Little Marco Rubio Is Trump’s Big Latin America Adviser. No, Really.
During the 2016 Republican primary, Donald Trump humiliated Florida Senator Marco Rubio. He called him silly names and crushed him in his own state. Like Ted Cruz, Rubio went on and on about Trump would destroy the oh-so-noble conservative cause, but they both eventually caved and endorsed Trump for president.
Rubio has spent almost four years as Trump's loyal lap dog, deflecting if not outright defending the president's worst excesses. You might ask what Rubio gained from offering Trump his certified, pre-owned spine. Politico has a theory. See, if you've ever managed to stay awake through one of Rubio's stump speeches, you'd know he's the son of Cuban immigrants, the kind of immigrants Trump likes because they are inclined to vote for him. Rubio's a vocal critic of the regimes in Cuba and Venezuela, and he opposes what he considers Democratic policies of “appeasement in the region." He's also popular with Cuban and Venezuelan exiles and their descendants in Florida.
Trump wants to keep the “bad" immigrants and asylum seekers out of the country because as another Trump lapdog once said, he's a “xenophobic religious bigot." He also wants to win Florida again, and he considers Rubio key to that effort. This is why he wants to keep Little Marco happy.
Politico claims Rubio's influence extends "well beyond his formal job title of Florida senator," which is good because he's never liked that job. He's apparently known in DC and in Latin American capitals from Buenos Aires to Havana as a "major force" behind the president's policies in the region. The administration seeks his blessing on “key hires" and Trump regularly reaches out to him on policy initiatives.
Former White House and State Department officials, as well as current Republican lawmakers, all agree Rubio is “effectively secretary of State for Latin America" — yes, the same Marco Rubio you are aware of!
Trump might've quenched Rubio's thirst for power, but Rubio is still humble.
Rubio rejects labels like "virtual secretary of State for Latin America," an appellation bestowed on him last year by The New York Times. "That implies we don't have a secretary of State and that's not accurate," he told POLITICO in an interview.
But on the other hand ...
If people mean it as a compliment, I don't mean to turn them off on it. But it's not like the people I'm working with or providing advice to need to be convinced to do these things." He describes his own role in humbler terms: to offer advice and "nudge us in one direction or another" in hiring and policy decisions.
Early into Trump's own nightmare regime, Rubio organized a meeting at the White House with Lilian Tintori, wife of Venezuelan opposition politician and then-political prisoner Leopoldo López. No one knew about the meeting — not even Trump's National Security Council team, who likely learned about it when the rest of us did, after Trump tweeted a photo.
Venezuela should allow Leopoldo Lopez, a political prisoner & husband of @liliantintori (just met w/ @marcorubio) o… https://t.co/HhgE51dtSN— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1487203166.0
Sweet Christ. None of those assholes can take a photo like a normal person.
Rubio's biggest influence is arguably holding a hard line against Cuba and working to roll back Obama-era policies regarding the nation.
"Rubio is seen in Cuba as the main person that opposes the Castro regime in the United States and the person that has the ear of the president," said Tomás Regalado, a former mayor of Miami and former head of Radio and TV Marti, the U.S.-funded broadcast network aimed at countering Cuba's state-run media. "If there was a moment when anybody in the administration said it's time to give a second look to what we're doing on Cuba, Rubio stopped that."
However, even a conservative Latin American analyst thinks Rubio is too focused on Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. The senator's demonstrated little interest in other Latin American countries, which do exist. (We've checked!) He doesn't seem to care about Mexico, for instance, leaving the nation's fate to the Department of Homeland Security and Jared Kushner, which is not a great combination.
Unfortunately for Rubio, which is good news for us, his tenure as unofficial secretary of State for Latin America is likely to end this year. Joe Biden is ahead of Trump in most polls and even has a healthy lead in Florida. We can't wait for Rubio's sad Bible verses when the election is called and his sphere of influence vanishes.
And now that you know things about Marco Rubio that you didn't know before, OPEN THREAD!
Stephen Robinson on Twitter.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."