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“Same Script”: If “Establishment” Is Code For “Moderate,” Media Need To Stop Calling Rubio The Establishment Candidate

The press wrote this script a very long time ago: Senator Marco Rubio could become the favored establishment candidate in the Republican Party primary as party elites search for answers to the insurgent campaigns of outsiders Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz.

That note has been hit especially hard in the press since the Trump circus arrived on the campaign trail last summer: The GOP is hoping for a tempered, pragmatic savior who can appeal to mainstream voters and help Republicans avoid disaster come November. (“Allowing Trump to have its nomination would saddle Republicans with the worst nominee any party has had in decades,” wrote Jonathan Chait at New York.)

Rubio’s third-place finish in the Iowa caucus has only cemented that claim, with the press essentially anointing him the Iowa winner. He “may have won the establishment credibility he needs to stay near the top of the Republican presidential race for the long-term,” according to CNN. Reuters agreed, crowning “Florida Senator Marco Rubio and the Republican establishment” as one of the big Iowa winners on the GOP side.

But what happens when the facts change but the script does not? What happens when a so-called Establishment candidate like Rubio starts espousing ugly, divisive rhetoric that’s synonymous with the darker regions of Fox News and the Republican Party? What happens when he adopts radical policy positions that just years ago would have been seen as borderline even for AM talk radio? (i.e. Outlawing abortions even for victims of rape and incest.)

In other words, what happens when Rubio takes a very hard right turn and obliterates meaningful differences between himself and Trump? Between himself and Cruz? Don’t calming, feel-good code words like Establishment then become irrelevant and misleading?

I don’t think there’s any doubt that, overall, Rubio has benefited from very generous press coverage. Whether it’s the sweeping conclusion that he’s a “charismatic” communicator, the media happily running with his campaign’s spin that it essentially won in Iowa by finishing third, or the press’ steadfast refusal to delve deeply into the senator’s questionable finances, watching Rubio at the Republican debate last year attack the press as a liberal super PAC for Democrats was amusing. The truth is, pundits seem to revere him.

One way that affection is displayed is to ignore the substance of Rubio’s campaign; to whitewash the extremism now at the base of his pitch. To acknowledge that Rubio occupies the far reaches of the political spectrum, and that he’s actually sprinted there in recent months, taints the portrait the press likes to paint of him: establishment savior.

To me, establishment sounds like a placeholder for “moderate.” And in the case of Rubio, that’s a complete myth.

By placing the Florida senator in that wider establishment lane, pundits and reporters seem to suggest that he’s somehow part of a pragmatic Republican wing (does that even exist?) that practices common sense conservatism; that he’s separate and above those outlier disrupters like Trump and Cruz who embrace more political chaos.

This week, a New York Times dispatch placed Rubio outside of the Republican “hard right” that seems to be flocking to Trump. Reuters explained what distinguished Rubio from the so-called outside, even though Rubio seemed to agree with Trump and Cruz on so many issues, including their disdain for President Obama: “[Rubio] embedded his criticism within a more optimistic, inclusive message.”

But just because an extremist coats his divisiveness in “optimistic” language, doesn’t mean the campaign press should play along and portray him as something he’s clearly not. And yet …

Forecasting Rubio’s White House chances, FiveThirtyEight recently claimed that Democratic strategists are “terrified to face Rubio in the fall.” Why? Because of his establishment ability to broaden the GOP’s “appeal with moderates, millennials and Latinos.”

“Rubio is aiming to be the GOP candidate with the establishment credibility and broad appeal needed to win in a general election, a unifier who can bring together young, moderate voters, along with conservatives and evangelicals,” the Christian Science Monitor reported.

A unifier? Rubio walked away from his one stab at establishment legislating with the immigration reform bill that he, as part of the Gang of Eight, helped shepherd through Congress. But quickly finding himself out step with a rabid Republican base that’s adopted anti-immigration as its defining litmus test, Rubio sprinted so far to the right on this issue that not only does he oppose his own reform proposal, he’s connecting the issue to the rise of ISIS.

