It is said that historical events occur twice, first as tragedy and then as farce. But when it comes to Republican presidential frontrunners and comprehensive immigration reform, the results appear to be all farce, all the time. After all, in 2008 a John McCain desperate to win over xenophobic Republican primary voters promised he would vote against the very immigration bill he had sponsored only the year before, only to complete his 360 after securing the nomination. Now, the transparently cynical Marco Rubio is trying to do the same thing.
Magician George Oscar Bluth famously derided a "trick" as "something a whore does for money." Instead, Marco Rubio is trying to create the illusion that he supports the kind of immigration reform package needed to win over skeptical Hispanic votes in the 2016 general election, while still appealing to the immigrant-bashing conservatives who make up the Republican primary base. This exchange with right-wing radio host Hugh Hewitt show captures Rubio's contortionist act, as the Florida senator now demands draconian border security measures be added to the bill he helped craft:
HEWITT: If those amendments don't pass, will you yourself support the bill that emerged from Judiciary, Senator Rubio?If that gambit sounds familiar, it should. After all, John McCain first attempted the immigration reform double-reverse during his 2008 quest for the GOP nomination.
RUBIO: Well, I think if those amendments don't pass, then I think we've got a bill that isn't going to become law, and I think we're wasting our time. So the answer is no.
It was during a Jan. 30, 2008 Republican debate that Sen. McCain abandoned the bill he unsuccessfully championed just the previous year:
Q: At this point, if your original proposal came to a vote on the Senate floor, would you vote for it? [...]With the nomination won and Latino voters to win over for the general election, McCain tried to return to his role as the leader of comprehensive immigration reform. Hispanic voters weren't buying his act, and on Election Day delivered their ballots to Barack Obama by a 66 to 32 percent margin. Four years later, Mitt Romney self-deported more Latino voters to the Democratic Party, losing that vital demographic block by a staggering 71 to 27 percent.
McCAIN: No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first.
Hoping to catapult his White House hopes and rescue his Republican Party in 2016, Marco Rubio is trying to perform McCain's trick. But as McCain learned the hard way, voters know what a trick is.