Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post is unhappy that Marco Rubio is ready to support Donald Trump’s presidential bid. He calls Rubio a “shape-shifter” and implies that Rubio’s support of Trump stems from the tycoon’s improving poll numbers.
Rubio has explained that wants to be “helpful,” not “harmful,” to Trump “because I don’t want Hillary Clinton to be president.” He added, “if you can live with a Clinton presidency for four years, that’s your right; I can’t and will do what I can to prevent it.”
A great many anti-Trump Republicans are ready to vote for Trump for just this reason. I’m not at that point and may not get there, but I don’t assume anyone is taking this position in bad faith.
O’Keefe may not believe that Clinton is bad enough to induce Trump’s Republican critics to suck it up and vote for the GOP nominee, but it’s a plausible position for conservatives to take.
O’Keefe cites the back-and-forth between Rubio and Trump when they were battling for the GOP nomination. Rubio famously called Trump a “con man.” He also described Trump as “dangerous” and “unqualified to control the nation’s military codes.” (Trump called Rubio “little Marco,” which is probably the nicest thing he said about any of his main rivals).
The “con man” charge is reminiscent of George H.W. Bush accusing Ronald Reagan of preaching “voodoo economics.” Bush became Reagan’s running mate.
The other rhetoric O’Keefe quotes differs only marginally from Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that Barack Obama couldn’t handle the 3:00 a.m. phone call. Clinton became Obama’s Secretary of State.
Rubio hasn’t signed on for a spot in the Trump administration; he simply says he prefers Trump to Clinton and will therefore back Trump.
In doing so, Rubio is keeping his word. At the beginning of the campaign, he promised to support the Republican nominee regardless of who won the nomination.
It is odd, then, for O’Keefe to call Rubio a “shape-shifter.” The charge would be more apt if Rubio refused to keep his word.
O’Keefe tries to support his charge by citing Rubio’s “abandon[ment] of his own immigration reform bill when it became unpopular among conservatives.” This attack is false and unfair.
Rubio, to my disgust, steadfastly defended his amnesty bill in the face of intense fire from conservatives. He helped push it through the Senate, “abandoning” the legislation only when as it became apparent it lacked the support it required to pass the House. Rubio didn’t lash himself to the mast of amnesty, but guided the ship about as far as he could.
Rubio’s pro-amnesty position was utterly wrongheaded in my view. However, I challenge O’Keefe to point to any position taken by any candidate in this year’s presidential race that involved more political risk.
I don’t mean to deny that Rubio is, in some respects, an opportunist. But so is every serious candidate in this race. Even Bernie Sanders, probably the least opportunistic of the bunch, has effectively admitted that his opposition to important gun control legislation was based on his desire to keep his Vermont constituents happy.
Hillary Clinton is probably the most opportunistic candidate. The issues as to which she has flipped are almost too numerous to list. Has O’Keefe called her a “shape-shifter”?
It’s not the role of a reporter to make accusations like this, even when he’s unhappy. But if a reporter lacks the professionalism to eschew such accusations, he should level them evenhandedly.