No unity there.

As for Rubio’s potential appeal to young voters and moderates, a central part of the media’s establishment narrative, the senator’s increasingly right-wing agenda certainly raises doubts.

Rubio opposes expanding background checks for gun owners, even though 90 percent of Americans support the measure, as do an overwhelming majority of gun owners and even NRA members. He opposes marriage equality and “believes some kinds of businesses, like wedding photography, should be allowed to turn away gay customers.” He doesn’t want to increase the minimum wage (even though he thinks it’s currently too low). He doesn’t believe in climate change.

From PolitiFact [emphasis added]:

Rubio will support anti-abortion legislation that includes an exception for rape and incest, but he prefers that the procedure be illegal even in cases of rape and incest.

It’s important to note that in terms of the “Establishment” branding, a string of recent Republican Establishment nominees for president, including Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain, and George W. Bush, all agreed that allowing abortions to be legal in the case of rape and incest was the best approach. Rubio, though, has broken from that model and staked out a far more radical stance.

And when Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering America, Rubio seemed to out-flank him in the fevered swamps, at least initially. “It’s not about closing down mosques,” he soon told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “It’s about closing down anyplace — whether it’s a cafe, a diner, an internet site — anyplace where radicals are being inspired.” (Rubio later said Trump hadn’t thought through his Muslim ban.)

Overall? “He’s been Trumped,” noted Peter Beinart at The Atlantic.

There may still be an establishment candidate lurking in the Republican field who can try to save the party from its own extremism, but based on the media’s apparent definition of Establishment, Rubio isn’t that person.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America, February 4, 2016

February 6, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio, Moderate Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ted Cruz’s ‘Flat Out Lie’ On Immigration”: How Do You Say Hypocrite In Spanish? Do You Know? It’s Ted Cruz

For Latino Republicans who have known Ted Cruz over the last 15 years, the candidate stumping across the country on an anti-immigration platform is not the rising talent they once worked with on the George W. Bush campaign, in the Bush administration, and then as Texas Solicitor General.

The Ted Cruz of those years was a whip-smart and audaciously ambitious lawyer who lent his considerable intellectual heft to the policies many Latino Republicans cared most about, including immigration reform. But during a CNN debate in December, as Cruz and Sen. Marco Rubio clashed over Cruz’s past positions on offering legal status to undocumented immigrants, Cruz said definitively, “I’ve never supported legalization, I do not intend to support it.”

Weeks later, Cruz doubled down, explaining to Fox News’ Bret Baier that he tried to amend the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration reform bill not to pass it, but to doom it to defeat. “Bret, you’ve been around Washington long enough, you know how to defeat bad legislation.”

And with that, Cruz’s bridge back to his former colleagues in Latino Republican circles began to burn.

“It’s just a flat out lie. Period,” said Robert De Posada. “There’s just no truth behind it.”

De Posada is a former Director of Hispanic Affairs for the RNC and founder of the Latino Coalition, a conservative Latino organization that worked with the Bush administration unsuccessfully to pass immigration reform. “My criticism is that Cruz can say, ‘Things have changed and I’ve changed my position.’ But don’t sit here and flat out lie that you have never been for legalization when the facts are very clear.”

The facts, according to De Posada and several Republicans who worked with Cruz in Washington and Texas, are that in Cruz’s past work for Bush and later as a board member of the Washington-based Hispanic Alliance for Prosperity Institute, Cruz helped craft policies to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and pursue legal status.

None of those efforts included granting automatic amnesty to undocumented workers, but it is clear in the minds of his former colleagues that finding a way to offer immigrants a way to remain in the United States and gain legal status was central to the work Cruz did.

A former Bush administration official who worked with Cruz during the 2000 campaign and later as a part of an interdepartmental White House working group on immigration remembered Cruz as an aggressive member of the teams tasked with creating a framework to pass Bush’s pro-immigration agenda. The position Cruz holds today was not in play in those years, the official said, in sometimes deeply personal terms.

