Here’s my takeaway after covering Sen. Marco Rubio’s speech in Little Rock Sunday: I like him more than I did before, and I like the debates even less.
Rubio offered a hopeful vision – well, as long as he’s elected – that was in sharp contrast to those awful debates. There, Republicans have competed with each other to see who could offer the most doom and gloom while insulting President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and, increasingly, each other.
During his 40-minute speech, Rubio was at his best when he talked about his family’s American experience. His parents came to America from Cuba in 1956 speaking almost no English. His father became a bartender and his mother a maid. At times they wondered if they had made a mistake and even considered going back, but they persevered. Ten years after coming to America, they owned a home in a safe neighborhood and were able to raise their children to enjoy freedom’s benefits. His father has passed away, but Rubio, who has had an interesting spiritual journey, said he hopes he is aware of what his son has become.
“My parents loved America because they understood what life was like outside of America,” he said.
Campaigns are about stories, and that’s a good one.
Rubio promised to be a uniter of both his party and his country. Encouragingly, the son of immigrants promised, “If you elect me president of the United States, I will be president for all Americans. I will never ask you to be angry at one group of Americans so that I can win an election.”
Democrats, of course are a “group of Americans,” so I wish Rubio would tone down the rhetoric when it comes to them. He flatly declared that Clinton is “disqualified” from being president because of the email controversy and Benghazi. He should leave that to the legal system. Our political leaders should stop questioning the other side’s legitimacy, because sometimes that side wins, and it’s not healthy when half the country hates the president. He also said, “We will lose the American dream if Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders is elected.” Really? We’ll lose it entirely in four years?
Also disappointing was this: While the campaign stage was adorned with signs saying, “End the debt,” he didn’t mention it, nor his own party’s role in increasing it to $19 trillion, nor offer a rebuttal to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s declaration that his tax plan would add $6.1 trillion to the deficit.
Now I’m becoming a downer. It was a good speech, at times an uplifting one, and Rubio seemed to genuinely enjoy interacting with the Arkansans who mobbed him afterwards. He’s not my candidate – Ohio Gov. John Kasich is – but I like him, and his story, much better than before.