A Boy and His Toy

rubiocubeMarco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida who has held the august office for almost four whole years, is perhaps the leading American authority on Cuba. Hell, he may even be the greatest living expert on the planet. For one thing, Rubio has a “worldview” – just ask the reporters at the New York Times who noted in a recent article, “Mr. Rubio has long been a hawk when it comes to dealing with countries like China, Iran and Venezuela — a worldview shaped by his experiences as the child of Cuban immigrants.”

That’s right. Marco Rubio who was soiling his diapers when men were debating Cuban foreign policy on the tenth anniversary of the Bay of Pigs fiasco has somehow become the leading expert in the field – simply by virtue of having Cuban-born parents. His parents, by the way, emigrated to the U.S. in 1956. That would be before Fidel Castro overthrew the corrupt Batista government and instituted a Marxist regime whose evil tendencies formed the animus of so many Cubans now living in America (actually, just Florida). Presumably, sensing that his “worldview” might be insufficiently breathtaking with such ancestral heritage, Rubio reported in 2011 that his parents actually bolted Cuba in 1959 after Castro took over – falsely portraying them as heroic anti-Communist refugees instead of ordinary people just looking to reap economic advantages offered in America.

Several news outlets quickly outed Rubio for his embellishment, including the Washington Post who reported as follows: Rubio said his accounts have been based on family lore. “I’m going off the oral history of my family,” he said. “All of these documents and passports are not things that I carried around with me.”

In other words, we’re expected to believe that one of the greatest living historians either didn’t know when Castro took over Cuba, or was unable (absent documents) to remember the year his parents left the motherland. This is preposterous, of course – no doubt a liberal media plot to undermine Professor Rubio’s credentials and stifle his aspirations to be the next president.

Obama announced the other day that the U.S., after enforcing more than 50 futile years’ worth of devastating embargoes against its neighbor 90 miles to the south, would begin a shift toward normalizing relations. That would include freer movement of money, less-restricted travel, and increased trade. Almost everyone paying attention said, “About effing time.” But not Marco Rubio. He came out blasting.

“This president is the single worst negotiator we have had in the White House in my lifetime,” Rubio said. In his lifetime! I suppose Rubio was too young to remember a president named Reagan (after all, Marco wasn’t old enough to drive then) who once negotiated a sweet deal with our enemy Iran to illegally fund a bunch of cutthroat “Contras” in Nicaragua.

Still, I think we all can agree that a politician with the “worldview” and decades of experience of a Marco Rubio must be included in the pantheon of influential historians with Herodotus, Boccaccio and Samuel Eliot Morrison. (Now if he would only get a decent haircut.)

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Chris Botti in New York

I had a chance to catch Chris Botti and his superb band at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village last Thursday. Trumpet-player Botti has been coming to the Blue Note during the Christmas holiday season for the past 10 years and he brings with him an outstanding line-up of singers and musicians each year. This time the band included Billy Kilson on drums, Richie Goods on bass, the highly talented Geoffrey Keezer on piano, Ben Butler on guitar and Serena McKinney on violin. Some pieces featured solo vocal performances by Sy Smith who matched Botti note-for-note on a bee-bop number, and George Komsky who sounds remarkably like Andrea Bocelli.

Botti himself takes inspiration from many sources, especially the subtle moodiness of Miles Davis. More than a couple pieces performed last Thursday came from “Kind of Blue.” I suspect Botti is not universally recognized, but his recent performance of the National Anthem at the Giants-Colts game last month undoubtedly raised his Q-factor with the masses.

The intimate setting of the Blue Note works well – no table is more than 30 feet from the stage – allowing Botti to chat with the audience between songs. There are just a handful of remaining opportunities to catch Chris Botti before his Blue Note residency ends in early January – get there.

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