“How do you say hypocrite in Spanish? Do you know? It’s Ted Cruz,” the former official said. “To know Ted is to hate Ted.”

The official described Cruz’s role on the Bush immigration agenda as working as a liaison between the office of public liaison and the White House’s policy shop. “He wanted to bring immigrants out of the shadows,” the official said. “That’s changed since the campaign and changed since the White House days. But of course it has. If it suits Ted, he’s for it. If it doesn’t, he’s against it.”

“It’s a disappointment,” said the official, who, like many of the people interviewed for this piece, referenced Cruz’s natural intelligence. “I think Ted could do a lot of good if he had a soul.”

But before the White House, Cruz worked in Texas as a policy adviser for the Bush presidential campaign, including on Bush’s plans for immigration reform.

When Charles Foster, a prominent Houston immigration lawyer, was tapped to draft Bush’s plan, he said he was told the campaign had a team of bright young lawyers to work with him. “One of them, named Ted Cruz, had in his bailiwick of issues immigration and he would be my contact with the campaign,” Foster said.

Together, Foster and Cruz worked for nine months drafting what would become the immigration principles of the Bush campaign and eventually the White House. The plan would not include amnesty like Ronald Reagan’s blanket legalization program, which immediately put undocumented immigrants in line for citizenship. But Bush would push for a path to legal status, an aggressive temporary worker program, and a requirement that undocumented workers who stayed in the United States would go to the back of the line for citizenship.

Foster remembers Cruz as a “very hands on” professional who never raised objections to the policies. “I assumed Ted was supportive of Gov. Bush’s positions, but I honestly can’t remember asking Ted if he agreed with the position and personally supported it. I assume he did, but we were like lawyers representing the interests of our client.”

After the campaign and two years in the Bush administration, Cruz moved home to Texas to become the state’s Solicitor General in 2003. Once in Texas, he joined the board of advisers for HAPI, a group of Latino conservatives that included George P. Bush, former members of Congress, and multiple veterans of the Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations.

While Cruz was a member of the board and its policy committee, HAPI advocated conservative positions to an array of issues, including its opposition to both climate change legislation and the Affordable Care Act. On immigration, HAPI strongly advocated for a path to legalization, including President Bush’s principles for immigration reform, as well as the 2006 McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill.

“It’s just bullshit,” said a former member of the HAPI when asked about Cruz’s contention that he never supported legalization. “That’s what pisses us all off. Don’t throw us under the bus for legalization and not take on the nativists and the crazies when you wrote the language. Stand for something.”

The former HAPI board member, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely, described Cruz as a fully engaged member of the group. Cruz co-chaired a 2005 event featuring Gov. Rick Perry and served as a keynote speaker for two of the group’s events. And because of Cruz’s legal expertise, board members said they relied on him to do the first draft of policy positions, including HAPI’s support for immigration reform. When he ran for Senate in 2012, HAPI hosted a fundraiser to support his candidacy.

In the 2012 campaign for Senate, Cruz’s role at HAPI became the subject of a bitter disagreement between Cruz and David Dewhurst, then the lieutenant governor of Texas and Cruz’s opponent in the Senate primary race. The Dewhurst campaign accused Cruz of “leading two organizations that support amnesty,” a position that neither HAPI nor the other group ever supported. But members of HAPI’s board insist that legalization for undocumented immigrants was always unequivocally a part of its platform.

HAPI no longer exists, but Cruz has gone on to become its most famous and potentially most powerful former member, an end to the story that many of his fellow Latino Republicans lament.

“When he went so far as to say he’s never been for legalizing, that’s where he crossed the line and lost people like me,” said Robert De Posada. “It’s a character issue where a lot of us are just like, ‘Um, no.’”

 

By: Patricia Murphy, The Daily Beast, January 28, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Graham Snubs Rubio Over Immigration ‘Cut and Run’”: His Snub Was Personal. Rubio Hung Him Out To Dry

Just a few weeks after ditching the presidential race, Lindsey Graham tried to shake it up Friday by snubbing a close Senate colleague.

