The Beltway media villagers all declared Marco “Big Gulp” Rubio the winner of the CNBC debate last week based largely on atmospherics and presence — “he talks real good” — even though fact checkers later said Rubio was full-o’-crap. Says a question about his financial skills at the CNBC debate included “discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents.” PolitiFact rates this “False.”
(There is a reason why the GOP candidates do not want to be fact checked during the debate. What they call a “gotcha” question may actually reveal that they are lying to the public.)
The media villagers are enamored with “Big Gulp” and are carrying water for him, trying to boost his weak poll numbers with fawning reporting. The New York Times’ young numbers cruncher Nate Cohn today writes, Marco Rubio and Republican Party Seem Near a Turning Point:
Last week’s debate might have been a clarifying moment for party officials and donors, moving many toward deciding in favor of Marco Rubio and ultimately sending him on a path to the nomination.
Kids these days, they are so easily impressed. They don’t have the benefit of wisdom that comes with age and experience.
Not everyone in the media is playing along with the Beltway media villagers’ plan to elevate this man-child who doesn’t like serving in the Senate and who doesn’t show up to do his job, but wants a promotion to President of the United States because he likes the perks. That’s what got him into trouble in Florida.
Steve Benen writes, Rubio’s financial problems come back to haunt him:
It was largely overlooked in the post-event hype, but one of the more important moments in last week’s Republican debate focused on an issue that’s flown largely under the radar.
CNBC’s Becky Quick reminded Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) of his “bookkeeping” troubles: “You accidentally inter-mingled campaign money with your personal money. You faced foreclosure on a second home that you bought. And just last year, you liquidated a $68,000 retirement fund. That’s something that cost you thousands of dollars in taxes and penalties. In terms of all of that, it raises the question whether you have the maturity and wisdom to lead this $17 trillion economy. What do you say?”
The Florida senator replied, “Well, you just listed a litany of discredited attacks from Democrats and my political opponents, and I’m not gonna waste 60 seconds detailing them all.”
The problem, of course, is that the question — literally, every detail — was entirely correct. Not one of these claims has ever been “discredited.” Rubio’s attempt to deflect an uncomfortable inquiry was, by any fair measure, a lie.
And now that Rubio has been elevated to the top tier in the GOP race, the issue is starting to become more important. Just yesterday, Donald Trump told reporters, in reference to Rubio, “For years I’ve been hearing that his credit cards are a disaster.” Jeb Bush added that the issue is “fair game.”
The Tampa Bay Times has moved the ball forward with this new report.
It has become legend in Florida political circles, a missing chapter in Marco Rubio’s convoluted financial story: two years of credit card transactions from his time in the state House, when he and other Republican leaders freely spent party money.
Details about the spending, which included repairs for Rubio’s family minivan, emerged in his 2010 U.S. Senate race. But voters got only half the story because the candidate refused to disclose additional records.
Some of this is already beyond the realm of “allegations.” Rubio has acknowledged his misuse of a Republican Party credit card to purchase personal items, including using party money to repair his minivan, and charging $10,000 to attend a family reunion. The Floridian conceded several years ago that the story “looks bad,” adding, “I shouldn’t have done it that way.”
There was also an incident in which he double-billed the party and taxpayers for airline travel, though he paid back the money.
But the Tampa Bay Times’ reporting yesterday tells us the story is incomplete due to details Rubio has not yet disclosed.
Charlie Crist, Rubio’s opponent in 2010, tried to make the spending an issue, but Rubio rode a tea party wave to blow past the then Republican governor, the start of national attention that has propelled him into the presidential race. Through it all, Rubio has refused to provide credit card statements from 2005 and 2006.
“Those credit card statements are an internal party matter. I’m not going to release them,” he told the editorial board of the Times-Union of Jacksonville in September 2010.
Attempts by reporters and Rubio’s rivals to obtain them have fallen flat, leading to speculation about what they might contain.
The Orlando Sentinel’s Scott Maxwell added over the weekend:
[Rubio] entered the Florida Legislature nearly broke and with $30,000 in credit-card debt – but managed to live high on the hog thanks to a GOP credit card funded largely by special interests that wanted legislative favors. […]
Rubio has admitted most of this, repaying improper expenditures and expressing regret for what he called mistakes. But last week facts became “discredited attacks.” […] Rubio’s baggage is his actual track record – much of which runs counter to the virtues he claims to embrace.
Dear senator, with great [media] hype comes great responsibility. Ready or not, the scrutiny is coming.
Steve Benen follows up his reporting today. Rubio’s controversial finances keep getting messier. Think Progress has an explainer on Rubio’s credit card scandal. Marco Rubio’s Credit Card Scandal, Explained.
The New York Times reports that Rubio’s rivals are pouncing on the scandal. Marco Rubio Confronts New Scrutiny Over Use of Party Credit Card:
Fearing that Mr. Rubio could surpass him in polls, Donald J. Trump has started to mock Mr. Rubio’s use of the party account, calling him “a disaster with his credit cards” and suggesting that the senator struggled to live within his means. Trump taunts Rubio as ‘a disaster with his credit cards. “He has a very bad record of finances,” Mr. Trump said.
Jeb Bush all but encouraged the news media to pursue the issue Wednesday, highlighting his own voluminous financial disclosures and suggesting that scrutiny of Mr. Rubio’s handling of money was entirely reasonable.
The risk for Mr. Rubio, who has acknowledged “a lack of bookkeeping skills,” is that the credit card may become a symbol of a larger pattern of financial challenges in his recent past, including a brush with foreclosure on a second home in 2010 over late mortgage payments and the recent liquidation of a retirement account that prompted a large tax penalty.
The attacks are getting under his skin, and elicited a defensive weak response:
Mr. Rubio on Wednesday played down the importance of the credit card and fended off questions about his finances, portraying himself as an everyday American who can relate to the struggles of the electorate.
“I obviously don’t come from a wealthy family,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Oh, snap! Your going to have to do better than this. Donald Trump and J.E.B.! Bush are going to keep coming after you as long as the Beltway media villagers keep trying to anoint you as “The Republican Savior.”
Questions about character will bite you every time, Marco.
As Steve Benen said, “Put it this way: if Hillary Clinton’s finances were this messy, some of her documents went undisclosed for years, and some of her claims appeared dubious under scrutiny, isn’t it fair to say it’d be the biggest political story in the country?”