Florida Republican and Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio can add a new line to his political bio: He's now part of a long list of politicians who have been accused of embellishing basic facts about their personal narratives.
Like so many members of this infamous fraternity, Rubio has gone on the defensive since a Washington Post report alleged that he embellished crucial details about his parents' emigration from Cuba.
In the end, Rubio's embellishments may not matter much to voters, particularly Latinos. Whether the senator is actually the son of exiles who fled Communist Cuba will have little impact on their daily lives. Latino's are more likely to judge him for espousing a conservative ideology that vehemently opposed the Dream Act and hasn't been exactly welcoming of immigrants such as his parents.
Politicians throughout the world have embellished their stories "in order to ingratiate themselves with voting blocs and to impress political allies. And time and again, voters show they are little bothered," the BBC reported.
"It's not enough to be an interesting, hard-working guy," historian and author Rick Perlstein told the BBC. "You have to frame yourself as extraordinary beyond extraordinary. It's a quality that preternaturally driven types that aspire to great power tend to have - the belief that you're a figure of great destiny."
Rubio's official biography stated that his parents "came to America following Fidel Castro's takeover," a compelling narrative for a rising South Florida politician. In Miami and surrounding communities, Cubans and their politics have long been divided among the older generations who left the island after Castro's rise to power and those who migrated later for economic reasons.
The Post reported that documents showed that Rubio's parents left Cuba more than two-and-a-half years before Castro took power in 1959. Rubio insisted that his story was based on family lore, but his official Senate bio was corrected following the Post story to say the senator "was born in Miami in 1971 to Cuban exiles who first arrived in the United States in 1956."
"I don't need to embellish my narrative," Rubio said on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News Monday night. "My narrative is very simple -- I am the son of exiles and of immigrants, and that has framed my political thought."
Rubio is not alone in taking liberty with the truth. Richard Blumenthal, a longtime fixture of Connecticut Democratic politics, survived revelations last year that he never served in the Vietnam War despite repeatedly insinuating to voters that he was a combat veteran.
In 1996, a grand jury in Oregon indicted freshman Rep. Wes Cooley on charges that he lied about his military service in official state voter guides. Cooley dropped his bid for a second House term following questions about his claim that he had served in the Army Special Forces in Korea. There also were questions about whether Cooley concealed his marriage so that his wife could collect benefits as the widow of a Marine.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan told Israeli officials that he had served as a photographer in a U.S. Army unit that filmed Nazi death camps at the end of World War II. Reagan was commissioned a captain in the Army at the time but poor eyesight made him ineligible for overseas service.
Rubio, who has been mentioned as a possible GOP vice presidential candidate, will probably survive this episode but his chances of getting on the GOP ticket could be hurt, Politico reported:
Richard Blumenthal won a U.S. Senate election even after it was reported that he exaggerated his Vietnam War service. Joe Biden became vice president despite having once lifted a family history from the British Labor Party Leader Neil Kinnock and passed it off as his own.
But Biden had to wait 20 years after that humiliating revelation before he could become vice president. The Rubio disclosure isn't career-ending, but it probably makes him a less appealing running mate in 2012 - particularly for any potential Republican nominee who's already battling the impression that he's insincere.
Will Rubio's "lie" matter as much as his politics?
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