Rubio-Gate Touches Nerves on Both Sides
Writing in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Steven Kurlander comes to Senator Marco Rubio’s defense, accusing The Washington Post of publishing a hatchet piece against the senator who has merely confused the “circumstances and timing of his parent's flight from communist Cuba.”
“No one really cares how or when his parents got here,” Kurlander writes. Only, that just isn’t so, and Kurlander proves it by making his case with this opener:
“I am the child of a refugee, a Holocaust survivor's son.”
And then with this:
“Maybe because I am the son of a Holocaust survivor, I understand the confusion Sen. Rubio may have surrounding his parent's story . . . it may be just that his parents did not really talk much about their flight to Florida at all.
Rubio is instead the latest victim of a debilitating ethos of character assassination rampant in our press and blogosphere that wrongfully dissects a politician's rendition of his personal history, taking facts out of context to destroy his or her credibility. From a child of the Holocaust's perspective, this assault on Rubio's story was totally unfair.”
Kurlander returns to this, his own personal narrative, throughout the op-ed, because apparently it gives him authority on the matter. No, really, it does. Our personal narratives help each of us relate to those around us and in turn for others to relate to us. And these narratives especially help us relate to public figures whom we haven’t even met but who ask us for our trust. The more we identify ourselves within the framework of our chosen narrative, the more we need to preserve it. These narratives are frameworks we construct based on our experiences (real or perceived), what we want to be, and to what we think others will relate. Kurlander surely knows that his “son of a Holocaust survivor” narrative will encourage people to listen to him, at least on the subject of suffering. And, speaking as someone of Jewish heritage (you know I had to do that), it most certainly does get my attention.
Why are revelations about one of the Republican Party’s brightest rising stars necessarily a character assassination? If memory serves, this is a basic lesson in college level journalism class: public figures put themselves out there- and Rubio has repeatedly put his family's Cuba story out in front (though not always the same version of it), like in his Senate campaign ads, for instance. Marco Rubio has benefited from repeating this narrative that his parents fled Castro's Cuba. It’s his badge of honor. Why else would he utter a statement like this: “Nothing against immigrants, but my parents are exiles.” Turns out, though, they too were immigrants. So why would defenders like Kurlander insist on maintaining the his-parents-fled-Cuba narrative when it’s just been revealed to be categorically untrue?
“Sen. Rubio, like hundreds of thousands of children of Cuban refugees, grew up in a home a "son of exiles," where his early life and upbringing was touched every day by his parent's flight from a brutal, totalitarian Castro regime.”
Debate whether the Rubios were truly exiles - the term does mean different things to different people. But the WaPo’s “hatchet job,” which was based on public immigration documents, revealed that Rubio’s parents didn’t flee Castro’s or any other Cuba. They calmed boarded a plane out of Batista’s Cuba, intending to become permanent residents in the United States. There’s nothing – nothing – wrong with that. Why is that fact so hard to get straight and then move on? Why this insistence that the Post and others who report the story are twisting facts by reporting them?
In all the Rubio-Gate reading I’ve been doing this week, commentators talk about the nerve Rubio has touched for Democrats – his promise, his potential in the GOP scares Democrats, they say. I’m sure that’s true. But it’s equally true that as Rubio comes back down to earth a bit now, some supporters may be feeling a little nervous too.