For anyone following national politics, it’s been a dizzying week.
Marco Rubio isn’t sure what to make of it all.
The Florida Senator, who turns 46 next weekend, was considered a possible nominee for President of the United States less than 15 months ago, but he’s now just a sideshow in the circus that is the Donald Trump presidency, and he’s getting frustrated about it.
Speaking at the Pinellas County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, Rubio touted his bill to reform the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which is being co-sponsored by Montana Democrat Jon Tester and Georgia Republican Johnny Isakson and gaining some momentum in the Senate. The bill would reform the VA by allowing the secretary to dismiss bad employees, and “ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers.”
“That’s an important law. How many of you read about that in the newspaper?” Rubio asked the hundreds of Republicans who gathered at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.
He said it simply wasn’t sexy enough, without mentioning why the national press is so focused on what Trump has been saying and tweeting, and what his staff is telling the press every day.
“It’s not being posted because nobody clicks on those stories, because the stories that get all the clicks are the stories about something controversial and explosive,” he said, adding that, “I’m not here to beat up the press but just because somebody told you something doesn’t mean that’s what happened.”
“Maybe it did? And maybe it did, and if it did then we need to find out, but if it didn’t, that would be unjust, would it not? So before you ask me to give you a hard opinion on something, let me find out the truth first, let you find out the truth first?”
Rubio made the same complaints while interviewed on Fox and Friends on Thursday when asked about Trump’s possible connections with Russia and Comeygate. So if you’re looking for Rubio to bash Trump when he seems to be in free fall, Rubio is not your man. Instead, he sounds like a man who isn’t sure what to think about all of the news coverage.
Other than he doesn’t like it, labeling the way politics is covered these days as “entertainment.”
Referring to the seemingly daily bombshell stories about Trump and Comey, Rubio asked if it wouldn’t be better for everyone involved if everyone knew the facts and didn’t have to “take concrete positions one way or another. “
“Isn’t that what you deserve? Isn’t that what the president deserves? Isn’t that what our nation deserves? Isn’t that what everyone deserves?,” as the crowd of partisan Pinellas Republican cheered lustily.
But before you think that Rubio thinks that Trump is getting a raw deal from the mainstream media, he was there to tell us that he spends 10 hours a week in the Senate Intelligence Committee looking at threats to the nation, including “looking at the specific threats to the 2016 campaign and what Russia did, and what they’re beginning to do in Europe and other places.”
Rubio said mournfully that the campaign last year was about getting people back to work and reminding people about the American dream, but “we don’t talk about these things.”
But the tone of his speech seemed like it was more of the media’s fault for not focusing on incremental policy changes — but how can it compare to a president who can’t stop contradicting his own press spokespeople?
He said that everyone was to blame for our current situation. Looking for an example of how the press doesn’t always get it right always, he chided an Associated Press story this week that initially reported that North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis needed CPR after exerting himself too strenuously this week proved to be incorrect.
“I’m not saying it was malicious,” he said about the AP report (who he praised as generally being straight up in its reporting), “but imagine if it was public policy or decisions of national magnitude. Should we not know the facts?”
Rubio didn’t leave himself out of his critique. Remember when he began attacking the size of Trump’s hands on the campaign trail last year and got live coverage from the cable news networks?
“I know that I spend all my time working on the VA bill and so forth — we will get very little coverage that doesn’t get a lot of clicks and a lot of attention, but if I spend time saying something outrageous, I’ll get a lot of coverage, so I’m incentivized to do that,” he admitted.
The media critique was the highlight of what was one of Rubio’s less inspired speeches seen in some time. Then again, he’s part of the Republican dominance of Washington D.C. that doesn’t appear to be getting much done. Well, there is that VA bill that’s gaining some momentum.
Before the event, a crowd of over 200 protestors gathered at the entrance to the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park. Activists have been demanding that Rubio hold a town hall meeting, something that he has yet to do in 2017.
There were layers of security both outside and inside the hotel.
UPDATE: On Saturday on Twitter, Rubio criticized the Tampa Bay Times coverage of the story, which highlighted his critiques on the media, tweeting, “They actually ran the exact headline I predicted they would run to get clicks!”
They actually ran the exact headline I predicted they would run to get clicks! "Marco Rubio bashes media" https://t.co/rpT2XF9ChY 1/2
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 20, 2017
That supposition neglects the fact that very little else in his speech was newsworthy.
(Photos courtesy of Kim DeFalco).