Do the publishers of the New York Times secretly want Marco Rubio to be elected president? The answer to that question is, of course not. The left-wing and partisan Democratic slant of the Grey Lady’s news coverage (not to mention its equally biased and partisan editorial page) in recent years places Rubio squarely in the category of a candidate the paper wishes to stop at all costs. Hence, the series of background stories about Cruz that bore the unmistakable trademarks of hit pieces intended to chip away at his image. But unfortunately for the Times, their previous stories on Rubio— which focused on the speeding tickets he and his wife had received or the fishing boat that was wrongly labeled a “luxury speed boat” — generated an unintended reaction. It wasn’t just that the tickets reinforced his youthful image. The focus on trivial charges was viewed as biased journalism that generated sympathy for the Rubio candidacy among Republicans and seemed to validate his status as a candidate liberals feared. But whatever the ultimate intentions of those who make decisions at the Times, their latest installment in the category of Rubio hit pieces is likely to produce the same result. By publishing a piece that focused on the reactions to Rubio’s candidacy in Cuba from the communist government’s functionaries or ordinary people whose only knowledge of the senator is from Castro regime propaganda, the Times has once again given him an unwitting boost.
As I wrote last month about the previous Rubio stories in the Times, anyone who runs for president should and ought to expect intense scrutiny. Given the mindset of the liberal mainstream media, that sort of attention is going to be disproportionate if you’re a Republican rather than, say, someone whose last name is Clinton. But the more the Times attacks Rubio, the more likely it is that the Republican voters he needs in order to win the nomination will view him as someone they trust. The Cuba article only reinforces that point.
The conceit of the piece was to probe the reaction of Cubans to the possibility that the son of a couple that fled the island for a better life in the 1950s might be elected president. The responses were entirely predictable. While the Obama administration has decided to re-open a U.S. embassy in Havana as part of a historic rapprochement, the repressive nature of the Castro regime is unchanged. As I wrote last week, though President Obama think U.S.-Cuba policy should not be “imprisoned by the past,” the Communist rulers of the nation have no compunction about jailing dissidents, including prominent artists who speak out for human rights and democracy. Thus, the idea that either ordinary Cubans or government officials speaking on the record would do anything but echo the Communist party line about Rubio is absurd. A Cuban-American like Rubio who has spent his career advocating for Cuban freedom rather than détente with tyrants is always going to be denounced by any resident of the island nation who wants to stay out of jail.
Thus, the predictable denunciations of Rubio by those interviewed by the Times as an “enemy” of the Cuban people “who wants to kill us” ought to be taken with a truckload of salt. But as, Rubio indicated both in his comments to the Times as well as on Twitter after the piece ran, he’s proud that the regime views him as a threat to its continued rule. He rightly pointed out that the rote recitations of regime talking points the Times recorded and dutifully published merely reflects the truth of what he has been asserting about the unchanged nature of life in Cuba. Despite President Obama’s confidence that his engagement with the Castros will open up a new chapter of history, the only thing we can be sure of is that the regime and its supporters will profit from the move and the Cuban people will remain silenced. Moreover, does anyone at the Times think such barbs thrown at Rubio from regime operatives harms his chances of the presidency or diminishes his popularity among Cuban-Americans who largely share his views on the subject? Do they think it helps mobilize more support for President Obama’s proposal to end the embargo on Cuba?
But, as with the other hit pieces on Rubio, there is another unintended benefit to Rubio. Even as Times reporter Jason Horowitz collected attack quotes on the senator wherever he went, he also crafted a narrative that shows just how humble Rubio’s origins truly are. The notion that the son and grandson of working class Cubans could be president of the United States is a “storybook” scenario that awes even those who have been instructed to denounce Rubio. Just as the Times’s focus on Rubio’s supposed flaws (a youthful love of fast cars and a desire to get ahead) makes him more appealing, so, too, do stories that validate his “only in America” life story. Though Rubio tweeted about the Times story with the ironic hashtag #nicetry, he really ought to be encouraging them to do more of these. A few more such “negative” stories is exactly what he needs as he seeks to maintain his standing as a first tier Republican candidate with fierce competition.