is yet doesn’t know the most fundamental facts of their history?

      If you want to believe that fairy tail you are more than welcome to but for the rest of us in the real world, that dog don’t hunt.

      • laingirl

        That indicates Rubio wasn’t very inquisitive or smart, doesn’t it? I have sons and two grandchildren and they constantly question me about the days before they were born. Also, Rubio has older siblings who were born in Cuba, so I find it hard to believe that he didn’t know when they and his parents immigrated from there.

        • Watusie

          Interestingly, Rubio was busy demonstrating he isn’t very bright in the two days immediately before the WaPo story came out.

          First, he embarrassed himself in questioning Time Geithner. Andrew Sullivan said it best: “What you see, in my view, is an exchange between someone making high school debating points and someone actually making decisions about governing when there are no great choices. Geithner logically destroys Rubio here.”

          Then, he embarrassed himself by his “thank America last” response to Gaddiffi’s death on live television.

          And THEN the WaPo story came out and he opted to feign outrage and double down on his lies rather than just go in and immediately change his webpage, which he was forced to do eventually anyway, and once again, like with this Libya statements, his staff has to come out and start walking stuff back.

          Now, add in the abuse of credit card story:

          He looks more and more like just another TP darling from the Sarah Palin/Christine O’Donnell – throws lots of red meat to the crowd but is at heart ethically challenged, truth-challenged, and a bit dim.

    • TerryF98

      His own staff said they left for “economic reasons”

      So who is right Rubio or his staff, they can’t both be correct.

    • theCardinal

      I like Marco, I’ve voted for Marco, I will vote for Marco but…Marco lied. He knew the truth.

  • ottovbvs

    “Rubio has said it was a mistake.

    You don’t know the difference between a mistake and a lie?”

    Mistakes were made! If you believe that one then I have a nice bridge with views of Manhattan to sell you. Obviously the more plausible was:

    “Rubio consciously lied about a key piece of family history, repeated the lie over and over again knowing that it was a lie, put the lie on his Web site for the world to see”

    The entirely implausible bit is your assertion he knew he wouldn’t be found out. Politicians from Anthony Weiner on down are constantly making stuff up on the assumption they won’t be found out so why is Rubio uniquely different. I can’t get too excited about this as it’s a pretty small potatoes fib but what is significant is the desperate attempts by conservatives to rationalise away an obvious shading of the truth by Rubio who has a record of somewhat shady behavior involving credit cards.

    • Demosthenes

      I find the thing with the credit card much more disturbing than the fib about when exactly it was that his parents left Cuba.

      • indy

        I find them both disturbing.

        The republican party, in an apparent attempt to show—well, diversity or something—keeps hauling out seemingly incompetent people (or improperly vetted ones) and thrusting them into the national spotlight unprepared. How many minority casualties are there going to be?

        • Demosthenes

          How many minority casualties are there going to be?

          I keep waiting for Bobby Jindal to do or say something that lands him in the national media crosshairs. To his credit, he has not yet obliged.

        • icarusr

          He did already. It was his state of the union response and making fun of volcano monitoring expenditure, a week before Mt. St. Helena erupted again.

        • Demosthenes


        • indy

          Just a small part of the larger Republican plan to elect incompetent people into government in an effort show how incompetent the government is.

        • icarusr

          There was also Alberto “I don’t recall” Gonzales, Harriet “What’s a judgement” Miers, and the one who took the cake, Condoleeza “My Husband” Rice.

          And when there are competent ones – like Colin Powell – they are neutered as soon as they depart from script.

    • Southern Populist

      The Washington Post set the tone with a nasty and misleading front page story that characterized Rubio as a purposeful liar for political gain. People are simply responding in kind.

      I don’t even like Rubio; I didn’t like Weiner either, but I feel he was treated unfairly too and said so at the time.

      But even Rubio’s most hardcore critics have not suggested he resign over this, and given that he has that seat until 2017, I’m moving to other topics.

      If clear evidence of financial impropriety emerges, that will be worth discussing IMO.

  • Fart Carbuncle

    What about the bigger issue: Rubio’s hideous comb-over?