The South Carolina senator and Sunday show perma-guest endorsed Jeb Bush this Friday morning, popping into a meeting room in a North Charleston DoubleTree hotel to praise the former Florida governor. And, since no Bush event would be complete without a discussion of Marco Rubio, the governor’s rival came up throughout.

Bush has done little to hide his disapproval of Rubio’s presidential politicking but Graham’s decision to get on board with the Marco-bashing surprised some. After all, Rubio and Graham are cut from identical ideological cloth when it comes to foreign policy, and Graham joined with Rubio in 2013 to push for comprehensive immigration reform.

So why did Graham opt for a low-polling former governor saddled with a problematic last name instead of teaming up again with his Senate ally? There are a host of interesting theories, but immigration was the most prominent issue at the press event where Graham announced the endorsement.

Flanked by other supporters and addressing national media, Bush charged that Rubio’s abandonment of his immigration reform efforts—the Florida senator decided to oppose his own bill a few months after it passed—reflected poorly on his character.

“Marco cut and run, plain and simple, for whatever reason,” the former governor said. “There may be legitimate reasons, but he cut and run. He asked for my support on a bill and he cut and run. He cut and run on his colleagues as well.”

Graham, of course, was one of those colleagues. And when reporters pressed him on the issue, he didn’t have kind words for his erstwhile ally.

“I’m not here to talk about Marco Rubio’s commitment to immigration reform,” he said. “I’ve seen Jeb has been consistent. All I can say is that I worked hard to pass a bill. You can always make the bill better. I never cut and run.”

Graham allies, speaking anonymously because Graham didn’t authorize them to talk, argued that the South Carolinian sustained more political injury because of his consistent immigration stance and Rubio hung him out to dry. They say Florida’s growing Hispanic population means Rubio could have stayed the immigration-reform course without seriously jeopardizing his political future. Graham, meanwhile, won the “Lindsey Grahamnesty” nickname from Rush Limbaugh because of his work on the issue, and faced two tricky primary elections because of his pro-reform stance.

In their view, Rubio’s repudiation of his own bill—four months after he voted for it—didn’t exactly make him a profile in courage.

And it seems to have made Graham’s decision to join Team Bush just a tad easier.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 15, 2016

January 17, 2016 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Jeb Bush, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Questions About Why Rubio Is So Soft On Immigrants”: The Irony In Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz’s Argument Over “Amnesty”

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are for now the only real candidates with a chance to become the Republican nominee for president (granting that Donald Trump, whatever his chances, is an utterly unreal candidate), and to Rubio’s chagrin, they are engaged in a dispute over immigration that grows progressively more venomous.

This complex policy challenge has been reduced to the question of which of them is more fervently opposed to “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants, but the debate obscures an odd fact. Though Cruz is getting the better of the argument, the substance of Rubio’s position on the issue—which he is now desperately trying to justify—is actually more popular with Republican voters. But in this atmosphere, when fear and resentment are the order of the day, even that isn’t enough to help him.

A brief bit of background. In 2013, Rubio joined with a bipartisan group of senators called the Gang of Eight to write a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate but died in the House. Along with increasing border security and beefing up the E-Verify system through which employers check their employees’ immigration status, it provided for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But it was an extremely lengthy path. They would have to register, pay a fine, pass a background check, and at that point they would be granted provisional legal status. After waiting ten years, paying another fine, and showing that they had learned English, they could apply for a green card. Then if they got the green card, they could apply for citizenship three years after that. So it could be fifteen years or more before someone who is currently an undocumented immigrant became a citizen.

As for Ted Cruz’s part, he offered an amendment at the time stripping out the path to citizenship but allowing undocumented immigrants to get work permits. Rubio charges that this means Cruz supported legal status for the undocumented (horrors!), while Cruz says that his amendment was just a poison pill meant to sabotage the bill.

