Yesterday I published a post debunking the Washington Post's false and defamatory attack on Marco Rubio, "Aggressively Stupid: WaPo Attacks on Marco Rubio." There was a lot of media attention on this story during the past twenty four hours, and it was overwhelmingly in support of Rubio and scathingly critical of WaPo.
At best, Rubio was imprecise in his description of family history that happened fifteen years before he was born. Quelle horreur! Seriously. That's all this faux-controversy is about. Ask me when my mother's family moved to Florida from Indiana and you'll get a "ummm...1955? 1956?" in response. Families share their stories with each other; they don't exchange birth certificates and affidavits.
Anyway, here's a roundup of some of the reactions around the 'net:
Rubio published his own response at POLITICO:
If The Washington Post wants to criticize me for getting a few dates wrong, I accept that. But to call into question the central and defining event of my parents’ young lives – the fact that a brutal communist dictator took control of their homeland and they were never able to return – is something I will not tolerate.
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.
They talked about their desire to find a better life, and the pain of being separated from the nation of their birth. What they described was the struggle they faced growing up, and their obsession with giving their children the chance to do the things they never could.
But the Post story misses the point completely. The real essence of my family’s story is not about the date my parents first entered the United States. Or whether they traveled back and forth between the two nations. Or even the date they left Fidel Castro’s Cuba forever and permanently settled here.
The essence of my family story is why they came to America in the first place; and why they had to stay...
I am the son of immigrants and exiles, raised by people who know all too well that you can lose your country. By people who know firsthand that America is a very special place.
My father spent the last 50 years of his life separated from the nation of his birth. Separated from his two brothers, who died in Cuba in the 1980s. Unable to show us where he played baseball as a boy. Where he met my mother. Unable to visit his parents’ grave.
My mother has spent the last 50 years separated from her native land as well. Unable to take us to her family’s farm, to her schools or to the notary office where she married my father.
A few years ago, using Google Earth, I attempted to take my parents back to Cuba. We found the rooftop of the house where my father was born. What I wouldn’t give to visit these places where my story really began, before I was born.
One day, when Cuba is free, I will. But I wish I could have done it with my parents.
The Post story misses the entire point about my family and why their story is relevant. People didn’t vote for me because they thought my parents came in 1961, or 1956, or any other year. Among other things, they voted for me because, as the son of immigrants, I know how special America really is. As the son of exiles, I know how much it hurts to lose your country.
Ultimately what The Post writes is not that important to me. I am the son of exiles. I inherited two generations of unfulfilled dreams. This is a story that needs no embellishing.
Babalu Blog | Alberto de la Cruz | Cong. Ros-Lehtinen's Statement On Washington Post Article Regarding Senator Rubio
October 21, 2011
Cong. Ros-Lehtinen’s Statement On Washington Post Article Regarding Senator Rubio
Miami, Florida – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued the following statement regarding the Washington Post article on Senator Marco Rubio:
"Marco's family experience is that of the typical Cuban exile family, and there should be no doubt about this. His parents were unable to permanently return to their native homeland due to the repressive Castro regime. They may have come before the tyrant assumed absolute control but communism is an evil system of government and they wanted nothing to do with it, as was the case with thousands of us.
The recent press article suggesting ill intentions behind the story of Marco's parent’s arrival to the US shows a complete lack of knowledge for what his parents, my parents, and others went through after their homeland was taken over by totalitarian gangsters. 53 long years after these tyrants came to power, the nightmare continues but we are all very hopeful that the end of the octogenarian thugs misrule is coming to an end. My political instincts tell me that the truth behind this non-story is that some find that a conservative Hispanic is an inconvenient truth."
A couple of points are worth making here. Rubio’s parents left Cuba 15 years before he was born. He wasn’t an eye witness to the events in question, so this isn’t on the same level as Joe Biden being a plagiarist or Hillary Clinton claiming that she dodge bullets in Kosovo or wherever. We all rely to some extent on the family story and what our elders tell us. He may never had had a reason to look over the old family box of documents until the press started nosing around. Given the fact that he has used their story in his narrative, he obviously should have checked the paperwork, but it’s possible that he just took it all for what he heard growing up.