  • icarusr

    All you need to know about Rubio is in this paragraph:

    “He was young and eager to make his case,” writes DeMint in his book The Great American Awakening (Rubio wrote the foreword). “His parents had fled Cuba as refugees, coming to America with great hopes of a nation promising a better life for their children.” Compelling stuff. “The Rubio family knew what it was like to lose their country. Rubio was afraid Americans were on the verge of losing their country and desperately wanted to stop the Washington politicians who were guiding America into the abyss.”

    He is making a direct comparison between Cuba of 1956, 59 or 61 and Obama’s election. this is why he is dangerous and should be dismissed as a fringe candidate.

  • PracticalGirl

    “I can tell you from personal experience that if you come to America as an immigrant you never forget the moment. I immigrated two decades ago. My first child was born just two weeks ago. But you can bet that when he’s old enough to understand dates he’ll know the “timeline” and ”specific dates”.”

    BINGO. As a first generation American, this rings so true. Part of my family lore has been the story of my father’s and his family’s exit from Greece during the civil war. It was harrowing due to the family’s low-level involvment in politics, and the accounts have always been emotional. Years ago, my aunt wrote an an account of it that was published in several major newspapers. Frankly, some of the details seemed far more dramatic than any story I had ever heard, so I took the time to check them out: Her dates, her account as matched up with the 6 other people who were with her etc. I was able to confirm the basic accuracy of the story, but I also was able to confirm my suspicion that parts were at least stretched for dramatic effect.

    The point: Rubio is a public official who has used his family story as a stepping stone and bridge to galvanize a dominant ethnic voting block. Whether his embellishments were intentional or not, he had a duty (to the very people whose emotions he sought to manipulate) to get the story correct from the very beginning. That he never bothered to check out his OWN story before he made it available for public consumption should give anybody pause as to his efficacy as a politician within a very intricate system where facts can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, economic boom or bust.

  • Rabiner

    I’m not sure you can really compare Hillary Clinton’s vote and Governor Christ’s hug. One had actually effects like sending this country to war whereas the other was simply a gesture. Just because the vote wasn’t 50/50 with Cheney breaking the tie doesn’t mean it wasn’t a consequential vote.

    • Graychin

      “Conservatives” care more about symbolism (a hug) than they care about trivial things like going to war. With liberals, it’s the other way around.

  • Churl

    I think it is established that Marco Rubio is Sarah Palin’s successor as Frumco’s designated tea party representative flogee. And the posts on him (and the Washington Post article) again demonstrate the truth of the old adage that any stick will do to beat a dog.

  • ktward

    The Right has to break with the relatively recent tradition of treating any inconvenient facts as outrageous attacks.

    Compliments of a keenly innate persecution complex, the Religious Right has perfected self-victimization to the point where it’s textbook Pavlovian. I wouldn’t hold your breath this will change in the GOP anytime soon.

    Speaking of psychosis–

    But the most important common factor is identity politics. Obama would not have become a senator, let alone president if his father had been a graduate student from, say, Switzerland rather than Kenya.

    Mr. Pavlev, no one would argue that Obama’s ’08 election wasn’t an historic phenomenon, but it was born from a unique confluence of factors. Consequently, it’s been dissected and analyzed six ways to Sunday and, in some cases, to the point of absurdity.

    Your analysis can be counted among the absurd. But it is useful. Not that it speaks to Obama’s election(s), but it does speak to your own mindset.

    • TerryF98

      “Compliments of a keenly innate persecution complex, the Religious Right has perfected self-victimization to the point where it’s textbook Pavlovian. I wouldn’t hold your breath this will change in the GOP anytime soon.”

      For an example see the post by Churl immediately above yours. Ring the bell and they come.

      • ktward

        Yeah, he posted while I was still typing. Once I posted, I chuckled and thought exactly that. Reliable as the sunrise.

      • Churl

        Ah, Terry, Terry. An example of misunderstanding. I am certainly on the right, but by no means religious; indeed sometimes I’m even tempted to fall away from agnosticism.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    “But the most important common factor is identity politics. Obama would not have become a senator, let alone president if his father had been a graduate student from, say, Switzerland rather than Kenya.”

    Yeah, because we all know how hard it is for white male lawyers to be elected. and if his father had been a white swiss he would not have been Obama so it is totally nuts to say this. I can honestly say that if Pavelyevs mother was a 13th century French washerwoman he wouldn’t have written this article either. Beyond this I really don’t understand this pathological need to bring in false contrasts as though because Obama’s father was Kenyan Rubio thought himself entitled to lie…or something.

