Speaking before a crowd of Latino business leaders, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. lamented the state of politics, accusing politicians of fostering a culture of partisanship and campaigning on a message of division. Without mentioning President Obama by name, Rubio swiped at the president for failing to deliver on his promise of " hope" that both sides of the aisle craved.
"The one that's troubled me the most is this deliberate division of the American people against each other. Last three and a half years after our elections, irrespective of how you felt about how they turned out, we all had hope that this nation would embark at a new moment, where somehow we would rise above the petty politics of the moment and have a real honest societal wide conversation about what kind of country we want to be, what kind of role we want to play in the world, and what kind of role we want our government to play in our lives. Well any hope of that is now gone," Rubio said during his keynote address at the Latino Coalition's Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. Wednesday afternoon. "What you have today is nothing less than a whole sale effort to pit one group of Americans against each other on issue after issue."
In recent weeks, Rubio has picked up his forceful criticism of President Obama. Last Saturday, Rubio called Obama the most " divisive figure in modern American history." He previously has accused the president of using issues like same-sex marriage and student loan rates to " divide one group of Americans against another group of Americans for the purposes of getting him reelected."
Rubio criticized politicians who stray from debating their opponents on the basis of merit and instead launch personal attacks at a time when the Obama and Romney campaign are embroiled in a series of fights.
"No longer too often in politics today do people even want to engage and debate on the issues anymore. It's no longer about debating jobs plans or tax plans or regulatory plans. They skip straight to trying to convince you that it's not their ideas that are bad, they are bad. That your political opponents are bad people, that you shouldn't even listen to them because somehow they don't care about you or any of us," Rubio said. "That's now being celebrated. That's now being encouraged, it's now a mark of how good you are in politics if you're willing to do that and the more outrageous you're willing to be, the more attention you get for it."
"We will never solve the issues that we face if all people want to do is debate how bad the other guy is as opposed to debate whether their ideas have merit or not, and whether your ideas are better than their ideas," he continued.
Rubio, who was elected to the senate in 2010, also critiqued Congress' unwillingness to present meaningful policy proposals that could ease the burdens facing the country.
"I ran because I was frustrated by the political process. Nothing has happened over the last year and half to change that frustration unfortunately," he said. "Too often times, in the United States Senate especially, most of the votes we take are nothing but messaging points. Bills are brought to the floor that people know are not going to pass for one purpose alone and that's to give people talking points on the Sunday evening shows. Our people deserve better. It's not like we don't have major issues to confront but they are not being confronted. The only thing that's being done in the senate these days is creating material for television commercials in the fall, and it's sad."
Rubio spoke to the Latino business crowd hours after the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney addressed the same group, and Rubio, who often shares his personal story of using student loans to pay for college and law school, praised Romney's efforts to lead in expanding access to affordable education.
"There also is our education system. I understand that Governor Romney spoke to you about it earlier today. The federal government has a limited role to play when it comes to education," Rubio said. "Education, the ability to learn a skill, in this century is indispensable. There are going to be no jobs in the 21st century, literally, there will be no new jobs in the 21st century for people who do not have advanced education of some form. We have to provide access to that as well as affordability, and I'm glad that the nominee of my party has taken the lead in that regard."
As he outlined issues currently plaguing the country, from the debt to stifling energy policies, Rubio voiced his belief that optimism pervades the American way of life. Rubio, whose own parents emigrated to the United States from Cuba, reached out to the immigrant community by sharing how their daily struggles reflect the hope ingrained in this country as they to provide a better future for their children.
"The greatness of America can be seen in the people who served you your lunch today, who have children somewhere else in school even as we speak and if you ask them, they'll brag to you about how their son's going to be a lawyer, and their daughter's going to be a doctor. They are proud to work with their hands, they are proud to serve you your lunch and your dinner because they know that their sacrifice is paving the way for someone that they love," Rubio said to a loud round of applause from the crowd.
As he departed the Chamber of Commerce, Rubio ignored questions from reporters about whether he would consider being vetted for the vice presidential position if asked.