Florida’s Rubio shouldn’t be Trump’s ‘mini-me.’ He should find the high road and take it | Editorial

the Miami Herald Editorial Board
·3 min read

It’s time for Sen. Marco Rubio to come to his senses. The last thing Florida and the country need is another elected leader on the national stage channeling our failed and lame-duck president. Plus, we’ve got Gov. Ron DeSantis for that.

What Floridians and citizens across the country should see is someone who can show he is worthy of presidential consideration — not someone who, for the next four years, will pander only to President Trump’s base, seeking the ex-president’s favor by being a “mini-him.” Because that’s what this really is about, isn’t it — 2024?

But Rubio’s increasing stridency — in support of acts of voter intimidation, branding political opponents as radicals, accusing President-elect Joe Biden’s well-educated Cabinet nominees of having “strong resumes,” as if that’s a bad thing — is ridiculous and unhelpful.

Voter intimidation

“I saw yesterday a video of these people in Texas,” Rubio crowed to a pre-Election Day crowd at Opa-locka airport. “Did you see it? All the cars on the road, we love what they did.”

“These people” were Trump supporters who used their vehicles to ambush, swarm and attempt to run a bus of rally-going Biden backers off the road. Did Rubio forget what “freedom of assembly” means? How about freedom from fear? Someone on either side could have been killed. The Biden rally in Austin was canceled.

On Tuesday, Rubio stoked the culture wars, tweeting: “Biden’s cabinet picks went to Ivy League schools, have strong resumes, attend all the right conferences & will be polite & orderly caretakers of America’s decline.”

It’s a stunningly public display of Rubio’s hypocritical amnesia: Trump’s attorney general — and we mean Trump’s attorney general — William Barr launched an investigation into whether there was any wrongdoing within the FBI during its investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The president told him to do it. Barr went to Columbia University. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is a graduate of Harvard Law. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly plans to handcuff the Biden administration and cheat struggling Americans by depositing $455 billion in unspent stimulus money into a fund that the new president cannot touch without Congress’ approval. Mnuchin is a Yale grad.

Florida’s senior senator has a perverted sense of what constitutes “America’s decline.”

Appealing to Trump voters

Clearly, Rubio is pandering to the more than 73 million people who, astoundingly, voted for Trump. But he’ll only sound more unhinged if he continues to try to out-Trump Trump. Rubio has been scudding down this slippery slope ever since he accused candidate Donald Trump, during a 2016 debate, of having “small hands,” a salacious metaphor. “And you know what they say about guys with small hands,” Rubio added. To be fair, Trump already had branded him “Little Marco.”

The problem is, as Trump proved, appealing to the worst in human nature is a winning formula.

Four years later, Rubio isn’t even trying to put the brakes on his descent to seek the higher road from which he once served. The higher road that led him to gamely take on immigration reform, working hard to broker a compromise between conservative and liberal lawmakers in 2013. The road that led Time magazine that same year to crown him “the Republican savior” for his moderate-right level-headedness. He was called “the new voice of the GOP.”

That was before he adopted Trump’s dangerous bluster.

If Rubio really is serious about another presidential run, he needs to think, sound and act the part. Trump should not be his role model. For the good of this democracy, Rubio needs to be the savior of something grander than his own political ambition.