Politico Scrambles to Deflect Attention from Hillary with Silly Marco Rubio Hit Piece

Gary Cameron / Reuters
Gary Cameron / Reuters

I’d call Politico’s bizarre hit piece on Marco Rubio “thin gruel,” but that would be an insult to the hard-working scullions who have prepared thin gruel across the ages. It’s more like a bowl of lukewarm water sitting next to a bowl of thin gruel.

It’s two pages of writer Marc Caputo frantically trying to make Rubio’s sale of a house look faintly sinister. It gets funnier and funnier as it goes, especially when a quote from Hillary Clinton’s super PAC is dropped in the middle of the piece, as if the Clinton flack was a disinterested party with valuable insight to offer on Rubio’s potential political woes. Tip to Caputo: save crap like that for the end of the story. Dropping it early makes it way too obvious that this was a sloppy hit shopped to you by freaked-out Clinton stooges desperate to change the subject from her towering scandal mountain.

The story concerns Rubio attempting to sell a small, inexpensive house he purchased a decade ago in Tallahassee with another fledgling legislator named David Rivera. The two were friends and roommates at the time, but they’ve evidently grown apart. Rivera has been struggling with allegations that he funded a spoiler candidate in the Democrat primary of a congressional race he ultimately lost, none of which has anything to do with Marco Rubio. There was a point in 2010 when the bank initiated foreclosure proceedings on the house, because Rivera apparently didn’t pay the mortgage for a few months; an angry Rubio took over that duty and has handled it ever since.

Rubio and Rivera decided to sell the house after their tenant of five years chose to move elsewhere. The asking price for this palatial estate? $125,000… which is about $10,000 less than what they paid for it, having bought the place during Florida’s real-estate boom.

That’s it. That’s the whole story.

There is not even the vaguest hint that Marco Rubio (or, for that matter, David Rivera) did anything improper with the purchase or sale of this house, which cost about half of what Hillary Clinton will charge a university for giving a single canned speech. The house is probably smaller than the guest bedrooms in either of the sprawling estates Clinton owned during the period when she claimed to be “dead broke.”

But the post is entitled “Marco Rubio’s House Of Horrors.” No, I’m serious, that’s the title of the article.

It’s a thousand-odd words of mouth-breathing that struggles to link Rubio to Rivera’s difficulties, and even suggests that his purchase of the home casts doubt on his decision-making abilities, in a way that might damage his prospective 2016 presidential run. There’s even a pointless aside about how the neighborhood where the house is located was once flooded by a tropical storm, obliging neighbors to use canoes for a while. That’s not exactly a tale of suburban hell on par with the Amityville Horror. Hey, maybe that was the Angry Sky Gods punishing Rubio for being insufficiently devoted to the Church of Global Warming!

The wobbly little pigeon heart of the article is the passage where a Clintonoid strolls through to explain why we should forget about his preferred candidate jeopardizing national security and shredding transparency laws to run a private server, in what one of her own henchmen slipped up and described as a scheme to evade congressional oversight on national TV over the weekend:

“This will be an issue,” declared Craig Smith, a top adviser for the Ready for Hillary super PAC, echoing the views of many supporters and detractors alike. “When you run for president, voters and the press have an insatiable appetite for people’s histories, what they’ve done, who they are… It raises questions about his judgment, about the kind of people he would bring with him into government, into a campaign.”

Rubio declined to comment for this story or about his relationship with Rivera, with whom he bought the Tallahassee home for lodging when the two up-and-coming legislators served together in the Florida House. A Rubio spokesman and Rivera both denied that the sale of the house had any political motivations. The home’s tenant since 2010 recently moved out, and they’ve been trying to sell the house, unsuccessfully, for years.

Asked about the status of Rubio’s relationship with Rivera, which dates to 1992, when both men worked for the congressional campaign of Lincoln Diaz-Balart, spokesman Alex Burgos said in a written statement: “David Rivera is an old friend of Senator Rubio’s. His hope is that Mr. Rivera can put his recent troubles behind him and go on with his life.”

Can I offer a word of advice to Democrats and the reporters who love them? Don’t talk about real estate, kids. You don’t want people looking at Rubio’s little chump-change property in Tallahassee and thinking, “Hey, what about that dodgy deal with Tony Rezko that gave the Obamas a mansion in Chicago? And wasn’t Hillary mixed up in a gigantic real estate scandal? ‘Whitewater,’ wasn’t that the name? Funny how the media tried to sweep all that under the table, but now they want me to get lathered up about Rubio and his roomie paying $135k for a cottage and losing ten grand when he sold it a decade later…”

Most of the Politico article is actually about David Rivera, but of course if they called it “David Rivera’s House of Horrors,” readers would scratch their heads and wonder who that was. There really isn’t much to say about the titular haunted house; it’s just one of several gobs of political mucilage used to connect Rubio to Rivera. The most amusingly transparent example is Rivera’s ex-girlfriend, who was a player in his campaign-finance problem, sneering: “Marco wants little to do with David, and you can’t blame him – who would want that guy by their side as they’re running for president?” A photocopy of her business card should have been included with the article, for the convenience of reporters looking for help tying Rubio to Rivera in 2016.

Elsewhere in the article, we find quotes suggesting that Rubio didn’t bail out on Rivera completely or quickly enough — he’s too loyal, you see, and that shall be his undoing. Every conceivable slam on Rubio, every hypothetical critique you could imagine, is draped upon the insanely thin premise of this article like Christmas lights festooning that house in Tallahassee. Everything you’ve ever heard about Rubio’s finances, every disputed negative rumor about him that’s ever floated around Florida or Washington, gets dragged out of the cooler to pad the article out, until the reader forgets that the “news hook” for the whole flimsy mess was a perfectly innocuous real-estate sale.

There wasn’t even any way to make Rubio seem like a bad landlord; the departing tenant spoke glowingly of Rubio and his wife in a written statement and refused to be drawn into Politico’s effort to sling mud at the Senator. There’s one last attempt to make the house seem relevant again, with a half-dozen paragraphs still to go in the article:

Neighbors say they had little idea about the drama surrounding the house or the ambitions of Rubio. Caridad Tamayo, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years, said she didn’t recognize Rubio’s name. Neighbor Richard Linck said he knew about Rubio but had “no idea” he was planning to run for president.

“The reality is Marco wants to sell this house because it’s horrible,” one friend said. “It’s been nothing but trouble for him. There was the foreclosure. There was a flood that made it tough to get to without a canoe at one point. And there’s David. Marco won’t turn his back on David. But we all wish he would.”

Tell me you didn’t fall out of your chair laughing at that. Wow, the neighbors didn’t realize that seemingly humdrum three-bedroom house was actually the gaping maw of a political hell! Somehow we’re supposed to think Rubio disposing of a minor annoyance on his balance sheet, after losing the reliable tenant who happily lived there since 2010, is a major problem justifying 1,500-word analysis by political websites.

If that’s an example of Rubio’s “problems,” he’s in fantastic shape for a presidential run.