May 21, 2015

Marco Rubio to host South Florida fundraisers for Iowa senator

@PatriciaMazzei

To court Iowa, Marco Rubio plans to host three events next week for Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley -- in South Florida.

Grassley will hit three counties on Tuesday: Miami-Dade for breakfast, Broward for lunch and Palm Beach for dinner, according to an invitation emailed Thursday to some of Rubio's local political donors.

Breakfast will take place at the Coral Gables office of Jorge Luis Lopez, an attorney and lobbyist; lunch at the Pompano Beach headquarters of Allegiance Crane & Equipment, an equipment-rental company whose chief executive is Jim Robertson; and dinner at the Palm Beach home of Amanda and Chuck Schumacher, an auto dealer. 

Donors will have to fork over $1,000 each -- or $2,700 to get more access -- for the breakfast and lunch. Dinner with Grassley requires a $10,400 contribution, though $2,700 will get donors into a larger reception. The money will go to Grassley Hawkeye Fund, the senator's political committee.

"Chairman Grassley -- U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee -- has been very supportive of our friend and Miami's native son, Marco Rubio in Iowa and we proudly want to reciprocate," Lopez wrote in an email to supporters Thursday.

As one of two Republican senators in Iowa, which holds the first presidential caucuses of 2016, Grassley is used to being wined and dined by candidates. Jeb Bush attended a fund-raising lunch for Grassley in Iowa City last week.

May 20, 2015

Marco Rubio pens Miami Herald op-ed on Cuban independence day

From Wednesday's Miami Herald:

As we mark Cuban Independence Day this Wednesday, we must never forget that the only true form of independence for the Cuban people is freedom and democracy, and we must recommit our state and nation to the goal of helping them achieve that vital objective.

I am the proud son of Cuban-American parents and was raised in a community of Cuban exiles. The trajectory of my life has been a product of their support, of true freedom, and of a uniquely American ideal: that where you come from does not determine where you can go or who you can be. Yet just 90 miles from the shores of our nation are men and women of my ancestry and heritage who still do not have freedom. Yet they look to this country for the hope that they someday will.

I believe we must not fail them. In the last decade and a half, every single country in the Western Hemisphere has had a free and fair election at some point except for one: Cuba. The United States has always stood on the side of peoples around the world who yearn for freedom. But today, our president has decided to take a different approach. Not only has he forsaken our duty to advocate for oppressed peoples, but he has traveled many miles in the opposite direction: going so far as to pay homage to the whims of the very dictatorial regime that denies the freedom of the Cuban people.

More here.

May 19, 2015

Marco Rubio's Half Flip on Iraq

After former Gov. Jeb Bush’s comments about whether he would have invaded Iraq drew attention, other 2016 GOP presidential candidates staked out their positions, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace aggressively questioned Rubio on his positions in an interview May 17, asking him if he’d changed positions on Iraq.

After rolling film of previous interviews with Rubio, Wallace asked Rubio, "Senator, isn't that a flip? Six weeks ago, it made sense to invade Iraq in 2003. Now, you say it was a mistake."

"No, they're two different questions. It was not a mistake," Rubio answered. The two went back and forth in an animated exchange, with Rubio concluding:

"I doubt very seriously that the president would have gotten, for example, congressional approval to move forward with an invasion had they known there were no weapons of mass destruction. That doesn't mean he made the wrong decision, because at the time he was presented with intelligence that said there are weapons of mass destruction."

We decided to put Rubio’s statements on our Flip-O-Meter, which tracks whether a politician has shifted his views and to what extent without making a judgment about such changes. We found that Rubio’s positions have shifted over the years, but he hasn’t fully reversed himself, either. Turn to PolitiFact for the rest of our story and here is Rubio's Truth-O-Meter record.

How Marco Rubio tells the Elián González story

via @learyreports

Elián González is back in the news, giving an exclusive interview to ABC News and saying he’d like to visit Miami. “I want to take the time to thank the American people for their love,” said Gonzalez, now 21.

Marco Rubio practically watched the infamous raid go down in April 2000, and writes about it in his memoir An American Son.

Rubio was up at 4 a.m. that day due to the cries of his daughter, Amanda. “After I fed her and she had fallen back asleep, I decided to go by the house in Little Havana where Elian was staying. I expected something could happen that morning, and I wanted to be there to see it," he wrote.

He made the short drive through quiet streets and saw a police car blocking an intersection. “Seconds later several vans sped past me toward the house. I waited in my car at the intersection, and a few minutes later, the same vans sped by me again traveling in the opposite direction. I parked my car and sprinted the three blocks to the house. Hundreds of people were wandering around in disbelief, many of them coughing and looking for a hose to wash pepper spray off their faces. Media trucks and camera crews were everywhere.”

Continue reading "How Marco Rubio tells the Elián González story" »

May 18, 2015

Experts: Rubio’s numbers on military strength don’t tell full story

@CAdamsMcClatchy

Pop quiz: On the high seas off, say, South Florida, the U.S. Navy from about 1915 is churning toward a confrontation with the U.S. Navy of 2015. Who would you put your money on?

To listen to presidential contender Marco Rubio recently, today’s Navy might need to be worried – which defense experts say would misread the true nature of how a country measures the strength of its military.

In his pivotal speech before the Council on Foreign Relations last week, Rubio – a freshman Republican senator from Florida – laid out a broad critique of Barack Obama’s military policy, saying the president has made the United States weaker.

“He enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War II levels, our Navy at pre-World War I levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in its history,” Rubio said.

It was a reference Rubio had made before, including a showcase speech in 2014 focused on rebuilding American strength. In that speech, he did add a qualifier – but quickly indicated it didn’t matter.

“Some argue our equipment is more capable, so our forces don’t need to be as large,” he said. “But the world is still the same size. And even the most advanced combat aircraft, ship or soldier can only be in one place at a time.”

The issue isn’t a new one – and in fact came up in a 2012 presidential debate. And trotting out the startling historical numbers is something the Obama administration itself has done when trying to argue against certain budget cuts.

To Kelley Sayler, an associate fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank, the “picture is probably a bit more complicated and a bit less catastrophic than Sen. Rubio suggests.”

More here.

Marco Rubio has listed himself as 'white' instead of 'Hispanic.' News flash: He's both.

@PatriciaMazzei

IMG_4702Marco Rubio has listed himself as "white"  instead of "Hispanic" in applications to renew his Florida driver's license, according to records obtained by the Miami Herald.

That might sound a little like Rubio made a mistake akin to when Jeb Bush incorrectly checked off "Hispanic" in his Miami-Dade County voter registration. But it's not.

Here's why: Rubio is white. He's also Hispanic. And being forced to pick between the two is a false choice.

"White" refers to Rubio's race. "Hispanic" refers to his ethnicity. There are, for example, white Hispanics, black Hispanics, Asian Hispanics and Hispanics of indigenous descent. Rubio is a white Hispanic.

Most government forms, however, are not enlightened enough to discern between a person's race and their ethnicity. When the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department asks license applicants to fill out an optional race field, the choices are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, Other and White -- as if a person couldn't be more than one of those things at the same time.

The information isn't mandatory -- it doesn't appear on a driver's license card -- and some of Rubio's transactions with the HSMV over the years don't list any race. His 1998 and 2004 renewal applications list "white," as shown in the partial 1998 application above (the Miami Herald redacted Rubio's license number as a courtesy; other information was redacted by the HSMV). His latest renewal, from 2014, shows a blank space under "race."

Of course, there's no confusion as to Rubio's lineage. His name gives away his Hispanic roots, and he has made it part of his political narrative to tell the story of how his parents left Cuba seeking a better life for their children.

A Rubio spokesman said the Florida senator "doesn't recall" how he renewed his license.

"But this looks like a glitch since he considers himself an American of Hispanic descent," Alex Conant said in an email. "The fact that he is of Hispanic descent has been hard to miss since his first campaign given the fact that he's made his family's story a centerpiece of his public life."