...In other words, his parents didn’t leave the country because they hated Castro and communism. They merely refused to return to the country — for more than 50 years — because they hated Castro and communism. If you’re willing to call the former a case of “exile” but not the latter, you’re more of a stickler than I.
Rubio said the Post story was “outrageous” and left a false impression.
“I didn’t lie about the date. I wasn’t aware of it,” Rubio told The Miami Herald, noting his parents’ immigration from Cuba happened a half century ago and that he was basing his story on a family oral history.
“It’s irrelevant to the central narrative,” he said. “The date doesn’t really add anything. It doesn’t embellish anything. The date is less relevant than the experience, the experience of people who came here to make a better life and who could never go back.”
...In his interview with The Miami Herald, Rubio said what unites exiles is the pain of being unable to go home.
“The exile experience was painful,” he said. “The inability of my dad to take me to the place he used to play baseball. He was never able to see his two brothers before they died. My mom was never able to take us to the place where she met my dad, or where they got married. The things that people do with their kids they were never able to do because the place was off limits to them. It was just a deep part of their psyche. They couldn’t believe Cuba had become a Communist country. Never in their wildest nightmares did they think it would become part of the Soviet bloc or that the revolution would outlive my dad.”
The attack goes a bit astray, though, when it subtly suggests Rubio was lying for calling his parents "exiles." They were. Those who live away from home for a prolonged period are by definition exiles. His parents did that. Though they returned to Cuba briefly after they left, the Rubios decided they wanted to live in the US, not in Cuba, which soon devolved into a Soviet-style totalitarian state.
Here's a letter we just received from Andy S. Gomez, Assistant Provost & Senior Fellow at the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban & Cuban-American Studies. Disclosure: He's a Democrat:
The Washington Post seems to have very little understanding of the Cuban exile experience and what it means to be an exile. Marco Rubio’s family was forced to stay in America because they refused to live under a communist system. That makes them exiles. It makes no difference what year you first arrived. The fundamental Cuban exile experience is not defined according to what year Cubans left, but rather by the simple, painful reality that they could not return to their homelands to live freely.
Further, The Washington Post falsely and without proof, writes that “being connected to the post-revolution exile community gives a politician cachet that could never be achieved by someone identified with the pre-Castro exodus, a group sometimes viewed with suspicion.”
This is simply false. I have spent my career studying the Cuban exile community and can say with authority that no distinction is made within the exile community between those who arrived in the years leading up to the revolution, and those who came after. They all share the painful heritage of not being able to return home. It's no wonder The Washington Post made this claim without a single bit of proof to back it up. Because it doesn't exist.
In the Cuban exile community, there are many stories like Marco Rubio’s family. Many children of exiles don’t know precisely what dates their parents left Cuba, went back to Cuba or ultimately determined Cuba was heading in the wrong direction under Castro. But they do know that the reason they were born in the United States or now live here is because their parents are exiles because they refused to raise them in Castro’s Cuba.
At the worst, Rubio mistated some trivial facts that he thought were true about a chain of family events that occurred over 50 years ago - facts about his family that even he wasn’t aware of. The Washington Post could have stated that the Rubio family fled Cuba in 1961, which would have been just as accurate. Just like Univision’s dumpster diving report on Rubio mere months ago, the Washington Post is trying to create a stink about a matter which reveals far more about their lack of journalistic integrity than it does about Rubio’s supposed lack of candor.
Their “big” story today is on how Marco Rubio defines “exile community” from Cuba. The Postsays he embellished his parents’ story on their flight from Cuba as they left before Castro took over. Rubio denies the embellishment, however.
So, let’s recap. President Obama went to church a lot but never heard Rev. Wright say anything controversial. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mis-remembered being shot at in Bosnia. And Joe Biden has all of his embellishments that came to light in his 1988 run for the presidency.
The MSM missed all of the above, but when it comes to Marco Rubio, all of a sudden they’re the Hardy Boys.
Washington Post | Jennifer Rubin | Marco Rubio Hits Back (note that another WaPo journalist is criticizing her coworker's reporting!)
