Commentary: Are some suffering from Marco Rubio Derangement Syndrome?

The Miami HeraldMarch 9, 2012 

There’s a new affliction in the Diagnostical & Statistical Manual for Political Disorders: Marco Rubio Derangement Syndrome.

MRDS stokes conspiracy theories, distorts facts and feeds the political machine of a 24-hour, blog-induced news cycle.

In many respects, it’s a mirror of Barack Obama Derangement Syndrome. But what BODS is to the right, MRDS is to the left. Together, they show the state of today’s polarized politics and media landscape.

Thanks to Obama and his successes and travails, MRDS was inevitable with the national rise of the new telegenic, well-spoken, minority freshman U.S. Senator with an exotic past.

Remember when conservatives, following a 2007 Insight Magazine report, suggested Obama was educated in an Islamic madrassa as a child in Indonesia from the ages of 8 to 10?" Turns out, it wasn’t a madrassa — a school that inculcates fundamentalists Islam — just a private school.

Compare that story to the liberal New Yorker earlier this month, which blogged that Rubio was at least “half Mormon” because from the ages of 8-12 he was a member of, and had been baptized in, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

“Marco Rubio and the All-Mormon Ticket,” said the headline in the New Yorker’s blog, which was wrapped around the hokey premise that Rubio can’t be on Mormon Mitt Romney’s ticket because the Senator is a Mormon.

Rubio isn’t a Mormon. But for his ‘tween years, he was essentially raised a Catholic, then brought the family back to the Catholic Church and, save a dalliance or two with some Protestant churches, attends a Catholic church now.

But once a Mormon, always a Mormon to the left, where liberal writers from Salon to the New Yorker have recently tweeted offensive statements about the religion. The New Yorker once decried religion-baiting, as it did in May 2008 when it called the Obama-is-a-Muslim story “slander.”

In both Obama and Rubio’s cases, their political and media opponents use religion to help spook away voters by making the politicians unknown, mysterious and therefore objects of doubt.

Obama was the first major target of the so-called “birthers,” who say he wasn’t born in the United States. Therefore, they say, he’s not qualified to be president. Now, they say, Rubio isn’t really a natural-born U.S. citizen because his Cuban-born parents didn’t become citizens until 1975 — about four years after his birth in Miami.

The birthers did spot one clear inaccuracy, though: Rubio’s website improperly said his parents fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba. They didn’t. They fled Fulgencio Batista’s Cuba before Castro took over in 1959.

The report first appeared in the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald. A day later, the Washington Post followed up by falsely implying Rubio had repeatedly and personally told the whopper. But he hadn’t. The Post then said that Rubio wasn’t technically a member of Miami’s Cuban exile community. That’s news to Miami’s Cuban exile community.

The liberal group American Bridge 21st Century — devoted to re-electing Obama – ran with the Rubio-exile story by posting a web video designed to make Rubio look like a liar.

So Rubio’s not just a phony exile. He’s not just a secret “half” Mormon. He’s also guilty of having “anti-Hispanic” views, the owner of Univision, Haim Saban, said in another New Yorker piece about Univision’s tussle with Rubio over the pro-immigrant Dream Act. The New Yorker, incidentally, failed to ask how the Hispanic lawmaker was really anti-Hispanic in his stances and didn’t mention that Saban is a top Democratic donor.

Armed with all these doubts about Rubio, the left-wing blogosphere is now wondering: why did the Florida press fail to vet the former House Speaker?

The question ignores the tough press Rubio has endured just from the Herald alone: using a secret budget maneuver to help a friend bid on a lucrative Florida Turnpike contract; failing to disclose a generous home loan tied to supporters; campaigning against budget earmarks while earmarking $250 billion in the Florida Legislature; striking up pricey consulting contracts with hospitals he helped steer money toward; big spending on a Republican Party of Florida credit card that drew the interest of federal investigators; railing against debt while making borrowing heavily in his private life; or allowing his Tallahassee home to go into foreclosure during a bank dispute.

For some in the national media and Rubio's opponents the rush is on to define Rubio and his past before the vice-presidential shortlister does it himself in his forthcoming book, "American Son," in which Rubio's office says he was planning to tell of his Mormon past and more...

Last week, MRDS reared up again when an Ohio reporter asked Romney if he backed the “Blunt-Rubio Amendment [that] deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception.”

Technically, there is no “Blunt-Rubio Amendment.” It allowed employers or the insurance plans to not subsidize it, or any other health treatment they felt violated their religious freedoms.

Rubio, who has his own bill dealing with just contraception, was one of 23 co-sponsors of Blunt’s bill. Yet there was no mention of, say, a “Blunt-McConnell” bill. Massachusetts Democratic opponents of Sen. Scott Brown, though, called it a “Blunt-Brown” bill.

At least one liberal blogger noted the reason for calling it a “Blunt-Rubio” amendment: Make Rubio sound like “an ultra right-wing hack.” And numerous reporters have referred to Blunt’s bill as “Blunt-Rubio.”

As with the other distortions concerning Rubio (or Obama), an ounce of research would be a pound of cure when it comes to clearing up some of the inaccuracies. So though MRDS is showing no sign of letting up this election season, there is an antidote. It’s called “Google” and, for reporters with an account, “Nexis.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this column incorrectly noted that birthers believe Rubio is not a U.S. citizen. They do not believe he’s a natural-born citizen because his Cuban-born parents didn’t become U.S. citizens until four years after Rubio’s birth in Miami.

McClatchy Washington Bureau is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service