In Cuba, Garcia had been a cigar-factory lector, hired to read books to the rollers. Rubio inherited that speaking ability as well — in both English and Spanish — which is clear to any witness of his speeches.
Part of Rubio has always insisted that a good amount of politics is all show.
“Sometimes I feel as if I have joined a theater company where every vote and every statement is calculated for maximum political effect rather than public benefit,” he writes of the U.S. Senate.
Rubio views political campaigns in much the same way. His book addresses — and dismisses — the hits he took in the press over the years related to his handling of the state budget, and questionable expenses related to his political committee and his Republican Party of Florida credit card.
Still, he acknowledges errors, especially early on when he ran for House speaker.
“My lack of bookkeeping skills would come back to haunt me,” he writes. “The press and Governor Crist raised the matter during my U.S. Senate campaign, implying I had pocketed money from my finance committee and used it to pay for personal items. It wasn’t true, but I had helped create the misunderstanding my opponents exploited.”
Rubio’s errors continued to nag him even in the U.S. Senate. A staffer inaccurately wrote on his official web page that his parents fled Cuba under dictator Fidel Castro, who took power in 1959. Instead, they fled dictator Fulgencio Batista’s Cuba, in 1956, primarily for economic reasons.
Rubio doesn’t explicitly mention his culpability in the error, but faults those who tried to turn the exile mix-up into a political hit.
Rubio says little about how he had to jettison his close friend and political ally, Hialeah Rep. Ralph Arza, from his House leadership team for making racially offensive statements connected to a Miami-Dade schools superintendent. Rubio doesn’t mention it, but black lawmakers threatened to boycott Rubio’s swearing in as speaker if Arza stayed. Arza, who apologized and made amends, left.
The decision pained Rubio at the time. Miami-Dade’s Cuban-American lawmakers despise turning their backs on longtime friends. But he had to. Still, many Miami Republicans felt he should have stuck with Arza.
Today, as Congressman David Rivera faces a federal probe into questionable financial dealings, Rubio has stood by his longtime friend.
At that time, Rubio was a West Miami city commissioner. He had been elected the year before. He writes of the walks and talks he had with seniors in their homes, how he’d earn their trust and learn their stories and his own sense of history over sips of sweet, redolent Cuban coffee.
“I had grown up in a Cuban American home, but… I don’t think I really knew where I was from and who I was until I spent hundreds of hours in the company of the people who claimed me as one of their own,” he writes.
“On the streets of the small city of West Miami, in the early months of 1998, I discovered who I was. I was an heir to two generations of unfulfilled dreams,” he writes, “I was the end of their story.”
But as the nation looks at this American son and possible vice-presidential contender, his time in the U.S. Senate looks like it’s far from the last chapter in his political life.