Marco Rubio?s Book ?An American Son? Reveals Mormon Past, Explains Immigration Views

on June 20 2012 12:50 PM
Marco Rubio
Sen. Rubio argued the economic policies outlined in President Obama's state of the union will not appeal to Florida's Hispanic community, when hard data suggests the opposite. Reuters

Marco Rubio's memoir An American Son is available in bookstores for those curious about the man who is in the race to be Mitt Romney's running mate. The Miami-born Rubio, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from their native Cuba, and Romney have more in common than right-wing politics: For a time, the Catholic-born Rubio attended a Mormon church. Rubio goes into this part of life in his memoir, among other topics.

Rubio has made his way into headlines in recent months thanks to speculation that he might be joining Romney on the Republican ticket. (Other names that have been thrown around for the VP job are New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Ohio senator Rob Portman, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.)

According to a Washington Post report, Romney assured reporters in Michigan that Marc Rubio is being thoroughly vetted as part of our process. His comments were in response to an ABC News report claiming Rubio had not yet been asked to submit any of the required paperwork for a vice presidential candidate.

Rubio denied wanting the VP job back in January 2011, according to a report in The Hill. But that was already quite a while ago, and the release date of Rubio's memoir fueled speculation that he would be considered for the job (Haley's memoir, Can't Is Not An Option, was also released this year in April). We will have to a wait a bit longer to find out who Romney chooses as his running mate. In the meantime, here are some highlights from An American Son.

An Old-Fashioned Courtship

After being introduced to his future wife, Rubio had a friend organize a strategic group outing because he wanted to get to know her better. That outing was a trip to the movies to watch the film Robin Hood, which Rubio noted starred Kevin Costner. (Interesting side note: Costner reportedly met with Fidel Castro years later to discuss his 2000 film Thirteen Days, a dramatization of the Cuban Missile Crisis.) Rubio and the future missus started a romance, although he was afraid it wouldn't survive the summer (she lived in Miami and he had to go back to college at the University of Florida in Gainesville). But the smitten young man was determined to win her, even if he couldn't afford to call her: So I wrote Jeanette numerous long letters, sharing with her the most insignificant details of my day in the hope that the comprehensive chronicle of my existence would somehow secure her affection for me, Rubio wrote. By the middle of October, I couldn't take it any longer. I jumped in my car one Thursday afternoon after classes and drove five hours straight to Jeanette's house. She was having dinner with her family when I arrived, but seemed neither surprised nor displeased by my sudden appearance. We spent all the time we could together that weekend.

On his Arizona immigration flip-flop

Rubio wrote about changing his mind over Arizona's controversial law that allows law enforcement to request proof of legal residency of detained people. Rubio wrote that he opposed the measure at first, thinking it would lead to racial profiling, but eventually changed his mind, arguing that Arizona's immigration problems are different and worse than Florida's: Florida doesn't share a porous border with a neighboring country. It's surrounded by ocean. We certainly have an illegal immigration problem, but it is mostly caused by people overstaying their visas.

Immigration reform

Rubio criticizes Democrats and Obama on what he feels are unrealistic goals for immigration reform. Today, it's common for Democratic candidates to make all sorts of unrealistic promises about immigration reform to Latinos in the hope of mobilizing their support, and once in office they fail to keep them, he wrote. President Obama was elected with a substantial majority of Latino support even though John McCain was one of the most outspoken immigration reform advocates in the Republican Party.

The president promised he would pass comprehensive immigration reform in his first year in office. He didn't. He didn't even propose a comprehensive bill despite having Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Why? Because the solution is a lot more complicated and harder to put together than Democrats ever concede.

A brief stint as a Mormon

Rubio spent part of his childhood in Las Vegas, where his Catholic family decided to join the Mormon Church. Rubio described becoming interested in the church's teachings (he eventually returned to Catholicism) but admitted there were certain aspects of Mormonism that didn't exactly fit with his family's Cuban heritage, such as the ban on caffeine consumption: Both my parents loved Cuban coffee, a staple in Cuban households, and could never permanently give it up in compliance with the church's prohibition of caffeine consumption, although they did discourage us from drinking Coca-Cola.

How Obama turned him on to national politics

Rubio writes that while he has always been interested in foreign policy, he was never interested in federal office. He wrote that Obama's election made him change his mind -- although it seems there were a few helping factors. In December 2008, then-Florida senator Mel Martinez announced that he would not run for reelection. Rubio also recalled a conversation he had with former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who, according to Rubio, told him he wouldn't run for the job. But back to Obama: While his election was inspiring, I knew he would use his presidency to lead the nation in the wrong direction, and we would need a strong conservative movement to restrain him. For the first time, I had a genuine desire to engage in federal policy debates, but no platform from which to do it.

Republicans are not far enough to the right

Rubio writes about his frustration with the failure of Republicans to counter the leftward drift in Washington with distinctly conservative solutions to our national problems after the 2008 elections. He writes that he disagreed with Republicans who thought the party needed to nominate candidates who sounded, acted and voted like centrists. Rubio wrote that this way of thinking did not make sense to him: President Obama had won a decisive victory, but his election had not established that Americans believed any less in limited government and a free-market economy than they had in the past. He was the most effective political communicator since Ronald Reagan. He was the best-funded candidate in history, and had an enormous financial advantage over Senator McCain. He ran during the most serious economic crisis in a long time, when the incumbent Republican president was very unpopular. And, still, almost half the country had voted against him.

Rubio Vs. Crist

Rubio doesn't exactly have kind words for the former Florida governor, his rival for the Republican nomination when they both ran for the U.S. Senate. Crist, who had opted to run for the Senate instead of governor reelection, eventually decided to run for the Senate as an independent, giving Rubio the clear for the Republican nomination. Rubio went on to win the election. Rubio slammed Crist in his book for presenting a moderate front: He was clearly trying to create the perception he was a courageous, fighting centrist who would take the party back from conservative ideologues, which, more often than not, meant house Republicans, and particularly me. He often used me as his foil, playing to the liberals' view that I was an out-of-touch, stuck-in-the-past, right-wing disciple of Jeb Bush.

Marco Rubio's memoir An American Son is on sale in bookstores and available electronically.

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