In the CNBC debate, Governor Jeb Bush damaged his campaign by attacking Senator Marco Rubio’s missed votes. In part, Bush harmed himself by taking a picayune line of attack. After all, would you notice if one of your U.S. Senators was missing 30% of his or her votes? We live in political gridlock that renders pointless much of Congress’ activities. The second reason his attack harmed his campaign lies in the characteristically deft manner in which Rubio answered the charge. Like a man punching at the air after sustaining a staggering uppercut, Bush parroted the criticism of Rubio’s missed votes for days afterward, even as his poll numbers fell inversely to Rubio’s. Now, with a more solid footing, the bloody-nosed Bush insists upon taking down his protege with attacks on his youth and inexperience. This new line of attack reveals an unbecoming characteristic Jeb shares with his brother, George–mulishness in the face of failure. Attacking Rubio’s inexperience can only work if Republicans demonstrate that we have similarly failed to learn from Barack Obama’s presidency that experience has very little bearing on political success.
To be sure, judging a senator’s tangible accomplishments proves a difficult task. Senators’ primary responsibilities include participating in committees, crafting legislation, analyzing policy and voting. To that end, Rubio served on the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee; the Committee on Foreign Relations; the Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He worked with Mike Lee to craft a tax plan and worked with seven other senators to create a comprehensive immigration plan. In short, he’s been hard at work.
Furthermore, Governor Bush cannot be allowed to escape his own words in 2012, when he urged Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, to consider Senator Rubio for the vice president position.
“Marco Rubio is my favorite [choice],” Bush told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview. “He has more experience than Barack Obama had when he ran, and…he’s certainly got the intelligent acumen and fortitude to be a good president.”
Bush made these remarks when Rubio had even less experience than he has now. But, regardless of whether one believes that Mr. Rubio possesses enough governmental experience to be president, the very nature of the question neglects one of the most important lessons of the Obama presidency: governmental experience doesn’t matter.
Barack Obama ascended to the presidency after voting “present” throughout his short stint as Illinois’ junior senator. In office, Obama passed sweeping health insurance reform, redefined marriage, named two Supreme Court justices and filled the federal judiciaries with liberal judges. His lack of experience, in other words, did nothing to prevent him from serving the leftist agenda. Similarly, whatever experience Mr. Rubio has (or lacks) in 2016 will be irrelevant as he stares down 31 of 50 Republican governors, 68 of 98 Republican controlled state legislative houses, and a Republican House and Senate.
What should matter most to Republicans, and to Mr. Bush in particular, are the nominee’s values. More important than an incoming president knowing where the payroll department is located, is a president who knows that an expansive federal government shrinks individual freedom, that American retreat invites anti-American advances, and that expanding opportunity for all Americans will help us grow our way out of our economic stagnation and general malaise.
Again, Rubio meets these criteria.
As the campaign goes forth, I hope that Mr. Bush abandons his inane attacks on Rubio. At least, if Bush refrains from doing so in the upcoming debates, he can avoid suffering further embarrassing tongue-lashings from a man he named “the most articulate conservative elected official on the scene today.”
We shall see.