You can see it again in this post by Evan Osnos of The New Yorker. Yes, Osnos realizes that Rubio went all glitchy on Saturday night -- but it's only because there's a profound existential conflict taking place deep within Rubio's soul, a battle between Rubio's pragmatic, goal-oriented self and his thoughtful, world-embracing other self:
To watch Rubio up close is to see a man torn between two political identities. One of them is adventurous and charismatic: the promise that it offers is that his rare gifts as a speaker and a judge of the public mood could be employed to revitalize the Republican Party. By demonstrating that a young Latino son of immigrants can be its standard-bearer, he would point the way forward for Republicans in a country of growing diversity. This is Rubio the Natural. The other is self-conscious and risk-averse: this version of Rubio sticks as closely as possible to the script, doesn’t overplay his minority status (at least through the primaries), and avoids making firm commitments for as long as possible: Rubio the Player.... on the debate stage, he chose the latter identity, and paid a price.Osnos urges us to recall the talking point Rubio kept repeating on Saturday night. It was an assertion that President Obama "is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country." Osnos says that -- alas! -- Rubio feels he has to keep saying that, because he really wants to make it, and that's what the voters he seeks want to hear:
That line represents the triumph of Rubio’s second identity and also of the instinct that formed it: his calculation that conservative voters don’t want him to embrace the reality of a changing country, or to make the case that he, in his first identity, is a sign that Republicans may not have to be afraid of the future.But Osnos is cheering on that other Rubio, the one who surely knows how to "point the way forward for Republicans in a country of growing diversity."
That Rubio once gave an empathetic answer to an interview question about Black Lives Matter. That one wrote in his memoir that his best friends on the high school football team were black, and that he wasn't resentful when he was benched in high school in favor of a black player because that player was stronger than he was.
Rubio rarely talks about any of this these days. In Saturday night's debate, Rubio repeatedly denounced change and repeatedly disrespected a black president. You and I might conclude that that's the person Rubio has decided he really wants to be.
But Osnos knows that, darn it, there's a good Rubio in there, crying to be let out:
Somewhere, buried behind the layers of political self-protection, Rubio the Natural knows that America is changing whether Republicans like it or not. And, at rare times, he acknowledges that it’s not a reason for fear. But, more often, as he did on the debate stage, Rubio the Player pretends not to know it, and he takes on the role of a man who is hellbent on returning America to a time when he and his story would never have been possible at all. As a politician, he is skilled enough that, if he could summon the will, he could make a powerful case for change. By Wednesday morning, we may know if he’ll get the chance.Yes -- he's only posturing as a blinkered reactionary now. Vote for him! Surely someday we'll see his better self!