    I will say one thing, I don’t think this will be all that fatal. in 1988 Biden plagarized a British politician and that sank his run then, but he is VP now, of course Biden did man up which Rubio seems incapable of doing.

    Another thing is I am damn sick and tired of these Cubans martyrdom as though being forced to live in the US instead of the paradise that would be Cuba if they were in charge makes them so special. Yes, there are some geniune exiles who lost everything but at this point that are all pretty old, the idea that now their children and grandchildren are going to claim special status is nuts.
    I don’t care in the slightest that Rubio’s parents came in 1956 or 1961, Rubio was born an American (although since both his parents were still Cuban citizens when he was born he is also a Cuban citizen himself) of Cuban heritage, why the hell couldn’t that have been enough?

    • Demosthenes

      Another thing is I am damn sick and tired of these Cubans martyrdom as though being forced to live in the US instead of the paradise that would be Cuba if they were in charge makes them so special

      To be fair, I’ve only ever heard those kinds of statements coming from the far-right Cuban-American lobby in Miami, which does unfortunately tend to presume to speak for the entire community. A lot of them have ties to Batista, so it makes sense that they see themselves as having been usurped somehow.

  • mtyson

    Looking at the Electoral College map, there are very few routes that lead to a Republican victory in 2012 that don’t include winning Florida. Rubio would do well to get this behind him, because he appears to me to be the logical Republican VP candidate.

    • Marioth

      You can bet this map has been Obama’s primary political concern since he was elected. He beat Hillary because he knew how to count caucus votes. Absent FL, the GOP is done. Even with FL, they will fight uphill all the way. Right now, it’s a primary race to see which third of the GOP stays home.

      The tea people peaked too early. But my conservative friends were never big on the math nor the governing.

      As a VP, I just don’t see it. If the intent is to swell the ranks with non-white voters, this argument will be rejected. Ditto, Herman Cain.

  • ktward


    The point: Rubio is a public official who has used his family story as a stepping stone and bridge to galvinize a dominant ethnic voting block.

    This is an instructive observation, and one that I can imagine will be conveniently usurped to parallel Rubio with Obama. Hopefully I can head off any such nonsense before it starts.

    Absent any cynicism, we might all agree for sake of argument that Obama, like Rubio, laid bare his family story as a means of inspiring sympathetic voters. But unlike Rubio’s, Obama’s story speaks to wide, multi-ethnic demographic swaths. There can be no substantive accusation that he was targeting any specific voting bloc and, after all, according to the Right’s own repeated assertions, Obama didn’t need to work to get the black vote.

    • indy

      So, if I follow: Setting aside Rubio’s lie, there is nothing wrong with using your family story to connect to voters as long as it isn’t an ethnic story that appeals to ethnic voters? And if you do, there is something wrong with it? Pardon me while I compile a really long list…

      • ktward

        I qualified, “absent any cynicism”. Your take is decidedly cynical, but it’s no less instructive.

        Underscored is the breadth and depth of Obama’s story–the good, the bad, and the ugly–which explains why its inspirations span across the demographic spectrum. Unlike Rubio’s story which rings more like a powerpoint slideshow meant for marketing purposes.

  • todayslies

    Overall, I really enjoyed and agreed with this piece. However, I have to quibble with the following statement regarding alleged similarities between Rubio & Obama:

    “Each of them got nominated thanks to the same lucky break: even though a stronger and better qualified rival was favored to win the nomination, a significant segment of the party base was very eager to punish that rival for some highly symbolic ideological transgression (voting for the Iraq war in case of Hillary Clinton, giving Obama a hug in case of Charlie Crist).”

    Many things in politics are “symbolic”. However, the least symbolic thing a politician can do is vote to send her country into war. There was nothing “symbolic” about that vote–it represented the pinnacle of Senator Clinton’s constitutional responsibilities. There is nothing symbolic about sending young men and women to a foreign land to risk their very lives.

    If the base of the party disagreed with her decision, it had every right to punish her at the ballot box. Hardly in any way comparable to the Crist-Obama “hug”.

    • nitpicker

      I completely agree and that sentence stopped me like a brick wall. I often complain to my conservatives about the false equivalencies used by many on the right to suggest the left and right both play similar ideological games, but this one’s a doozy.

