Rubio Tangles with CNN’s Bash in CPAC Question and Answer Session over Media’s Trump Obsession

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — Senator Marco Rubio (Fl.) brought the boisterous crowd at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to their feet early Saturday afternoon and tangled with CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash as she spent large portion of the question and answer session harping on Donald Trump and the campaign’s rhetoric.

Rubio indirectly hit Trump in his speech on numerous occasions plus in response to Bash’s first question about what Rubio’s parents working in a hotel by focusing on achieving happiness instead of “how much money you make or how many buildings have your name on it.”

From there, Trump remained at the forefront as Bash pointed out Trump’s decision to drop out of CPAC on Friday afternoon and elicited massive boos from the full capacity crowd.

The Florida Senator noted that CPAC is held by “the American Conservative Union and so, it’s usually reserved for conservatives and you know, this matters” because “either the ideas behind conservatism matter or they do not and if they do not, that's fine, but I believe they do.”

Bash followed up by again harping on Trump and the collective reluctance of the field to criticize Trump heavily until February 25's CNN Republican Presidential Debate:

You're stepping up rhetoric big time against Donald Trump on the question of whether or not he is a true conservative, you started doing that at CNN’s debate last week, calling him a con artist and fraud. If you believe those things, why did you wait until February of 2016 to say so? 

When Rubio responded by lamenting that few conservatives could have anticipated “that the frontrunner at this stage in the Republican campaign” would have so many liberal positions, Bash pressed Rubio for another explanation: “And why is that? Why is that a question? Why have — why have conservatives — because conservatives have voted for him and voted for him across the country.”

Bash’s questions drew more boos but their mood changed instantaneously when Rubio shot back by citing Bash as “part of the reason why” Trump remains the GOP frontrunner due to the obsessive coverage of him:

Well, I mean, part of the reasons why — and I think you’re one of the reasons why and I don't mean this, to take you on this, but I want to be clear because I have now been sitting here for five minutes, and two of three questions are about Donald Trump. That's the reason why. Because he’s getting all of this attention.

Bash admitted that Rubio offering a critique was acceptable, but also alluded to how Rubio has become quite vocal about opposing a Trump nomination. Again hitting the liberal media for hanging on Trump’s every insult, Rubio highlighted a few of them that Trump hurled at media members themselves:

But even before he was the frontrunner, even before he was the frontrunner, Donald would offend someone personally, he’d make fun of a disabled reporter or attack a woman journalist and he would dominate news coverage. Of course, he gets this attention. It is fine. I am not complaining about it....The other night at the debate, I didn't do the count, but over half questions I asked were somehow related to my opinion of Donald Trump. I am more than happy to share my opinion of Donald Trump, but I am running for president because I think this country needs to reembrace the Constitution. This country needs to embrace free enterprise and it needs to embrace a strong national defense. 

Tell the Truth 2016

Bash went onto take a question from someone on Twitter who wanted to know what Rubio’s children have thought about the campaign and she used this chance to again hit Rubio for firing back at Trump. 

Rubio mentioned how thankful he was to have his children with him on the campaign as he hopes to secure the presidency instead of someone who he’d have to “constantly have to be explaining to our kids, look, I know that's what the president did, you shouldn't do that.”

Before finally moving away from Trump (until she snuck in a question about Trump’s flip-flops on torture), Bash earmarked one more question for the state of rhetoric in the campaign:

BASH: Just to follow up, but the rhetoric has been, I mean, I understand you're saying that you are trying to answer him in some of the things he has been saying, but you know, I can't explain to my kid about the you’re talking about hands and things like that. 

RUBIO: Well, look. I'll be more than happy to answer another Trump question. I don’t — Donald Trump, he might have grown up the way he did with a lot of money, going to boarding schools. I can tell you this where I grew up, if someone keeps punching someone in the face, eventually someone has to stand up and punch them back.

If Bash wants to have a debate about the level of what’s appropriate rhetoric for cable news, it should be noted that she laughed back on New Years Eve in 2009 going into 2010 at co-host Kathy Griffin’s suggestion that then-Senator Scott Brown’s daughters were whores.

The relevant portion of the transcript from the question and answer portion of Senator Marco Rubio’s speech at CPAC 2016 on March 5 can be found below.

CPAC 2016
March 5, 2016

REPUBLICAN SENATOR MARCO RUBIO (Fl.): Yeah. I mean, my parents, this is the jobs they did. I always tell people, my parents were incredibly successful people because the American dream is not about how much money you make or how many buildings have your name on it. The American dream [APPLAUSE] the American dream — I wasn't talking about anybody in particular, I was just saying, the American dream is about achieving happiness. When you become a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, a nurse, you know you're not going to become a billionaire. What you want what my parents achieved and what my parents achieved as a bartender and maid at a hotel after arriving here with nothing, no education, no money, the first words my dad learned in English were I am looking for a job. You know what my parents achieved? They owned a home in a safe, stable neighborhood, retired with dignity and they left all four children better off than themselves. That's the American dream. 

