One of the more pitiful soundbites of the Trump presidency. After all, not even Trump claims that he was joking yesterday when he nudged China yesterday to investigate the Bidens while standing on the White House lawn. Some Trumpers did use that excuse in 2016 when he called on Russia at a press conference to “find” Hillary’s emails, even though that was — at best — “kidding on the square.” But yesterday wasn’t a joke. It was part of Trump’s core defense of his Ukraine conduct: It’s not wrong to ask a foreign government to investigate a former U.S. official for corruption, even if that official just so happens to be leading the Democratic polls and even if he just so happens to be the only official you’ve asked about in two and a half years.

Why doesn’t Rubio just repeat that defense, however unconvincing it may be, instead of resorting to this “you got trolled lol” nonsense?

All I can think is that he’s a broken man at this point. Two and a half years of this circus have finally broken him.

Some people will tell you that Rubio still dreams of being president and that he’s doing what the Ted Cruzes and Josh Hawleys of the world are doing nowadays, pandering to Trump’s populist base and making excuses for the president as needed. I don’t see it. Rubio’s never been a populist and doesn’t go out of his way to pretend otherwise; the most he’ll do is crank out an op-ed now and then arguing unpersuasively that Trump-style nationalism and old-fashioned melting-pot pluralism are kinda sorta the same thing. I also doubt that he’s under any illusions about his viability as a national figure in a party that’s been conquered by white identity politics and a restrictionist view of immigration. Rubio didn’t even want to be a senator again, remember; he was prepared to step away from politics after his failed 2016 presidential campaign until McConnell and the party leadership begged him to run again. That’s not the hallmark of a 2024 hopeful.

So what’s the point of all this? No matter how much Trump ass he kisses, he’ll always be suspicious to populists thanks to his Gang of Eight membership and his hardcore interventionist foreign policy. I doubt he’d be the choice of moderate Republicans in 2024 either with Nikki Haley waiting in the wings to run. At this point he seems like a zombie senator, a guy who doesn’t want to be in Washington, doesn’t recognize the party around him, doesn’t respect its leader, doesn’t see a future for himself in it, but for some reason can’t muster the will to say any of that out loud. All he can do is mumble “lol nothing matters.”

Broken man. And not the first one on the Hill in the Trump era! I was reminded on Twitter that another broken man, Paul Ryan, once resorted to this same lame excuse when Trump was caught saying something he shouldn’t have.

The punchline is that I suspect Rubio’s post-Trump memoir will be one of the most fulsome in claiming how “troubled” he was by this entire period. Like Ryan, he’ll find his nerve to voice his concerns the moment it no longer matters.

Someone should ask him if he’s troubled by this. At this point, I’d be curious to hear his response:

A normal politician would balk at the idea that it’s impossible for a member of one party to credibly report misconduct by a member of the other, but a broken man who now believes “lol nothing matters” might lunge at it. Rubio’s top priority at this point is obviously just finding a way not to have to answer uncomfortable questions about Trump. Why not point to the fact that whistleblower is a Democrat as evidence that Trump has been framed, case closed? That would be marginally more convincing than “he was trolling about China and the Bidens.”