    • drdredel

      Spot on. Clinton’s vote instantly disqualified her, for me. There was nothing she could do to redeem herself after this move. Nothing.

      • rongoodman


      • ktward

        See, and I was wiling to forgive Clinton that vote because it was cast before the truth of the Bush/Cheney manipulations came to light. I didn’t agree with it, but I forgave her for it.

        What turned me from a Clinton supporter into an Obama supporter was this: the despicable, Rovian manner in which her campaign was conducted. I wasn’t at all surprised that she was a dignified and gracious loser (unlike McCain) and I don’t think it can ever be argued that she hasn’t served both her country and her Party admirably. I respect the hell out of her, but I’ve never regretted my vote for Obama in the primary.

  • farrago

    Thank you, Mr. Frum. It’s disturbing how people’s view of morality is becoming increasingly relative to whether the accused is someone they like/support or not.

    I’m reminded of TX Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, during the Valerie Plame matter, complaining on TV about how Scooter Libby was being nailed on a “perjury technicality” when previously during the Monica Lewinsky matter, she stated unequivocally “perjury is perjury.”

  • think4yourself

    Andrew, I’m not sure if Rubio lied or not. I see your point (I’m half second generation but not from a totalitarian country) and Rubio made the “Coming to America”, part of his narrative and his explanation is weak.

    I think your second point about the Right media wing using this as an attack issue does speak to what is wrong with GOP (and to a lesser degree, the media), that every item for discussion is about using that item to attack the opposition. The GOP and Rubio would have been better served if Rubio had simply said this was a mistake, I apologize and if the GOP media had been mum on it (likely the Dems would have pounced and then they would look bad).

    Finally, I was in agreement until your false equivalence with Obama. Yes, a huge part of Obama’s success was the personal narrative. Yes, I agree that being an African-American may have helped with his recognition within the party (of course John Edwards was as white as they come and for awhile he was the annointed win, who also had a thin pedigree). I strongly disagree about Obama not being a policy wonk. Seems to me he is as deeply thoughtful about issues and ideas as (for example) Bill Clinton was.

    During the primaries, I was leaning towards Hillary Clinton because she seemed to be the most centrist candidate (the front runner can do that), Obama got traction because of his previous statements against the war (which were easy to do as they were before he was in the US Congress and he didn’t have to vote on any war issues). That anti-war stance gave him a policy substance that he was able to contrast himself against Hillary. He earned my vote when he made his speech on race which was clearly thoughtful and demonstrated his ability to see all sides of an issue.

    To date, I have not seen evidence of Rubio’s intellectual prowess, I have of Obama’s. The rest of your article has merit – but I don’t think the GOP is listening to you.

    • drdredel

      The GOP isn’t “listening” at all… Listening involves contemplation of what you’re hearing, and the potential to change your mind. Mind changing has been deemed a character flaw, on the Right, which makes sense since all problems and their solutions are really simple, so, what’s to stop anyone from making the right decision the first time, and every time?

    • Anonne

      It shouldn’t have taken half a brain to see that going into Iraq was a mistake, that it would have required more resources than we planned to commit and that Saddam Hussein was not a threat that required immediate action. But clearly a lot of people needed to use a lot more than half a brain to figure it out, costing us thousands of lives and trillions of dollars in treasure. And that doesn’t account for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties and the millions displaced from their homes. But power hungry hawks like Rubio will gloss over these realities in favor of empty jingoistic platitudes.

  • theCardinal

    I am Cuban-American. I was an early supporter of Marco and remain a supporter to this day but he’s full of it on this one. Every single Cuban-American of our generation was and is very aware of his family narrative. If you weren’t told certain details, you asked. It wasn’t just your parents’ story it was your tale as well. In order to create and understand your own identity, in order to find your place you needed to know where you came from and why. At one point or another, when sitting with your friends you would reveal your background and where your family was from. In addition the exile community, as vast as it is, is very incestuous. Only certain types of families escaped in the beginning, people knew you and when you came. If his parents had any friends at all from Cuba, at some point in conversation the truth would emerge. I learned more of my parent’s exodus from these late night after dinner ramblings than anything they ever told me. So yeah, I call BULLS*** on Marco. I still love the guy but he screwed the pooch on this one.

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