Rubio: I'm not going to leap to denounce Trump just because hypocritical progressive bullies like the Squad demand it

A highly effective mini-rant here, although given Rubio’s differences with Trump it’s hard to know how much of it is from the heart and how much is a political calculation.

Is he on the level? Maybe, sure. Republican presidential candidates *do* always end up being attacked as racist whether they deserve it or not, just like he says. He’s also undeniably right that the media holds Republicans to a different standard than Democrats in demanding that they answer for the political sins of others on their side. I made that point myself a few days ago about the Antifa nut’s attack on an ICE facility in Washington. If a right-wing rando threw molotov cocktails at a government building, every Republican in Congress would be called upon to denounce it. Meanwhile, it took days for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to even be asked the obvious question of whether her “concentration camp” rhetoric is maybe egging on wackjobs to take up arms against immigration officials. And it took a right-wing outlet to ask that question.

He’s sort of right too about Democrats scrambling to condemn Trump for his tweets about the Squad with an official resolution but giving Ilhan Omar a pass when she accused AIPAC and its “Benjamins” of dominating U.S. policy on Israel. I say “sort of” because Pelosi did issue a statement of her own denouncing that, and the House did eventually pass a resolution condemning anti-semitism after Omar’s “dual loyalty” comments about American supporters of Israel — but without mentioning Omar by name, thanks to a progressive revolt on her behalf within the caucus. Trump didn’t get that same break about his love-it-or-leave-it tweets.

And of course he’s right as can be about Democrats finding various things about immigration policy objectionable now when they didn’t find them objectionable in 2014. And about the fact that the Squad is a bunch of JV demagogues prone to racial McCarthyism to shield themselves from criticism.

Marco ate his Wheaties here. But he’s also the guy who said this a few days before Super Tuesday 2016, when Trump finished him off in Florida. Watch for five minutes from where I’ve cued it up:

Rubio’s entire message about Trump during the primaries was that he was a fundamentally different and more sinister political animal than American presidential contests are used to. That clip is the most memorable single statement he made about it but he reiterated the point plenty of times in other contexts. Trump is a demagogue who’s prone to incitement, he said. We can’t have a figure that divisive in the White House. It’ll poison the country’s political culture. “If we’re the party of fear, with a candidate who basically is trying to prey upon people’s fears to get them to vote for them,” he said a few days after this clip in 2016, “I think we’re going to pay a big price in November and beyond.” He was wrong about paying a price that November but the jury’s out on the “beyond” part. The point is that his belief that political leaders have a duty to bring people together was a core part of his campaign, really the source of his visceral objection to Trump. And now here we are a few days removed from Trump’s “go back where you came from” tweets aimed at a group of minority congresswomen, and instead of doing an “I told you so” video, Rubio’s complaining that…

…Trump’s not that much different from Mitt Romney or John McCain. And certainly no worse than the Squad, never mind the presidency’s singular role in the culture.

That’s some reversal. Maybe Marco’s changed his mind? Or maybe he’s decided there’s no national future for him if he tells Republicans, correctly, “I told you so.” If you want a national future in 2019, you cut an anti-anti-Trump clip like the one up top and warn the media that you’ll no longer dignify further questions about the slow cultural poisoning that’s happening around you with an answer. Anthony Scaramucci called Trump’s tweets about the Squad racist and got himself disinvited from the Florida Republican Party’s next fundraiser. I bet Rubio’s still invited.

What we’re seeing here, I think, is a man who’s not yet ready to let go of his presidential dream but who’ll also never be comfortable shilling for Trump with the enthusiasm required to truly ingratiate himself to populists, a la Lindsey Graham. It’s why Rubio always seems to have a lump in his throat when talking about the president. Even his attempts to reconcile his own ideology with Trump’s seem half-hearted:

That’s not “authentic” American nationalism, buddy. Authentic American nationalism is a crowd of people hooting “send her back” at a Muslim refugee who became a U.S. citizen and then a member of Congress because they don’t like her politics. Authentic nationalism is tribalism in patriotic finery, the opposite of the sort of pluralism Rubio believes in. But then, he’s tried to square this circle before. It wasn’t convincing then and it isn’t convincing now and it won’t be convincing in the future, but there’s little alternative. For now. Once Trump’s finally out of office, if the political climate allows it, he’ll be at the front of the “I never liked him” parade.