When I asked on Twitter whether any video of his speech this afternoon was available, someone snarked back that I should just read his RNC speech from last year since they’re basically the same. Not true, but it’s not totally untrue either. Every Rubio speech has the same template: Lots of biography, lots of shining-city-on-the-hill platitudes about America, and then, almost as an afterthought, some remarks on the subject at hand. Obama’s famous speech at the 2004 Democratic convention is the eternal model, which makes sense because Rubio’s following the same path that O did: He, personally, is The Change. By virtue of his youth, optimism, and distinct personal identity, he can lead his party and the country to a degree of success that no one else can. This is what he’s counting on, in fact, to smooth things over with conservatives who are angry with him over immigration come 2016. You guys want your own Obama to steamroll the opposition through the sheer force of his charisma and only-in-America personal success story, don’t you? Well, here he is. Cut him some slack on amnesty, which was designed as a pander to win national elections in the first place, and let’s roll. Fired up, ready to go!
John McCormack of the Weekly Standard was reminiscing on Twitter a few hours ago about interviewing candidate Rubio in 2009 and being reassured, repeatedly, that he wouldn’t support amnesty even for a hardworking law-abiding (except for crossing the border!) illegal immigrant family because it would be unfair to people who followed the rules to let anyone who didn’t off scot-free. Four years later, now that he’s a legit presidential contender, the rule of law has sunk into a gooey soup of dreams:
Here they brought their language and their customs. Their religions and their music. And somehow, made them ours as well. From a collection of people from everywhere, we became one people. The most exceptional nation in human history.
And even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world.
Go to our factories and fields. Go to our kitchens and construction sites. Go to the cafeteria of this very Capitol. There, you will find that the miracle of America still lives.
For here, in America, those who once had no hope, will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves.
Here, in America, generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass.
I support this reform.
Not just because I believe in immigrants, but because I believe in America even more.
That last line is almost a self-parody of Rubio’s strained non-sequitur attempts to sweep away legitimate differences on policy with sunny city-on-the-hill rhetoric. Forget whether the bill is terrible, or whether it creates incentives for employers to hire illegals over Americans, or whether it’ll lead to another amnesty in 25 years, or whether it’ll worsen the entitlement crunch when legalized illegals start retiring. We’re talking about dreams here. And so I repeat a point I made recently: Did candidate Rubio, the staunch amnesty opponent, never consider “dreams”? Did he never think deeply about this issue until after he was elected, despite debating it with Charlie Crist repeatedly in 2010? What changed between the time McCormack interviewed him and today, besides the political expediency involved in supporting amnesty? The answer, I think, is that America is the last, best hope of mankind, and a miracle birthed by the Founders, and we are not blue states or red states but the United States, so stop asking questions already, okay?
But now let me repeat another point I made recently: This speech isn’t aimed at you and me. We’re ideologues, and he kissed off the ideologues when he decided to support an amnesty bill. It’s aimed at the majority who pay attention to the news one or two hours a week, like the idea of bipartisan compromise and comprehensive immigration reform even though they really don’t know what’s in the bill, and will enjoy listening to a fluid hopeful communicator like Rubio talk about the promise and glory of America as a contrast to stiffs like McCain and Romney. The guy knows who his audience is, and he knows what he’s doing. That’s the one consolation for border hawks if he ends up as nominee — he’ll certainly, certainly be better at getting his message out than the last few nominees were. Who knows? Instead of losing 73 percent of the Latino vote next time, we might only lose 65.