DANA BASH: I know you weren't talking about any particular person you just —

RUBIO: Probably was, but I mean, you know, I’m trying to be nice. 

BASH: Let's go there. Donald Trump was supposed to be here this morning. He backed out. He instead was in Kansas. I sense that the crowd has an opinion on that. Do you? 

RUBIO: Yeah, I mean, this is the American Conservative Union and so, it’s usually reserved for conservatives and you know, this matters. I mean, either the ideas behind conservatism matter or they do not and if they do not, that's fine, but I believe they do. It is not enough to say vote for me because I am angrier and over the top and I’m going to say and do things that nobody else will do, I get that anger and frustration, I really do. But I said this before, it is not a coincidence, there are a plethora of young conservative leaders in their 40s and 50s, myself, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Susana Martinez, Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan. Why? Why? Why are there so many young conservatives now serving our country? I'll tell you why because we grew up in the era of Reagan and Ronald Reagan looked and acted nothing like Donald Trump and look at the Democrats. Who is the young and up and coming Democrat? Bernie Sanders. 

BASH: Senator, let me ask you a question about that, though and I asked Ted Cruz about this week as well. You're stepping up rhetoric big time against Donald Trump on the question of whether or not he is a true conservative, you started doing that at CNN’s debate last week, calling him a con artist and fraud. If you believe those things, why did you wait until February of 2016 to say so? 

RUBIO: Well, couple reasons. Number one is for much of the campaign, I have been fighting off other people attacking me and so that takes a little bit of time, too and the other is look, I didn't get up on this to beat up other candidates, I really didn't. I had hoped that voters, if you told me a year ago that the frontrunner at this stage in the Republican campaign would be a supporter of Planned Parenthood, that says he doesn't stand with Israel, has a long record of supporting government sponsored health care, I would say on what planet would that be the Republican frontrunner, but it’s happened and I think we have to ask ourselves why have we allowed that to happen so I don't think any of us anticipated it. 

BASH: And why is that? Why is that a question? Why have — why have conservatives — because conservatives have voted for him and voted for him across the country.

RUBIO: Well, I mean, part of the reasons why — and I think you’re one of the reasons why and I don't mean this, to take you on this, but I want to be clear because I have now been sitting here for five minutes, and two of three questions are about Donald Trump. That's the reason why. Because he’s getting all of this attention.

BASH: That's fair. But he is the frontrunner — that’s fair and you have made your campaign about Donald Trump. 

RUBIO: But even before he was the frontrunner, even before he was the frontrunner, Donald would offend someone personally, he’d make fun of a disabled reporter or attack a woman journalist and he would dominate news coverage. Of course, he gets this attention. It is fine. I am not complaining about it. All I am saying to you is the reason we talk about it and the reason a lot of this happened, the other night at the debate, I didn't do the count, but over half questions I asked were somehow related to my opinion of Donald Trump. I am more than happy to share my opinion of Donald Trump, but I am running for president because I think this country needs to reembrace the Constitution. This country needs to embrace free enterprise and it needs to embrace a strong national defense. 

BASH: Okay. We have some questions from Twitter. People were submitting questions on Twitter and Lisa Gary Ella asked this question how are your children responding to the campaign. Do they understand how important and serious this is? And before you answer that question, I want to put my mom hat for a second because you're the proud father of four, I'm the mother of a four-year-old son, and I'm having trouble letting him watch the news because things have gotten so vulgar and so over the top that I don't want him to think it is okay to act like that and I'm not alone. I know a lot of people said that. How do you feel as a father and presidential candidate about how low things have gone? 

RUBIO: Well, I mean, but I'll tell you, this is related to the real question, and I'm glad you asked it. My kids were with me on the campaign trail a lot from Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina, every day when I woke up, I was glad they were there, not just because they were my kids, but they looked at me and remind me this is what it is about. You're literally trying to decide what kind of country will it be when they're my age, when they’re a little younger but doing things for the first time I mentioned this in the speech. God has blessed my family, protected my children and us. They’ve handled it very well. I don't think we had a negative moment in the campaign with them, that's because God protected us and shielded us, I believe he has done that for us and other families as well, and but for me, it is a daily reminder that what we are fighting for ultimately, deciding in this election decides what America looks like in ten years. Yes, one of the things you asked me, I don't want us to have a president that we constantly have to be explaining to our kids, look, I know that's what the president did, you shouldn't do that. I don't want that. We actually had a president like that not long ago, it was real bad. 

BASH: But the campaign — I'll leave that one alone. Just to follow up, but the rhetoric has been, I mean, I understand you're saying that you are trying to answer him in some of the things he has been saying, but you know, I can't explain to my kid about the you’re talking about hands and things like that. 

RUBIO: Well, look. I'll be more than happy to answer another Trump question. I don’t — Donald Trump, he might have grown up the way he did with a lot of money, going to boarding schools. I can tell you this where I grew up, if someone keeps punching someone in the face, eventually someone has to stand up and punch them back.

Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck
Curtis Houck is the Managing Editor of NewsBusters for the Media Research Center