Love him or hate him, chances are you're reading this blog because it says "Marco Rubio." The Florida senator is a major source of political fascination, at least according to all the media interviews he has done and our web traffic.
Considering the wall-to-wall media coverage he has received with his new book, An American Son, it's probably no surprise that it shot up from 79 on Amazon's Top 100 to the clinch the 21 spot today (it's No. 2 in political memoirs).
Yesterday's won't-they-or-will-they-vet-Rubio story concerning Mitt Romney's campaign knocked the Republican presidential candidate off message for a day, but it gave Rubio even more attention. And more is coming. Though he canceled his "Daily Show" appearance last night, he's scheduled to tape next week.
With such star- and firepower, the Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia can't compete with his unauthorized bio The Rise of Marco Rubio. It has been out a little longer than Rubio's autobiography, but has yet to crack Amazon's Top 100. Or the Top 3,000 for that matter. It's 3,213 right now
"Constrained by lack of access to sources and perhaps by deadline pressure, "The Rise of Marco Rubio" loses steam as it moves from Cuba and Miami to the campaign trail and Washington. The author resorts to quoting his subject's Twitter feed ("There is great wisdom in resting on the Sabbath") and citing cable-news analyses of the politician.
"One sympathizes with Mr. Roig-Franzia. It's tough to get an entire book out of a senator entering his second year in Washington, especially one who freezes you out. But that's the peril of writing about an image-conscious and thoroughly establishment-oriented politician."
There's another problem with Roig-Franzia's take on Rubio, at least as he just presented it on MSNBC's Harball --it's pockmarked with falsehood and self-aggrandizement. The writer's first foray into the Rubio arena had some problems, which we pointed out. But he's got his story. And he's sticking with it.
When asked what bad stories would surface if Rubio were picked by Romney as a VP candidate, Roig-Franzia righly said tonight "You would see a lot of stories about his credit-card spending when he was in Florida."
Then Roig-Franzia got it wrong: "He (Rubio) got a Republican Party credit card, state credit card, and he used it for some personal things..."
That's misleading. It was a Republican Party of Florida credit card. It wasn't a "state card," a phrase which strongly suggests it was issued by the government. (If you want to know more about the card and its use, read the papers that first broke the news about it: The Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times, which Roig-Franzia conveniently neglected to mention on air).
"Then there's the story about his family's migration to the United States," he continued. "For those who aren't familiar with it -- a very core part of his political identity was that his family had been pushed off the island of Cuba by Castro. And in reality, I was able to find out that they came in 1956..... It raised questions about whether voters could trust the things that he was telling them."
First, it wasn't a "very core" part of Rubio's biography. Rubio's official Senate website got it wrong. Rubio's parents came to the United States under dictator Fulgencio Batista, not dictator Fidel Castro. Rubio's core identity was formed as the son of exiles in a community of exiles. And for those who say Cuban's are only "exiles" if they fled Castro, they missed all these Miami Herald stories from the 1950s.
Then there's this line "I was able to find out they came in 1956." Maybe because he read in September's Miami Herald that Rubio's parents came to the U.S. before Castro? Or maybe it was because birthers (that's right the Obama-was-born-in-Kenya guys) were the ones who gave the news media the information that Rubio's Senate bio was wrong and that his family came here in 1956? The Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Times reported that first as well. The next day, Roig-Franzia followed up with his piece that embellished the level of Rubio's embellishments. And it failed to mention his birther sources.
So Roig-Franzia didn't discover the date. Birthers did. The Washington Post didn't report that first (actually, it said nothing of the birthers). The Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times did.
So when he notes that Rubio's mistatements "raised questions about whether voters could trust the things that he was telling them," perhaps the same thing could be said of the Washington Post's style writer.
Maybe, just maybe, that's a reason why his book is at 3,213.