Donald Trump had it right all along.
By announcing he will vote to approve Rex Tillerson for secretary of state, the fittingly titled junior U.S. senator from Florida proved he is compromised and cut down to size.
As they say out West, he is all hat and no cattle.
Under what certainly was significant pressure from the Republican Party and President Trump’s operatives, Marco Rubio confirmed that all that bluster he directed at Tillerson about the human rights violations in Russia was just for show.
Tillerson, of course, had extensive business dealings with Russia and Vladimir Putin. In the hearing, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson if Putin should be considered a war criminal. It was a tough question and made for a dandy sound bite, but the real bite would have been if Rubio had stood on principle instead of politics and voted not to confirm.
Instead, he caved.
He can dress it up however he wants, but the fact is that with a chance to make a big statement Rubio shrank when the spotlight was the brightest.
This isn’t about whether Tillerson will make a good secretary of state. Opinions are mixed on that one, and Democrats seemed to have their eyes on blocking other targets. But with his mugging for the cameras at the hearing, Rubio defined the rules by how this confirmation will be judged.
I believe – well, believed – that Rubio’s concern about rights violations is sincere. If he really holds those core values, though, then he should have voted his conscience. The next time prattles on about the dictatorship in Cuba and all that, just tune him out. He is not prepared to back up his convictions with action.
If he voted no, there have been retribution from both his party and President Trump. Welcome to Washington. Surely, Rubio had known that before he went on his one-person jag while grilling Tillerson.
Did he really think all along he was going to vote to confirm and was just trying to make a statement that, roughly put, was, “OK, Rex, you’re approved, but I’m going to be watching every move.”
Or did he trade his principles for some political hay he can use later?
We may never know.
Here is what we do know.
After a disastrous run for the presidency and a flip-flop on whether he wanted to stay in the Senate, Rubio had an opportunity to reboot his political career by backing up his words with action. He would have climbed to the higher ground.
Instead, he proved again why voters have little to no faith in what politicians say versus what they do.
He lived down to the name Trump hung on him.