Michael Gerson tries to put a positive spin on Rubio’s spectacular immigration failure:
Rubio’s loss on immigration reform spoke well of his ability to appeal broadly in the general election and govern effectively as president. Cruz’s success in forcing a partial shutdown demonstrated only a talent for self-serving controversy.
It’s more than a little odd to say that a total failure reflects an “ability to appeal broadly in the general election.” Rubio rejected the thing that supposedly makes him broadly appealing, and he abandoned the effort as soon as it became politically dangerous for him. As soon as he encountered significant difficulty, he gave up because he didn’t want to jeopardize his ambition for higher office. No matter what one thinks of the legislation, that doesn’t reflect well on Rubio at all. People on both sides on the immigration debate have understood this for years.
Rubio’s embrace of the Gang of Eight bill was certainly self-serving in that he believed it was his ticket to winning the approval of party elites and donors. Little did he know that he would be the favorite of many of them anyway. His subsequent abandonment of the bill was likewise self-serving in that he preferred to protect himself from the backlash against the bill that he had unwisely chosen to support. No one can honestly confuse this with a profile in political courage or something that inspires broad appeal among voters.
Gerson cuts Rubio slack here because he assumes that the senator will return to his support for bad immigration legislation in the future. He expects that Rubio will once again pretend to be against something during an election campaign and then turn around and push for the very thing he promised to oppose, and Gerson has good reason to expect this. This is also why many Republicans can’t fully trust Rubio. Since he switched sides in the debate once before, it is reasonable to assume that he will do so again. Whichever side of that debate is most advantageous to Rubio’s own ambitions is the one he will take, and that should make people on both sides of the issue wary. Gerson’s right about one thing: Rubio’s handling of the immigration bill does tell us a lot about how he would lead. However, it doesn’t tell us anything good.