Marco Rubio made an appearance at the CNN town hall last night, which was touted as a forum to discuss solutions to school shootings in the wake of 17 deaths at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
That is to his credit, as it was noted by the moderator, Jake Tapper, that President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Rick Scott were invited to participate but either declined or chose not to respond.
— The Hill (@thehill) February 22, 2018
Before I get to my impressions of Senator Rubio and how he handled himself at the event held in Sunrise, Florida – allow me to render my take on the setting. Point of disclosure – everyone in my household; myself, my son and my wife, are all independents, post-partisan, post-ideology and moderates / centrists. We also, all happen to be pretty firm supporters of the Second Amendment.
So when my son heard the TV blaring the town hall, we exchanged some comments. We both perceived intuitively that the live audience for the town hall was stacked to a large degree. That was to be expected. While I don’t watch the station frequently and don’t watch television much at all – I do occasionally watch CNN because the commentary is an approximate fit for me, being that it appeals generally to the political middle.
I would estimate that of the people in the auditorium in Sunrise last night (aside from the few dozen young people on the stage from Stoneman Douglas), about 60 percent were pro-gun control, about 25 percent lukewarm and about 15 percent (maybe), generally in favor of preserving the Second Amendment. The proportions mirrored the response and attitude of the audience towards Senator Rubio.
My estimation of Rubio has changed over time – and in the direction of considerably more favorable. When Rubio first started out on the national scene, he showed indications of talent, but he also showed regrettable, but not unexpected tendencies to follow the prevailing policy winds of the GOP instead of solid principles. During the 2016 presidential campaign, I concluded that he likely would at some point, have potential as a presidential candidate, but needed more seasoning and more accumulated wisdom. Based on what I saw last night, it seems to me that he is making rapid progress in that direction.
Let’s be honest here. The situation in that auditorium was not one that I would relish having to face no matter what. Rubio’s fellow Senator, Bill Nelson and the House Member for the district that includes Parkland – Ted Deutch – both Democrats, were also on stage with him. The portion of the audience that has arrived at an irrationally hostile position about firearms of any kind, were the most vocal, the most disrespectful and the least inclined to abide by any reasonable narrative.
To a degree, this reflects human nature, but not favorably. It looked like the sort of thing that critical observers disdain about the popular conception of “democracy” – a screaming and irrational mob – unwilling to listen to anyone, and agitated against any free speech that did not conform to the opinions (informed or otherwise), that they have adopted.
In short, it was a tough crowd. Rubio walked into a Lion’s den.
Sure, that comes with the territory, but it is unfashionable among most of the political element these days to actually stand before a bitter, belligerent and inhospitable audience and attempt to represent something sensible to them, as well as to handle the hostility with grace and humility.
Dana Loesch, representing the NRA, also had a turn in front of the hostile horde and was dealt with even more maliciously by the torch and pitchfork wielders – some of them yelling, “You’re a murderer!”.
Senator Nelson, made some gracious and supportive comments regarding Rubio, indicating that in the current political environment in Congress, that men like Rubio and himself, are the only path forward for any kind of compromise and solutions. Nelson also told the crowd, “Marco Rubio is here, Governor Scott, isn’t”. Congressman Deutch instead, seeing an opportunity to further ingratiate himself with his most militant constituents, played off the rancor of the crowd and dismissed any proposals Rubio shared.
Particularly disingenuous was Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel – who, realizing that he and his department were a contributing factor in the disastrous disconnect that led to shooter Nikolas Cruz obtaining a lethal weapon, cynically covered himself by egging on and joining the anti-gun chorus.
Donald Trump, in a bizarre way, was represented at the town hall, by virtue of his insane and foolish comments about arming teachers and school staff. Both Senator Rubio and Nelson, in the strongest terms possible, rejected such a proposal as dangerous and unworkable.
Rubio had to face several angry parents of slain students. One exchange, that between a father, Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was killed, and the Senator, was typical. “Sen. Rubio, I want to like you. Here’s the problem. … Your comments this week and those of our President have been pathetically weak. Look at me and tell me guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in the school this week.”
Guttenberg called on the senator to do something about guns, to work with the people affected by the massacre. Rubio replied, “I’m saying that the problems we are facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone.” That statement alone, would be an obvious truth to anyone not caught up in the emotional furor of a mass shooting.
Marco Rubio’s stock gained significantly in value with me last night. One reason was the manner in which he handled himself. He stepped outside the normal politician zone and displayed some personal courage and accountability – a rarity in the current calculating and spineless setting of Washington, D.C.
Beyond that, I was stirred by the sentiments he expressed (mostly to deaf ears in that crowd) in his opening statement:
I want to be honest with you. I think all of us would like to see action, but I want to tell you what we’re going to struggle with. We are a nation of people that no longer speak to each other. We are a nation of people who have stopped being friends with people because who they voted for in the last election.
We are a nation of people who have isolated ourselves to only watch channels that tell us that we’re right. We’re a nation of people that have isolated ourselves politically and to a point where discussions like this have become very difficult.
I’m here tonight, and I’m here tonight to answer any question anyone has, explain anything you want to know about what I stand for, what I’ve done and what I plan to do. And to the students that are here tonight, the ones on the stage, the ones in the audience, I want you to know that I’m actually extremely excited about your engagement, and ill tell you why. I’ll tell you why, because I think you have a chance to do a lot more then change gun laws.
Senator Rubio is correct. So long as we behave as the most reprehensible minions of the failed cult of Trump and correspondingly, conduct ourselves in the manner of a large portion of those in attendance at last night’s town hall in Sunrise, there will be no progress towards common sense policy solutions for anything in America. Just more divided Americans. The ruling elite love that.