The Florida senator is a talented politician, but he met his match in a 17-year-old who called him out over NRA cash
Marco Rubio is a very talented politician. He walked into an arena full of 7,000 Floridians who were determined to heckle him for siding with the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his entire career.
But within minutes of talking, he earned some respect. He didnt stop the heckling, but he did his very best impression of a sincere man who honestly wanted to keep children safe, if only there werent so many complications to this whole lawmaking thing.
There are apparently lots of guns, and lots of loopholes. How on earth can a little law tackle such a big problem?
He offered up some token concessions that would do not very much at all to stop the massacres: raising the age you could buy an assault weapon, but not banning them. Better background checks, but not universal ones. Stopping the sale of bump stocks, which played no part in the bloodshed at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school.
With ample charm and empathy, he almost got away with it. Until he met a 17-year-old student who was just as talented as him: Cameron Kasky, who survived the shooting by huddling with his brother in a classroom.
Kasky walked up to Rubio and shook his hand, along with the hands of the other politicians on stage: Florida senator Bill Nelson and his local congressman, Ted Deutch, both Democrats. He asked his friend to stand up and be acknowledged for signing up to serve in the military. And he asked the crowd not to boo Republicans and cheer Democrats. Like Rubio, he believed the nation needed to come together. Anyone who is willing to change is someone we need on our side, he declared.
Then the student closed in. So, Senator Rubio, he said casually, can you tell me you wont be accepting a single penny from the NRA?
The crowd cheered like it was a slam dunkfest.
People buy into my agenda, insisted Rubio, ignoring the public disgust with buying and selling politics.
So you wont take more NRA money? Kasky pressed on.
Thats the wrong way to look at it, Rubio said. People buy into my agenda.
In the name of the 17 people who died, you cant ask the NRA to keep their money? Kasky asked in disbelief. I bet we can get people to give you exactly as much money.
Rubio told Kasky he was right: there was money on both sides of politics. But that wasnt the question, and his answer was as irrelevant as his favorite playlist.
It was a day for excessive sympathy and inadequate concessions. There were so many fine words of encouragement for all those feisty teenagers, and so many regrets for the grieving families. It was a long-winded way of sending thoughts and prayers; the modern-day version of paying for tears at a Victorian funeral.
You know the ground is shifting when the NRA and its A-plus-rated politicians feel the need to show up to a CNN town hall where they know they will be the targets of abuse for a grieving community.
But they also think they can ride this thing out with lots of talk about stopping insane people, rather than stopping the semi-automatics.
Its just so darn hard to do what every other country has done to stop these mass shootings.
It took a sheriff in uniform to call out the NRAs charade. When Dana Loesch, the NRAs media-hating spokesperson had empathized her heart out, Broward County sheriff Scott Israel set her straight.
You just told this group of people youre standing up for them, he said. You are not standing up for them until you say you want less weapons.