If this is the best they have on Rubio, he’s in no peril whatsoever. To the contrary, Rubio, having gone through a mainstream press attack, will likely endear himself to an even greater degree to the conservative base. If there’s one thing that all conservatives can agree on, it is their loathing of mainstream media.
RedState | Erick Erickson | Washington Post Reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia, Once Punched By a 70-Year Old for Crappy Writing, Does Birther Inspired Hit on Marco Rubio
Manuel Roig-Franzia has a well documented history of being an apologist for the Cuban communist regime and a hater of the Catholic church. He is also now writing a book on Marco Rubio...Now, there are two problems for Roig-Franzia. First, the communist apologist failed to actually quote Marco Rubio embellishing his story. The Miami Herald really destroys the piece......What’s more, Manuel Roig-Franzia does not say how he came to know these facts about Marco Rubio. But Gabriel Malor knows.
Rubio has been hounded since he rose to prominence by birthers intent on sabotaging any further rise he might have in politics. Malor notes, “Birthers intent on somehow proving that he’s not a “natural-born citizen” dug up his parents’ adjustment and naturalization paperwork. That’s where WaPo got the dates for his parents’ arrival to the United States.”
That’s right boys and girls. Manuel Roig-Franzia, who was once punched by a 70 year old for atrocious writing in a freaking style section, uses a Birther originated attack to discredit Marco Rubio and can’t even offer up a quote from Rubio.
And you know what? Even if he could offer up a quote, does it matter? How many of you know the full and accurate story of your parents and grandparents?
...And now we have this silly little hit piece on Marco Rubio’s story regarding his parents, which is not just so inaccurate that it’s being smacked down by other newspapers; it’s so inaccurate that it’s being smacked down by the newspaper’s own columnists. The problem? The guy who wrote the article – which implied that Rubio habitually lied about when his parents fled Cuba without actually giving proof that Rubio habitually lied about when his parents fled Cuba – is himself an apologist for the Castro regime (h/T: Erick Erickson) who was apparently willing to use Birther agitprop* (I have another word for it, but it’s unprintable). Actually, the real problem for the Washington Post is that Marco Rubio is a young, engaging, excellent rhetorician and politician who has inexplicably picked the wrong party to belong to; couple that with a certain bitter frustration that their side’s young, engaging, etc. etc. who they helped elect President in 2008 has turned out to be neither an excellent rhetorician or politician and you can understand their actions.
National Review Online | Kathryn Jean Lopez | Operation: Get Rubio Out of the Picture
Anyone on the left is “scared to death of him...and they should be,” another political vet told me. “It’s also why Clinton was trying to engineer Meeks dropping out in favor of Crist last year. The Dems know Marco will be on the ticket at some point and is very formidable.”
As [Pat] Shortridge puts it: “The Post story, on top of the recent Univision shakedown attempt, demonstrates the fear Marco strikes in the hearts of many liberals. They really fear the power of his voice, his ideas, and his personal story. That’s sad because he’s not a calculating, ambitious politician. He ran to help solve serious problems and it would be nice if the other side extended a hand and worked with him to do that rather than attack out of fear.”
...Is an exile someone who flees his country when a dictator takes over, or someone who can't return to his country because the dictator's there? Both definitions work. And in the "'58, '59" quote, Rubio isn't actually saying they literally fled Castro. He's unsure!
Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart: “And yet we’re focused on something that for most immigrants is a reality, which is that we get our information about our parents’ backgrounds and when they arrived and how they got here from talking to them not from checking their papers.” (MSNBC’s Jansing & Co., 10/21/11)
...But what happens when, as in this case, the story doesn’t quite pan out? Clearly the intention behind the story was to explode the myth that Rubio was the son of people who actively fled Castro’s tyranny. But Rubio never propagated that myth, as the Miami Herald item makes clear, and the best Roig-Franzia can do is to imply that Rubio wanted people to think his parents were refugees.
But he fails to make that case either, given that the only evidence he supplies is that Rubio once said his parents came in 1959 when, in fact, they came in 1956. Given that Castro didn’t actually take Havana until New Year’s Eve 1959, hours before the year 1960 began, no one but an eager anti-Rubio partisan would find what he said deliberately deceptive...
UPDATE: Here are three more links from Val Prieto at Babalu Blog: