An American Son: A Memoir
By Steven Martinovich
Earlier this year there was much speculation as to whom Mitt Romney would name as his running mate once he locked up the Republican nomination. Of course, history records that he went with Paul Ryan but in the run-up to the announcement many had considered Florida Sen. Marco Rubio as strong contender. With a compelling back story, Rubio had strong positives in his favour which included being a young, attractive and eloquent man who could appeal to Hispanics thanks to his Cuban heritage and command of the language. How history might have been different with a Romney-Rubio ticket we'll never know.
It was perhaps with an eye to this possibility that Rubio wrote An American Son: A Memoir, which was released some weeks before the Republican National Convention. Part autobiography, part calling card for potential national aspirations, the book tells the story of the Rubio family journey from pre-Castro Cuba to his election as senator. Although Rubio's effort follows the general formula these sorts of books rely on – long on inspiration, most times short on specifics – it is still compelling read because of his surprisingly honest admissions where he sometimes fell short as father and husband.
As Rubio relates, his parents left Cuba in 1956 in search of economic opportunity in the United States. The rise of Fidel Castro essentially eliminated any possibility of return so they made a permanent place for themselves and their rapidly growing family – which included the future senator in 1971. Though both had grand aspirations, Mario and Oria Rubio ground out a living in blue collar industries to provide their children with all possible opportunities. Rubio's extended family included a beloved grandfather with whom he spent hours discussing history and politics.
After a shaky beginning in life – one that saw him more interested in women and parties – Rubio eventually became a serious student and graduated with a law degree. Not long after the political bug bit and he ran for a city commission job which eventually translated into further successful campaigns for the Florida House of Representatives as both a representative and Speaker of the House, and the U.S. Senate. Rubio's core beliefs have evolved from those early days but they remain consistently pro-free enterprise and smaller government.
Not to be unfair to An American Son but heart-warming family tales and campaign chronicles detailing long odds are stories oft told in politics and in that respect there is little new to Rubio's book. When confronted by these the more interesting exercise is to try and tease out the real man behind the careful effort to put one's best foot forward. The standard entry into this genre is carefully scrubbed but Rubio is unafraid to admit that he's made mistakes and has some flaws. He freely admits that in pursuit of his political career that he's often been an absentee father and husband.
Where most politicians would portray themselves as heroically statesman-like, Rubio is honest enough to acknowledge that he has a temper that opponents have sometimes attempted to use against him. It's almost a miracle that temper didn't surface during a ferocious battle with then Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. It's also clear to see that Rubio can be impulsive at times, though a trait that he's also learned to control with experience.
There are no earth shattering revelations in An American Son, nor will one find a finely honed statement of principles that Rubio would use as a rallying flag for future national campaigns. It is, however, an engaging read by an interesting man who may serve as the future face of conservatism and the Republican Party in the United States. We will likely, and happily, hear much more from Marco Rubio in the years to come.
Steven Martinovich is the founder and editor in chief of Enter Stage Right.
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