Rubio addresses mistakes, criticisms in his memoir
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's memoir isn't just a feel-good story about a boy whose immigrant parents worked hard so that he could have what they couldn't, or about overcoming long odds to beat a popular governor once heavily backed by the GOP establishment to win his Senate seat.
The 303-page book released Tuesday, "An American Son," is also an answer to the criticism and scrutiny he faced from political opponents and the media during his improbable election to the Senate and after taking office in 2011.
The 41-year-old conservative is often discussed as a potential running mate for Republican Mitt Romney, and the book reads almost as if Rubio is vetting himself. Nearly every negative issue or question about his past that's been raised since he began his 2010 Senate campaign, from charging personal items on Republican Party credit cards to the beginning of foreclosure proceedings on a house he co-owned, is addressed.
"One of the things I strive to be in the book is honest, because I want people to learn from that. I've learned more from my mistakes than I have from my successes. And hopefully if people can hear it in my voice, they may be able to avoid that happening to them at some point," Rubio said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Reflecting on his 2010 Senate campaign, Rubio said he shouldn't have tried to operate a political committee's finances on his own, nor hired relatives to help with political work. But he often blames the media for jumping to conclusions. And he accuses then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who dropped out of the Republican Senate primary contest after Rubio opened up a wide lead and who then mounted an unsuccessful independent bid for the seat, with making up or exaggerating facts.
"Years later my lack of bookkeeping skills would come back to haunt me. The press and Governor Crist raised the matter during my U.S. Senate campaign, implying I had pocketed money from my finance committee and used it to pay for personal items. It wasn't true, but I had helped create the misunderstandings my opponents exploited," wrote Rubio, who won a three-way general election for the Senate.
That and other experiences have caused him to become more careful as a senator, he told The AP.
"The lesson I've learned is that every decision that we make is going to be viewed by some in the most negative way possible," Rubio said. "You can't always avoid it, but you want to avoid it primarily because every minute you spend explaining a decision is a minute you can't spend talking about public policy."
Rubio wants his book to be a story about succeeding in America. His parents struggled economically when they left Cuba in 1956. Life was difficult in the United States and they contemplated returning to Cuba after Fidel Castro took power in 1959. His father was a bartender who had dreams of becoming a businessman and his mother was a maid who wanted to be an actress. They were never able to achieve their dreams.
"The purpose of their whole life was to make sure that I had a chance to do the all the things that they didn't. And a lot of it, of course, is due to their hard work and sacrifice, but a lot of it is due to the fact that it happened in America," Rubio said.
He also writes about his family's decision to attend a Mormon church when they lived in Las Vegas during his childhood. They returned to Catholicism three years later, but the Mormon faith left a lasting impression on Rubio. He said he looks at his Mormon relatives and sees close families and strong adults.
"A lot of that is reinforced by the church and the environment the church provides its members and that still strikes me to this day," Rubio said. "The lasting message is in order to have a strong nation you have to have strong people, and in order to have strong people, you have to have those sorts of foundations in your life."
Romney is seeking to become the nation's first Mormon president.
Rubio also recalls in the book the night President Barack Obama was elected and how tears welled in his eyes. Rubio -- a harsh critic of the president -- described how he was proud of the nation for electing a black president. He wrote that he was particularly touched by a story in Obama's victory speech about a 106-year-old black woman who waited in line to vote -- a right she didn't have early in her life because of the color of her skin and because she was a woman.
Asked about that night, Rubio said, "It was an important historic moment in American history."
It was also one that made him think Obama would be a different kind of leader, a hope he said has now turned to disappointment.
"Despite my strong disagreements with him on public policy, I thought he had a unique opportunity to elevate American political discourse above the kind of place where it's been lately. And he's completely abandoned that in favor of class warfare, gender warfare and dividing even Hispanics against other groups of Hispanics," Rubio said. "It's a blown opportunity. It's a very sad turn of events here, that someone who was elected with such a unique opportunity in 2008 has become no different than everybody else in Washington D.C."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)