Why the Rubio Biography Matters

David Frum lends his megaphone to Soviet escapee Andrew Pavelyev for Rubio’s False Biography – It Matters. Pavelyev’s not happy with Marco Rubio — or the media’s response to Rubio’s counter-offensive:

First of all, we need to recognize that Rubio lied. Until more than a day after the publication of the story, his biography on the Senate website contained this sentence: ”In 1971, Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.” It is not an embellishment or exaggeration – it’s a lie. There’s no way to spin it. At the time his parents came to America Castro was living in exile in Mexico. He had not even started his takeover yet. In his counter-attack Rubio suggests that he made an honest mistake rather than lied: “My understanding of my parents’ journey has always been based on what they told me about events that took place more than 50 years ago — more than a decade before I was born. What they described was not a timeline, or specific dates.” With all due respect, this tortured explanation is itself a lie.

I can tell you from personal experience that if you come to America as an immigrant you never forget the moment. I immigrated two decades ago. My first child was born just two weeks ago. But you can bet that when he’s old enough to understand dates he’ll know the “timeline” and “specific dates”. And Marco Rubio expects me to believe that his parents never told him anything and that he never ever was curious enough to ask them when they immigrated or how long they have lived in America?

As the child of two immigrants, I can report that the part about immigrants knowing exactly when they arrived rings very true. And we were always interested in the story.

Furthermore, the Cuban revolution was the central event for his family and families all around him when he was growing up. That event was constantly talked about, and Rubio himself admits that when he claims having a deep understanding of what it means to lose one’s country (never mind its total irrelevance to American politics). Yet he never asked his parents what it was like to live under Fidel Castro, or how long they lived under him, or what it was like to leave Cuba at that time, or any other question that might possibly give him a clue that his parents never actually lived in Communist Cuba?!

We also need to recognize that it was a substantial lie.

It’s especially substantial, Pavelyev argues, because identity politics has been at the root of Rubio’s march to power.

Rubio would not have become the Florida House speaker (especially at such a young age), let alone senator if his parents had immigrated from Ireland rather than Cuba.

He’s got a point.

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2 Responses to Why the Rubio Biography Matters

  1. Randy Paul says:

    I tangled often with Pavelyev on Pinochet when Pinochet was arrested in London; you can’t certainly imagine which side Pavelyev took. That being said, he’s absolutely right here.

  2. Just me says:

    I am no Rubio supporter, but I am the son of Cuban immigrants and his version of things rings true to me. Everyone in the Cuban-American community wants to be a true political exile, but many/most simply aren’t. Many have convinced themselves that they are, and have re-written or selectively edited their pasts (not in a malicious way) to be political exiles. It would not surprise me in the least if Rubio’s parents believed themselves to be political exiles running from Castro by the time that Rubio was old enough to ask questions, or alternatively that they simply allowed their son to believe it.

    Picture the following possible scenario: set the stage of 1950’s Cuba, a true third world country in political and economic disarray under the control of dictator Batista. Parents-Rubio leave but retain the notion that they will return after they make a few bucks/things get better on the island/they raise a family in the stable US (pick one or any). Castro comes to power and things really go bad. Their dreams of a return are shattered. Although they left pre-Castro, they stay away because of Castro. Waves of Cubans come from the island and call themselves political exiles. Parents-Rubio feel as though they are in the same boat as the newer arrivals and cast their lot with them. Young Marco is brought up in the world of exiles by parents who feel themselves to be exiles. He is surrounded by a community of self described exiles to whom he has no reason but to believe he belongs. In his mind, he and his parents are Castro exiles.

    I suspect that the above describes a great many US born Cuban-Americans. Those of us in the Cuban-American community often (and mistakenly) assume that we all have the same story without actually digging in to the details of our own family’s individual journey. Thus, the myth grows and everyone suddenly becomes the grandson of a great freedom loving land baron who was driven from Cuba by Castro.

    I would like to give Rubio a pass on this and hold his feet to the fire on more substantive matters.

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