Intellectual honesty is rarely a politician’s strong suit. But Florida Senator Marco Rubio showed us just how epic his hypocrisy is when he didn't denounce President Trump’s bromance this week with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. So epic it can only be explained by a line from another epic, “Lawrence of Arabia.”
To wit: There’s a big difference between a politician who merely hides the truth and a politician who’s forgotten where he put it.
Rubio’s hypocrisy belongs in the latter category. In fact, it should merit its own dictionary term – rubiocrisy (noun, adhering to one's standards only when politically expedient) – because it threatens to have broader and more serious repercussions here in the Americas.
The problem isn’t the historic Trump-Kim summit that took place Tuesday in Singapore. I, too, was OK with it; I favor U.S. engagement with U.S. foes when there’s an opening. Though it rarely yields short-term results, it usually gets America’s foot in the door long-term more effectively than isolation does. The U.S.'s failed half-century of non-engagement with communist Cuba was a good reminder of that.
But Cuba brings us to the real reason Rubio displayed such egregious rubiocrisy by giving Trump a pass for pow-wowing with Kim – for efforting “peace,” as Rubio tweeted, with the Nuclearized Nutjob of the North.
Two years ago Rubio, a Republican Cuban-American, accused former President Barack Obama, a Democrat, of all but selling his soul to Beelzebub by flying to Havana to meet with then Cuban dictator Raúl Castro. Rubio called it “one of the most disgraceful trips ever taken by a U.S. president anywhere in the world.”
Yet Obama never fawned over Castro as embarrassingly as Trump kissed up to Kim. Trump –who just six months ago called North Korea a "cruel dictatorship" – barely brought up Kim’s murderous human rights record in Singapore. Instead, he gushed that the communist tyrant is a “talented” guy who “loves his people” and they “love him.”
Compare that with Obama's speech in Havana, when he told Castro to stop fearing his own people – to let them “speak, and assemble, and vote for their leaders.”
It didn't win Obama many concessions from Castro. But Obama never made concessions to Cuba on par with, say, suspending military exercises with democratic South Korea, as Trump did, while getting only recycled denuclearization promises from North Korea.
Still, rather than admit his rubiocrisy, Rubio took his cue from his president and accused the media of being hypocrites for noting Trump’s missteps in Singapore.
“I too have concerns about how all this with #NorthKorea will turn out,” Rubio tweeted. “But I don’t recall all the ‘experts’ criticizing Obama when he met with a brutal dictator in #Cuba who also oversaw a police state & also killed & jailed his opponents.”
In fact, the media did criticize Obama’s missteps in Havana – like chummily attending a baseball game with Castro.
But the larger point is that it’s the height of rubiocrisy to call Obama’s Cuba diplomacy “disgraceful” but go milquetoast on Trump’s Korea diplomacy – a summit with a regime that starves its people to pay for its nukes – with a disingenuous tweet saying: Well, yeah, I’ve got some concerns about it, but Donald deserves a chance here.
And that’s where rubiocrisy becomes a broader problem for U.S. relations with the western hemisphere. Latin Americans have long viewed Washington’s own rubiocrisy – its policy of not tightening the screws on communist China because it knows it can’t, but tightening the screws on communist Cuba because it knows it can – as an indicator of how the U.S. treats not just the island but the whole region.
Their resentment has proven to be one of the biggest obstacles America faces when it wants to get the Americas on board with diplomatic initiatives such as targeted economic sanctions against the disastrous, dictatorial socialist regime in Venezuela.
That matters even more since Senator Rubio, under Trump, is Washington’s tacit point man on Latin America.
It would help the U.S.’s mission in the region if Rubio simply acknowledged that engaging Castro was no different than – and not as embarrassing as – flattering Kim.
It would help if he stopped kowtowing to Trump so hypocritically – I mean, so rubiocritically.