The race-versus-ethnicity question is far from unusual in Rubio's diverse hometown of Miami. Some Hispanics have a personal policy of listing their race rather than their ethnicity, since that's really what is being asked. Others choose without giving it much thought, depending on the form and their mood on any given day. Since the options show a lack of understanding about what makes a person Hispanic, why bother taking it too seriously?

The U.S. Census has separated race and ethnicity, specifically over the question of Hispanic origin, since 1997. Perhaps it's time for all government agencies to do the same.

May 17, 2015

'It was not a mistake,' Marco Rubio says of Iraq war

@PatriciaMazzei

Marco Rubio got a little tangled Sunday when he was asked on television if the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

No, he insisted -- even though he said last week that, in retrospect, he wouldn't have authorized the war knowing that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction.

Rubio said his answers are consistent because the first question refers to what former President George W. Bush did with the information he had at the time and the other with what he would have done with the benefit of hindsight.

That answer didn't seem to sit well with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who asked if the conflict was a mistake, period, without giving it any qualifiers.

Here's a transcript of the exchange:

Continue reading "'It was not a mistake,' Marco Rubio says of Iraq war" »

Marco Rubio: I cashed out retirement account for campaign -- and new refrigerator, air conditioner

@PatriciaMazzei

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio told Fox News Sunday that he cashed out $68,000 from a retirement account last year to prepare for his 2016 presidential campaign -- and to replace a refrigerator and air conditioner.

According to a financial disclosure Rubio filed Friday, the Republican liquidated the American Bar Association retirement account Sept. 1.

"It was just one specific account that we wanted to have access to cash in the coming year, both because I'm running for president, but, also, you know, my refrigerator broke down. That was $3,000. I had to replace the air conditioning unit in our home. My kids all go to school and they're getting closer to college and school is getting more expensive," Rubio told host Chris Wallace. "And then when you're running for president, we just wanted to access the sum of that cash."

Rubio added that he still has federal and state retirement accounts and other savings.

"I'm not poor, but I'm not rich, either," he said.

Marco Rubio's private, influential wife

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- She didn’t want to be a senator’s wife. But she challenged him to man up if he had such a problem with Charlie Crist. When he reached the nadir of doubt and decided to quit the campaign, she persuaded him to keep going.

In the public life of her husband, Jeanette Dousdebes Rubio has been largely in the background. She smiled on stage during his presidential campaign launch last month in Miami but did not speak and appeared eager for the show to end.

“She is the antithesis of Marco,” said Javier Manjarres, a conservative blogger who has gotten to know the Rubios since the 2010 Senate run. “She is so apolitical, non-confrontational. I get the sense she would rather him be home cleaning up the dog poop and helping her out with the kids, and just working a 9-to-5 job. It’s stressful for her.”

Yet the 41-year-old, as poised in public as she is shy, has privately played a major role in Rubio’s rise, offering blunt advice and bearing the responsibilities of raising four children, often as if a single mother.

Stung by her parents’ divorce, she wanted a stable married life and harbored career aspirations beyond a season as a Miami Dolphins cheerleader. She got a voracious politician husband who has been ladder climbing since they met and in 2016 has emerged as a top contender for the White House.

More here.

Marco Rubio to appear on Fox News Sunday to talk foreign policy

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio is scheduled to appear on Fox News Sunday to talk about his foreign policy views with host Chris Wallace.

The show airs at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on the Fox News channel.

Rubio's appearance comes the same week he delivered a key speech -- the Rubio Doctrine -- to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. 

Defending the use of American military power, Rubio on Wednesday called for increasing military spending and for the U.S. to aggressively confront Russia, China and others that he says threaten the nation's economic interests.

In what his campaign billed as a major speech on foreign policy, the Florida senator sought to draw a sharp distinction with President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination who spent four years as Obama's secretary of state.

Rubio said Obama "wasted no time stripping parts from the engine of American strength," and cast Clinton as his loyal deputy.

"We simply cannot afford to elect as our next president one of the leading agents of this administration's foreign policy — a leader from yesterday whose tenure as secretary of state was ineffective at best and dangerously negligent at worst," Rubio said in his speech.

This report was supplemented with information from the Associated Press.