Marco Rubio embarrassed himself again by making an empty threat

Has Donald Trump ever been more right about anything than when he called Marco Rubio “Little Marco?”

On January 12, speaking to reporters after the hearing in which he grilled Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson over his views on human rights, Rubio said this:

“My view is that the president deserves wide latitude in their nominees. But the more important the position is, the less latitude they have. It’s like a cone. In some positions, as it gets higher and higher, the discretion becomes more limited, and our scrutiny should be higher. And I consider this the highest of them all.”

Got that? Remember, Rubio says Senate scrutiny is like a cone, and secretary of state is up at the tip, requiring the most scrutiny and the least deference.

Subsequently, Rubio decided that he could indeed vote to confirm Tillerson, despite serious reservations about Tillerson’s commitment to advancing human rights and despite Tillerson being up there at the tip of the scrutiny cone.

What was Rubio’s rationale? It was this, according to a statement today:

“Given the uncertainty that exists at home and abroad about our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this nomination unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy. Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation in committee and in the full Senate. However, upcoming appointments to critical posts in the Department of State are not entitled to and will not receive from me the same level of deference I have given to this nomination.”

So now Rubio thinks the job of secretary of state is too important for the Senate to tie up, but that greater scrutiny can and should be applied to lower-level nominees.

I guess the cone got inverted, or something. Maybe the Senate has become a snow cone, with the point at the bottom and Tillerson up at the delicious, wide-latitude top.

A week and a half ago, on KCRW’s Left, Right & Center, my cohost Rich Lowry of National Review told me he expected Rubio would come around and vote for Tillerson, despite the brutal grilling Rubio had given him over Russia and other matters.

I asked Rich, if Rubio is going to vote for Tillerson, what was the point of the attention-grabbing grilling? It would only reinforce the existing knock on Rubio: that he talks a good game but won’t stand up for his principles if it’s politically costly.

Rich told me I shouldn’t assume Rubio had thought his strategy all the way through when he acted. He was right.

And I wouldn’t hold your breath on Rubio withholding his deference from future nominees like he claims he will.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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