According to recent press accounts, the freshman senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, is off to the Midwest to personally deliver birthday wishes to an Iowa politician. Even stretching credulity, the birthday greetings do not appear to be any benefit or linkage for Rubio’s Florida constituents. To the contrary, the real purpose of a newly-elected senator to travel halfway across the country and personally deliver a birthday greeting is clearly for his personal interest in running for president in 2016.
As has been demonstrated by so many successful presidential races in the past, an early start is very important - especially when it is a candidate’s first nationwide campaign. But, as a Florida resident and longtime voter, I would prefer Rubio stay in Washington or in Florida so that he can tend to his current and important duties.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) granted Rubio the critical assignment of Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, as well as the Committee on Foreign Relations. Additionally, Rubio was assigned to the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. The aforementioned committees are vital to Floridians’ interest in jobs; the space program; road and rapid rail projects; nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea; and lending for entrepreneurs in the sunshine state.
It takes time to learn the legislative process - the people, the pitfalls and opportunities. I know this from experience. My guess, as precocious as the senator might be, is that he is not the heavyweight in those committees, like the majority and minority members.
Senator Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives and rose to the vaulted position as speaker in a scant eight years. But that position is in a part-time body, with far less vexing issues.
As then-State Senator Bob Graham once told me on a flight from Tallahassee to our Miami districts in 1974, “Bob, unless you are a Marshall Harris, sharpen your focus on two or three issues - no more - and study them in depth. Become such an expert in those issues, that no member of the body will dare propose anything dealing with those subjects, without discussing them with you first.” What a chilling message for a policymaker today.
Senator Rubio, I would like to pass along Senator Graham’s sagacious advice to you. Stay at work at the job for which you were elected. You will become a political power and command so much more respect from your colleagues. You are obviously bright and talented - contribute your outstanding resources to serving the people who put you in office here in your state.
Robert W. McKnight is a former Florida state senator and representative, who represented South Dade County and the Florida Keys from 1974-1982. He has written two books on Florida politics and is a political commentator on Facing Florida and for The Huffington Post and The Contributor. He also has a political blog and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.