Opinion: Do we care what Marco Rubio really thinks about the Bible?
A vacancy opened up Monday on Ted Cruz's campaign staff when the tea party's favorite ex-Canadian was forced to fire a top aide, his communications director Rick Tyler. The aide's offense? Posting on Facebook a video that purportedly showed rival Marco Rubio gratuitously dissing the Bible, when in fact Rubio had done the opposite.
For Cruz, the episode fits into a disturbingly Nixonian pattern of dirty campaign tricks, such as suggesting just before the Iowa caucuses that Dr. Ben Carson was about to quit the campaign. Regardless of whether Carson should have abandoned his sinking ship, given the departure of seemingly every woman and child, he wasn't on the verge of doing so then. More recently, there was the mailer with the fake photo of Rubio shaking hands with President Obama -- which says something about Cruz, given that it's hardly a sin to smile when one is greeted by the President of the United States.
For Rubio, though, the real video isn't terribly helpful, either.
First published by a student journalist at the University of Pennsylvania, the clip shows Rubio passing Cruz's father and a staff member in a Columbia, S.C., hotel lobby. The staffer waves and Rubio says, "Got a good book there" as he walks by. Rubio pauses, says something unintelligible, then departs with the words, "Especially in that one."
The book turns out to have been a Bible. The initial version of the video included subtitles that claimed Rubio said, "Not many answers in it" before "Especially in that one," which led to a flurry of tut-tutting on right-of-center sites. Then the Rubio campaign weighed in with a newly subtitled version of the clip, which has Rubio saying as he points to the staffer's Bible, "All the answers are in there. Especially in that one."
Dulled by years of listening to non-church-approved music at excessive volume, my own ears can't make out what Rubio actually said. But taking his campaign's subtitles as gospel, the video shows Rubio declaring that a religious text has "all the answers."
Granted, it's not just any religious text -- it's one held dear by most Americans, and of more particular interest to Rubio, most American voters. But Rubio's running for president, not pastor, and the First Amendment requires the federal government not to favor any particular flavor of religion. And the answers the Bible offers about a given issue may not jive with those offered by, say, the Talmud or federal statutes.
Of course, even Donald Trump has pandered to evangelical Christians in the primaries, so perhaps Rubio's comments were more of the same. But consider the context: It was a chance encounter with a Cruz staffer who was seated next to Cruz's father. There are no votes to be gained at that table. Why would Rubio pander to them?
Maybe he just couldn't help himself, considering that he was in a public place with at least one camera trained on him. Or maybe that's the real Rubio, a guy who, when trying to decide how to bring Islamic State to heel, balance the budget or keep Medicare and Social Security intact at least until his children retire, will reach for a centuries-old guidebook to Christianity.
But maybe I'm reading far too much into Rubio's book choice. What do you think? Take our wildly unscientific poll, offer your own analysis or do both!
Follow Healey's intermittent Twitter feed: @jcahealey
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