Ronald Reagan, who is almost deified by many Republican politicians, was not quite the person that the legend seems to have created. Yes he railed against taxes, but he raised taxes. He complained about Democrats but was perfectly comfortable working with Speaker Tip O’Neil. Reagan helped end the cold war, but he got muddied by the Iran arms deals. One might be reminded about a closing line in the movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, “This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
Reagan is also famous for invoking the Republican “11th Commandment” – speak no evil of a fellow Republican. That was his stated position in his 1976 campaign to take the Republican nomination away from President Gerald Ford. Reagan stuck with the commandment until he realized he was falling behind Ford. So by the time he got to the North Carolina primary the commandment was set aside and he started attacking Ford. The more he did so, the better he did, and he fell just short of winning the Republican nomination.
With all that in mind, it is interesting to follow developments in the 2016 Republican presidential contest. Sooner or later Carson, Bush, Christie, Kasich, Paul, Fiorina, Huckabee, Graham, Santorum and Pataki will be history. Trump, with his attraction to the less educated, more financially challenged portion of the Republican electorate, will hold on longer because his appeal to people is basically unaffected by messy things like facts and logic and it is thus easier to hold on to supporters. But Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will be there for the long haul.
Rubio has prided himself on being above the fray. He has been the living embodiment of the 11th commandment, keeping everything positive.
That was then. The New York Times on December 6th, however, reported on Rubio’s change of tactics as they relate to Ted Cruz.
“(Rubio campaign operatives) plainly believe in the need to stop Mr. Cruz. And that is a striking turnabout from October, when Mr. Rubio embarrassed Jeb Bush by saying in a debate that Mr. Bush was criticizing him because “someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.” His own campaign, Mr. Rubio said, “would not be about attacking anyone else on this stage.”
Appearing recently on a conservative radio show in Iowa, Mr. Rubio was asked what had changed.
“I personally like Ted very much,” Mr. Rubio responded. “We get along well.”
Then he dived into another attack, saying that Mr. Cruz had “voted to weaken our intelligence programs at a time when intelligence is a critical component in the war on terror.”
Cruz for his part has also, but less frequently, posed as a good, God-fearing 11th commandment Republican, except when he is doing such things as calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the floor of the Senate. Witness Cruz’s defense of other debate participants as he responded to the types of questions that the MSNBC reporters were asking during the October 28th debate. You would almost think that he was a team player.
As the Times story noted,
Mr. Cruz has struck back (at Rubio), reminding conservatives of Mr. Rubio’s work with Mr. Schumer on immigration. And he can barely restrain his glee about how the campaign is shaping up, less than two months until Iowa votes.
The food fight, of course, is not limited to just Cruz and Rubio. Trump, Bush, Kasich, Graham, Pataki – all are throwing shots at one another. The 11th Commandment is a fiction. Trump seems to be made of Teflon, but the others are getting hit both by the hits they are taking and by the fact that they have gone negative. The old political axiom about creating your own identify before going after your opponent seems to be going the way of a landline telephone.
One of the main things that some politicians and the far-right media like to go after is “political correctness.” What some would characterize as being polite and respectful to others is seen as wimpy and coddling by the true believers. Some candidates and officeholders and their loyal band of columnists, TV pundits and radio talk show hosts would have you believe that they are the only people who speak in a daring, truthful, tell-it-like-it-is manner. Except that they don’t.
Ted Cruz, three days after the mass murder by terrorists using assault weapons in San Bernardino, had the audacity to show up at and participate in a gun show in Iowa. Undoubtedly, he and his supporters and his media followers see this as some kind of bold, non-politically correct move. No need to go out of the way to express anything more than sympathy and prayers for the tragedy in California.
But think for a moment about what Cruz was doing in Iowa and what Rubio and Bush and Christie, etc. are doing and saying wherever they were in the past few days. They were carrying out their own version of political correctness. This is because political correctness, for these presidential candidates, means saying whatever their base of supporters they have, or the base of supporters they want to have, wants to hear. Their base wants their candidates to say directly or imply clearly that we all need guns to defend ourselves; that we cannot trust people of certain ethnicity or religion; that we dare not to compromise our political positions because they know that only they know what is correct and good.
