February 9, 2016

OUR UNICORN RIDER:

RubioBot : The question isn't whether Marco Rubio is a robot--it's who programmed him. (Franklin Foer, 2/09/16, Slate)

This image of Rubio as a cipher is at once an unjust caricature and a pretty accurate summation of his career. Since Rubio's earliest days in law school, Republican big wigs have swooned whenever he opens his mouth. They saw his silver tongue and charm, as well as a demographic dreamboat: the ambitious son of Cuban immigrants, who worked his way up from modest means in Florida, the state on which presidential elections turn. Rubio came on the scene as California Gov. Pete Wilson and his anti-immigrant crusade were crashing the Republican Party's share of the Latino vote. It was the very moment that George W. Bush and his mangled Spanish were making a concerted effort to undo that damage.

Rubio was an irresistible figure, quickly marked for bigger things. At every stage of his career, powerful benefactors--including Jeb Bush--pushed Rubio forward. It's how he became the youngest speaker of the Florida house. And it's the reason that strategists began imagining a Rubio presidential bid nearly as soon as he arrived in Washington. 

None of this distinguishes him from other bright young things in every state capital of America. Yet Rubio's ascent came with several clouds that he's never been able to escape. The first is ideological. His rapid-fire transformations on immigration--from Tea Party to Chuck Schumer's fellow gangster and back again--suggests that he lacks core beliefs. They create an impression of a man vulnerable to manipulation--without principles and courage, the very sort who would bend his views to those of his masters. 

Then there's the matter of Rubio's finances. As he freely admits, they are a mess. He's been saddled with debt, unable to cover the costs of family birthday parties and renovations to his home. (When he left the Florida state house in 2008, he had a net worth of $8,351.) The dire state of his bank accounts has made him reliant on benefactors. He needed the Florida GOP's American Express card to help him bridge his expenses. And more glaringly, he's relied on an old auto dealer called Norman Braman. Ever since Rubio entered politics, Braman has showered him with donations, hundreds of thousands of dollars of assistance, by the New York Times' estimation. He even gave Rubio's wife a job as an adviser to his family foundation. Back in 2008, Braman predicted that Rubio would be the first Hispanic president. Seeing that happen in 2016, he told the Times recently, is "part of my legacy." Rubio, meanwhile, has shoveled public money to causes dear to Braman, including a cancer research center bearing his name. 

Another accusation--or perhaps compliment--dogs Rubio. That he is the Republican Obama. 

Like Mr. Obama, he's so devoid of substance you can imagine him to be anything you want him to be.

MORE:
Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally (MICHAEL BARBARO and STEVE EDER, MAY 9, 2015, NY Times)

A detailed review of their relationship shows that Mr. Braman, 82, has left few corners of Mr. Rubio's world untouched. He hired Mr. Rubio, then a Senate candidate, as a lawyer; employed his wife to advise the Braman family's philanthropic foundation; helped cover the cost of Mr. Rubio's salary as an instructor at a Miami college; and gave Mr. Rubio access to his private plane.

The money has flowed both ways. Mr. Rubio has steered taxpayer funds to Mr. Braman's favored causes, successfully pushing for an $80 million state grant to finance a genomics center at a private university and securing $5 million for cancer research at a Miami institute for which Mr. Braman is a major donor.

Even in an era dominated by super-wealthy donors, Mr. Braman stands out, given how integral he has been not only to Mr. Rubio's political aspirations but also to his personal finances.

Posted by at February 9, 2016 3:32 PM

  

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