While Rubio has backed away from the bill—he now says he learned that comprehensive reform is impossible, and the answer is to do it piece by piece, with the enforcement pieces coming first—he still says he supports an eventual path to citizenship. But he’s always careful to stress how long it would be before that would even be discussed, much less implemented.

So right now, Rubio is defensively answering all kinds of questions about why he’s so soft on immigrants, while Cruz is the one attacking (and Rubio’s counter that Cruz is kind of an amnesty supporter too has fallen short). Yet Rubio’s position on the path to citizenship question—yes, but after a lengthy process—is quite popular within the party.

It matters a lot how you ask the question, but polling shows that, as a group, Republican voters are perfectly open to letting undocumented immigrants stay in the United States. When Pew asked recently if undocumented immigrants who “meet certain requirements” should be allowed to say, 66 percent of Republicans say yes, with 37 percent supporting citizenship and 28 percent supporting permanent residency.

But the more specific you make the question, the more open Republicans are to citizenship. When pollsters have asked whether undocumented immigrants should be able to apply for citizenship if they pay fines and learn English, clear majorities of Republicans say yes: 72 percent in a January 2014 CNN poll; 69 percent in an October 2013 CBS poll; 63 percent in a February 2013 Fox poll (those and others are collected here).

Those results demonstrate that if you can assure people—even Republicans—that undocumented immigrants will pay a price and assimilate, they have no problem with a path to citizenship. And that’s exactly what the Gang of Eight bill did.

So why isn’t Rubio winning on this issue? One reason is that his position is complex, while Cruz’s position is a rather simpler “He loves amnesty!”—and simpler messages usually prevail. Another reason is that the candidates aren’t actually appealing to all Republican voters, but the somewhat smaller and more conservative group that will actually vote in primaries. And finally, Donald Trump’s campaign, not to mention the general atmosphere of fear stirred up by the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, has made anything resembling rational discussion on this issue all but impossible. Ted Cruz is capitalizing on that atmosphere with an enthusiasm bordering on the gleeful; he’s now airing an ad claiming that the Gang of Eight bill “would have given Obama the authority to admit Syrian refugees, including ISIS terrorists. That’s just wrong.” It should go without saying that his claim is absolutely ludicrous.

It’s possible that each passing day in which Donald Trump is on TV talking about border walls and excluding Muslims has the effect of nudging the Republican electorate to the right on anything that has to do with foreigners. But the polling results of the last few years show that Republicans are not a monolith, and there should be a market for a position like Rubio’s.

There’s another truth we should acknowledge in this debate. What a President Cruz would actually do on immigration is almost identical to what a President Rubio would do: not much. The last few years have proven that the Republican House has no appetite for comprehensive reform, no matter what the circumstances. And today’s GOP caucus is even more conservative than it was in 2013, after the sweep of 2014 brought in a whole new class of ultra-right members. Most Republicans hail from safe Republican districts, where they fear only a challenge from the right, so there’s no reason why they’d embrace comprehensive reform. The Republican Party itself may want to reach out to Hispanic voters, but your average Republican member of Congress has little reason to; indeed, all his interests run toward vehement opposition.

And if a Republican does somehow win the presidency, the urgency in demonstrating any goodwill toward Hispanics will be gone. So what will happen? The Republican Congress will pass a bill or two hiring more Border Patrol and ICE agents and building some more fences, the Republican president will sign those bills, and they’ll all call it a day—whether the public, including even Republican voters, would favor a path to citizenship or not.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, December 21, 2015

December 22, 2015 Posted by | Amnesty, Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Rubio-Schumer Gang Of Eight Bill”: How Ted Cruz Will Try To Destroy Marco Rubio

Imagine you’re Ted Cruz. Things are proceeding according to plan — you’re in second place nationwide and ahead in some polls in Iowa, you’re consolidating the support of evangelicals, most of your opponents are falling behind or falling away, and, after treating you like a fringe figure for so long, the media is finally taking seriously the idea that you might be the party’s nominee. There are only two guys standing in your way. The first is Donald Trump, and who knows what he’s going to do or say. The second is Marco Rubio and, if you can take him out, it’ll be down to you and The Donald — at which point even the party establishment that so despises you will probably rally to your side.

