What Do Samuel Alito Sr. and Mario Rubio Have In Common?

Yesterday the Washington Post launched a rather weird smear of Marco Rubio, accusing him of “embellishing” his family history. What was the embellishment? Rubio’s parents first came to the United States before Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba; thereafter they planned to return to Cuba, and his mother actually did, but by then it was evident that the regime was Communist, so she came back to the U.S., where the family remained in exile. All of this, of course, was long before Marco was born.

So the Post’s point is…what, exactly? Rubio responded at Politico:

The Washington Post on Friday accused me of seeking political advantage by embellishing the story of how my parents arrived in the United States.

That is an outrageous allegation that is not only incorrect, but an insult to the sacrifices my parents made to provide a better life for their children. They claim I did this because “being connected to the post-revolution exile community gives a politician cachet that could never be achieved by someone identified with the pre-Castro exodus, a group sometimes viewed with suspicion.”

If The Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents’ young lives – the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return – is something I will not tolerate.

My understanding of my parents’ journey has always been based on what they told me about events that took place more than 50 years ago — more than a decade before I was born. What they described was not a timeline, or specific dates.

They talked about their desire to find a better life, and the pain of being separated from the nation of their birth. What they described was the struggle they faced growing up, and their obsession with giving their children the chance to do the things they never could.

But the Post story misses the point completely.

That’s putting it charitably. The Post’s story had the paper’s own Jennifer Rubin hopping mad. She points out, among other things, that according to the Miami Herald, “Rubio’s office has told both the Washington Post, the St. Petersburg Times and The Miami Herald that his parents came to the United States prior to Castro taking power. And he has said it more than once.” So the Post’s would-be scoop wasn’t just irrelevant, but wrong.

This sorry episode is strikingly similar to another story that also involved an immigrant father. When President Bush announced his nomination of Sam Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court in 2005, he mentioned that Alito’s father, Sam Sr. had come to America from Italy. In testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alito described his father as an inspiration to him in various ways. Then a major news story broke: left-wing researchers found a document that seemed to indicate that Sam Sr. had been born in New Jersey!

I heard Alito tell this story at the 10th Circuit Judicial Conference not long after his confirmation. It was entertaining–Alito is a very funny speaker–but also disgusting. The “news” about Alito’s father threatened to derail his candidacy. Left wing blogs and newspapers were all over it. The people who were shepherding Alito’s nomination through the Senate came to him in a panic, asking whether Alito was sure the story was true. Alito was perplexed; he told them that, of course, he hadn’t been present at the time, but his father had told him many times that he was born in a small village in Italy and was brought to America as an infant or small child. It had never occurred to him to think that his father might have gotten those facts wrong.

Investigators were dispatched to Italy. They traveled to the mountainous village where the Alitos originated, and combed through birth records from the early 20th century. Eureka! They found a record of Sam Sr.’s birth, proving that the story, as he told it to his son, was true. He was indeed born in Italy.

With hindsight, that episode was little short of insane (which was Alito’s point in telling the story). What a way to judge a Supreme Court nominee! The same is true of the Post’s story on Rubio. Now that Rubio is a rising star in the Republican Party, almost certain to get the vice-presidential nomination if he wants it, the Post and other left-wing newspapers are digging for anything that could possibly tarnish his image. How pathetic that they have to resort to pointing out that his parents first emigrated from Cuba under Batista rather than Castro! Like the birthplace of Sam Alito’s father, how utterly irrelevant!

Still, it is good to know that America’s reporters haven’t completely forgotten how to do research. Given the lack of interest they have shown in Barack Obama’s early life–that is, his life before 2004–to say nothing of his father’s history–and the studiousness with which they avoided learning anything at all about John Edwards, I thought maybe they had given up researching presidential candidates altogether.

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