Democratic politicians certainly appeal to their respective bases too, but political correctness is not a Democratic affliction alone. The Ted Cruzs, Marco Rubios and Donald Trumps of the world all practice political correctness too. The main difference between the two parties, it seems to me, is that Democrats are more likely to listen to someone else’s point of view, while many Republicans cannot accept anything but what they believe in as the absolute truth.
These different approaches also seem to explain why some people cannot even accept the results of elections that do not go their way, because how could anyone think other than the way they do? That’s why Mitch McConnell, in a moment of truthiness several years ago, admitted that his party’s only objective was to politically defeat Barack Obama. That’s why House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy came to explain what the Benghazi hearings were all about.
Speaker Silver and Speaker Rubio
Readers are undoubtedly aware of the fact that former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted recently of various charges relating to political corruption and ethics violations. Silver was found to have used the powers and opportunities of his office to benefit himself financially through his law firm connections. Pending appeal, Sheldon Silver at the moment is likely headed to jail.
Marco Rubio served as Speaker of the Florida Assembly for just two years, given Florida’s term limit requirements. Rubio is also a lawyer and now a candidate for president of the United States.
Like other candidates, Rubio does his best to write the narrative of his life into a compelling story that supports his candidacy. Some things, however, get glossed over or simply overlooked.
The Washington Post on December 3rd published a report that examines Rubio’s efforts to parlay his work as Assembly Speaker to benefit himself financially through his law firm connections. At the moment Rubio’s stock is rising in the presidential polls.
Here are a few highlights of the Post story:
As Marco Rubio considered his options for a new career after stepping down as Florida House speaker, he found that the housing bust had depleted demand for the kind of land-use law he had practiced in the past.
But Rubio quickly discovered that his experience as a high-ranking lawmaker could be a lucrative calling card.
Even before he left office in late 2008, his longtime aide sent a letter on behalf of a new private consulting group Rubio was launching, seeking business from a potentially major client: Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami’s busy public medical center.
That was an initial step in what became a profitable two-year stretch for Rubio between his time as a state legislator and his 2010 election to the U.S. Senate. Although he spent much of his time on the campaign trail, Rubio built a consulting and legal practice that made more than half a million dollars.
Rubio’s business deals during the period between his Tallahassee and Washington chapters demonstrated the ways he leveraged his enduring power inside government to make a profit on the outside.
Several of Rubio’s clients said the benefits of hiring a former speaker were clear.
Rubio initially launched his consulting career through his law firm, Broad and Cassel, which had employed Rubio during his speakership to help provide advice and recruit more Hispanic partners. With the housing market faltering and Rubio looking for new opportunities, the firm then tapped Rubio to head a newly opened practice called Florida Strategic Consulting, Rubio recalled in his 2012 memoir.
An early target client was Jackson Health Systems, parent of the crowded, cash-strapped hospital that serves Miami’s poor and uninsured residents and had looked to Speaker Rubio for help.
In his final year as speaker in 2008, Rubio backed inserting $20 million for Jackson into the state budget — in effect making up for a 2006 decision by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to veto a $20 million line item for the hospital.
In October 2008 — about three weeks before Rubio stepped down — his longtime aide Viviana Bovo wrote a proposal on behalf of the new firm to the Jackson Memorial chief executive.
“With the prospect of even more budget reductions and rate cuts looming on the horizon, our advocacy efforts will assist you in keeping JHS at the forefront of all legislative and budgetary decisions,” she wrote.
The hospital accepted the proposal on Dec. 1, just after Rubio left office, agreeing to pay the firm $8,000 a month. Officials told the investigator that the payment was split, $5,000 to Rubio and $3,000 to Bovo.
The Jackson contract shows how Rubio’s business model initially circumvented a state-imposed two-year ban on former lawmakers lobbying the legislature. Though Rubio’s new firm’s contract required it to “advocate the interests of JHS before the Florida legislature and local governments,” hospital officials told the ethics investigator that Rubio had promised to work only with municipal and community leaders. Bovo would handle the state lobbying.
This all goes to show that some Speakers are cleverer than others.