Marco Rubio is notorious for his truancy, having the least attendance and worst voting record of any sitting Senator. Somehow, he still found time to do some serious political damage to our international relations with our third-biggest trading partner on the one day he deigned to show up for work – blocking the nomination of Roberta Jacobson, President Obama’s nominee for U.S. Ambassador to Mexico.
The LA Times has lauded Jacobson as an acknowledged expert in Latin American affairs and skilled in cross-border trade negotiations. She was nominated six months ago by President Obama, to broad bipartisan support in the Senate, while Mexico, has, itself, expressed enthusiastic support and prepared to welcome her to Mexico City. In fact, her nomination was approved by a 12-7 vote in the Republican led Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been sent on for a vote by the full Senate. Rubio, who under Senate rules, can and has taken it upon himself to hold up the vote because of his “staunch opposition to Obama’s diplomatic opening with Cuba, which Jacobson helped negotiate as assistant secretary of State.”
Jacobson’s sin was that she was the most ‘visible’ shepherd of President Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba last year. Rubio is accusing Jacobson and the president “of failing to ensure that Cuba improve human rights before restoring ties, and of glossing over the Castro government’s penchant for stifling dissent.”
Forgetting for the moment that Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio seems to be forgetting his Republican corporatist roots – Mexico is an important export market for California and other states. It is also the permanent residence of 1 million U.S. citizens as well as visits from 1.5 million people daily. We also share a 2,000- mile border with Mexico and “are partners in numerous security agreements involving extradition, weapons trafficking and cross-border police training.”
So Rubio’s false bravado and moral outrage gets in the way of his understanding of our crucial economic and strategic relationship with Mexico – using his position as an absentee U.S. Senator to block Jacobson appointment as ambassador – a qualified presidential appointment. As Eric Olson, associate director of the Latin American program at the nonpartisan Wilson Center in Washington notes:
“The failure to complete her nomination sends a bad signal to our Mexican partners and all those Americans whose livelihoods and well being depend on maintaining a good and balanced relationship between neighbors.”
For obvious reasons Jacobson has been reluctant to speak about the nomination process, but she hesitantly points out:
“There are huge opportunities for Americans thanks to structural economic reforms in Mexico, especially in the energy and telecommunications industries…The advocacy, support and visibility of a U.S. ambassador to help promote American businesses… makes a difference.”
Rubio declined comment for the LA Times story, but he is the man who ‘hates’ his job in the Senate and who has in fact missed about 34 percent of his votes from January through October. In fact, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Ca) wrote a letter to Rubio along with 18 other Latino members of Congress urging him to lift his “misguided” hold on the Jacobson nomination reminding him that “strong leadership at our embassy in Mexico city has perhaps never been more important.” Sanchez also noted that there are over 22 million U.S.-born Mexican Americans who reside her:
“While I understand Sen. Rubio has his own political ambitions to serve, there is absolutely no justification for holding up the nomination of [such] a qualified woman.”
The bottom line is Marco Rubio, the hooky-playing U.S. Senator, who now owns the title “most truant career” in the Senate, regularly speaks of his Cuban heritage for political points. But Rubio’s only accomplishment has been to boast of his hard-line stance against Cuba by unilaterally and vindictively blocking the vote on an eminently qualified presidential appointment to be U.S. ambassador to a strategic ally and trading partner. Let us not forget he similarly tried to block the Iranian Peace accord and pretends at being “strong on foreign policy,” but all he has to offer is discord, hostility, empty words of “strength” and archaic Cold War paranoias.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.