So how can you sweep Rubio aside and make it a two-man race? The answer Cruz has seized upon is immigration, Rubio’s soft and vulnerable underbelly.

This tactic came out in Tuesday night’s debate, when Cruz said, “You know, there was a time for choosing, as Reagan put it. When there was a battle over amnesty and some chose, like Senator Rubio, to stand with Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer and support a massive amnesty plan.” He even called a bill that Rubio co-wrote the “Rubio-Schumer Gang of Eight bill,” which is pretty low.

This attack isn’t surprising; that Gang of Eight bill has been just waiting to be exploited. Back in 2013, Rubio joined with a bipartisan group of senators to write the comprehensive immigration reform bill, which passed the Senate and then died in the House. Even though the bill had a lot of what Republicans wanted, Rubio was immediately excoriated by the very Tea Partiers who had championed his election in 2010, called a traitor and an alien-coddler because the bill included a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Rubio has since distanced himself from the effort, but it clings to him still.

Why is it such a big deal? Well, as Rubio knows, immigration is one of the main reasons so many white, older Republican voters feel out of place in a changing America. It was the subject of endless conflicts between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress. Obama’s executive actions on immigration are the evidence conservatives hold up to support their assertion that the president is a tyrant who ignores the law. Those executive actions were the cause of one of our many government shutdown crises. And it has been one of the main sources of conflict between the party establishment, which believed that the GOP needs to support comprehensive reform in order to make an opening with Latino voters and thus have a chance at winning the White House, and the base voters and conservative members of Congress who say, “Hell no.” So, as complex as the issue is, it isn’t hard for Rubio’s opponents to say that there’s a right side and a wrong side on immigration, and the senator is (or at least was) on the wrong side.

Cruz himself has been moving steadily to the right on this issue over the course of the campaign, though his precise position on the question of undocumented immigrants has at times been hard to pin down. While he has always opposed a path to citizenship, at various points he has seemed to support work permits that would allow the undocumented to stay in the country legally. This is what Rubio is referring to when he says that Cruz supports “legalization.”

But Cruz is now backing away from that position, saying in the debate, “I have never supported legalization, and I do not intend to support legalization.” Ask him about it now, and he’ll talk only about border walls and deportation. He has even come out in favor of repealing birthright citizenship, the constitutional principle that anyone born in the United States is a United States citizen.

When he gets asked about his work on the 2013 bill, Rubio has a long, detailed answer, one he’s repeated many times. It hits all the appropriate notes — slamming the Obama administration, talking about how border security must be accomplished first, noting that the E-Verify system has to be in place so employers don’t hire the undocumented, and explaining the lengthy process that would be required for an undocumented person to get citizenship, a process that could take as much as a couple of decades. His basic point is that once we do all the things Republicans want, then we can get around to thinking about a path to citizenship — but it’s so far down the road, it would be after he served even two terms as president.

But after Rubio gives that long, detailed answer, Cruz can just point to him and say, “Nope, he supports amnesty.” Which, depending on how you define it, is true.

Had the Gang of Eight bill managed to pass the House, Rubio would have been hailed in many quarters as a hero, someone who had broken the logjam, found a solution to a complex policy problem, and delivered the GOP something it desperately needed, a chance to win over one of the fastest-growing parts of the electorate. But as it is, that 2013 bill is a millstone around Rubio’s neck, one that someone like Ted Cruz is happy to pull on to make Rubio’s burden even heavier.

In the context of this primary campaign, it’s far better to have never tried to accomplish much of anything on policy, like Cruz. Rubio did try, and Cruz is going to make him pay. While the issue of terrorism may fade in the coming weeks and months, immigration will always be there in this campaign. And as long as they’re both in the race, Ted Cruz is going to pound Marco Rubio on it without mercy, until one of these two sons of immigrants leaves the race.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, December 17, 2015

December 19, 2015 Posted by | Immigration Reform, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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