Rubio's Lies on Immigration

At the February 25 debate in Houston, Marco Rubio revisited an issue that had first come up at the previous debate. On February 13, Ted Cruz said that Marco Rubio told Spanish television he would not rescind President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office, and Rubio responded that Cruz was lying. The transcript is unambiguous: Cruz had spoken accurately. And so it was disconcerting when on February 25 Rubio insisted that “I said very clearly on Spanish television… I said it will end in my first day in office as president.”

Memory is notoriously unreliable: it’s just possible that Rubio might at first have misremembered what he said on Univision. But after the controversy on February 13 it’s inconceivable that Rubio didn’t check what he had actually said on Univision. And when he did, this is what he would have found: “I wouldn’t undo it immediately… But I do think it is going to have to end. And, God willing, it’s going to end because immigration reform is going to pass.”

Cruz was clearly right. Rubio had not only said that he would not rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) immediately, he also said he would not do so until it had been replaced by legislation -- which means only after a long time, if ever.

On February 13, Rubio’s memory could have been faulty, but by February 25 it could not have been. The more recent statement can only have been a calculated, brazen lie. On February 13, Rubio had called Cruz a liar. By February 25 at least, he knew that was not true. His failure to withdraw the accusation therefore becomes another calculated lie.  

This raises a very serious problem for Republicans. Their opponent in November is likely to be Hillary Clinton, whose main liability is that she is known to be a particularly shameless liar. In 2012, Republicans ran the one man (Mitt Romney) who was unable to make a case against Obama where he was most vulnerable -- ObamaCare. Are they now going to nominate a man who can’t convincingly raise the issue of Hillary’s lies and deceit?

How serious is this issue for Rubio? Very serious, because these are far from isolated instances. All kinds of people have been discovering that the fresh-faced, innocent-looking Rubio makes a practice of deceiving and lying to them.

An important voice in the debate over illegal immigration is the chair of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, which represents ICE employees: Chris Crane. Crane said recently that “In my opinion, Sen. Rubio absolutely knowingly mislead the American people regarding the [gang-of-8] bill. He was not telling the American public the truth about what that bill contained. Every American will have to determine on their own what that says about his character, but for me I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust him again.”

Another important voice on this same subject is Ken Palinkas, who served as the President of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Council when the gang-of-8 bill was under consideration. Palinkas echoes Crane’s conclusion that Rubio deliberately misrepresented the bill to the American people.

The most comprehensive indictment of Rubio’s deceit is the detailed report released by Phyllis Schlafly on February 5, which chronicled in considerable detail Rubio’s persistent lying about the gang’s bill, and the fraudulent PR campaign in which he falsely reassured one major conservative voice after another (e.g., Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Bill O’Reilly) that the things that would be deal breakers for them were not in the bill -- though they were. Schlafly’s conclusion is that a man who lies so persistently should not be in consideration for the presidency at all. Rubio has made no attempt to rebut Schlafly’s report. Just imagine what he would have done if what she was saying was false! People running for president don’t just leave a devastating case against them unanswered -- unless there is no possible answer.

And now more and more people who used to regard Rubio as a bright new force for the good in the Republican party are catching on to a reality which is very different. Mark Levin now says (February 22 on Conservative Review): “Stop the Lies Marco.” On National Review Online John Fonte has just written a long piece on Rubio and illegal immigration which goes over much of the ground covered by Schlafly and leaves little doubt that Rubio’s integrity is seriously in question. On the Breitbart website, Julia Hahn writes that “in a Friday interview on Special Report, Rubio made four demonstrably false declarations to host Bret Baier in under 90 seconds.” 

On the subject of immigration, Rubio just lies and lies. To adapt an old joke: how do you know when Rubio is lying about illegal immigration? His lips are moving.

If Rubio were to attempt to raise the issue of Hillary’s lies, she could bury him with evidence of his own lies. To make matter worse, Rubio has tried to deflect attention from his deception by repeatedly accusing Ted Cruz of lying on grounds that are either false or trivial. Cruz’s integrity is an asset to the GOP, and to save himself, Rubio has fraudulently tried to diminish it.

Many in the GOP seem willing to put up with Rubio’s repeated dishonesty because they think he’d be the strongest candidate against Hilary Clinton. How wrong they are! When you are up against a brazen liar, you nominate a person of integrity, not another brazen liar. Nor can Rubio be the antidote to the Trump phenomenon. Trump’s support comes from his opposition to politicians who, like Rubio, try to ram amnesty down an unwilling public’s throat by misleading them. Establishment support for Rubio is exactly what Trump thrives on -- it will just make him stronger. The only viable alternative to Trump would be someone who, like Trump, and two thirds of GOP primary voters, stands against what Rubio represents. 

John M Ellis is a professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and chairman of the California Association of Scholars.

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