“You are what your record says you are.”
— Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells, repeatedly
What does your record say you are?
What do the traffic-ticket records of Marco Rubio and his wife say they are?
What does Saturday’s publication of those records by The New York Times say about the current state of that paper’s “All the News That’s Fit to Print” credo?
Sure, candidates’ records are fair game for the electorate’s consideration — and will be so again today as Berkeley County voters elect a new sheriff.
Still, consider whether you believe this Times report is pertinent to America’s 2016 presidential decision:
“Senator Marco Rubio has been in a hurry to get to the top, rising from state legislator to United States senator in the span of a decade and now running for president at age 44.
“But politics is not the only area where Mr. Rubio, a Republican from Florida, has an affinity for the fast track. He and his wife, Jeanette, have also shown a tendency to be in a rush on the road.
“According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets, the Rubios have been cited for numerous infractions over the years for incidents that included speeding, driving through red lights and careless driving. A review of records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations: Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13.”
OK, the Rubios should be more careful behind the wheel.
Yet by the Times’ count, Sen. Rubio has averaged just one ticket every 4½ years. And while his wife has been a more frequent offender, she’s averaged only one every 16½ months.
That doesn’t make Marco and Jeanette Bonnie and Clyde. That doesn’t even put Sen. Rubio in the same speeding class with ex-S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer.
Anyway, if Sen. Rubio becomes president, neither he nor his wife will be doing much driving for a while.
No wonder so many people you wish would run for president — or mayor, sheriff, the Legislature, Congress, the school board, governor and other political offices — don’t.
It’s unseemly enough that candidates must grovel for votes by making promises that they can’t keep.
And even the top elective job of president pays only $400,000 a year. Numerous college football assistant coaches make at least twice that much.
Meanwhile, Clemson’s paying coach Jack Leggett a $200,000 buyout for firing him last week, despite the Tigers making the NCAA playoffs in 21 of his 22 seasons as the head man.
Don’t misunderstand. Plenty of Clemson fans, including this one, have known his declining record well enough to say “Hit the road, Jack Leggett” long before this latest mediocre (32-29) season.
Back to that dubious scoop on the Rubio racing team:
“Fox News Sunday” panelist Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times offered this weak defense of the story’s significance two days ago:
“When you run for president, every aspect of your life, and even your spouse’s life, is open to public scrutiny. And certainly there have been reports about (Jeb’s wife) Columba Bush’s jewelry buying habits. We’ve written reams about Bill Clinton. When President Obama was a candidate in 2011, or 2007, rather, it was reported that he failed to pay his parking tickets for 17 years until two weeks before he launched his presidential nomination.”
Hey, the Rubios paid their traffic tickets long ago.
Did Obama, until he ran for president, think that if you don’t like your parking ticket you don’t have to pay your parking ticket?
“Fox News Sunday” panelist George Will aptly suggested that if the Times eventually reports that Rubio has “overdue library books” to go along with his four traffic tickets since 1997, “compare that to Mrs. Clinton’s siphoning off millions of dollars, in clear conflict of interest and very possible conflict of law.”
And before deciding who gets your presidential vote next year, ponder this lasting 1975 insight from Margaret Thatcher, who became Britain’s longest-serving (1979-90) prime minister: “It’s the Labor government that have brought us record peacetime taxation. They’ve got the usual socialist disease — they’ve run out of other people’s money.”
Yes, you are what your record says you are. Then again, who says what your record is?
During the 1988 GOP presidential nomination race, Bob Dole, asked by NBC’s Tom Brokaw if he had a message for then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, replied: “Yeah — stop lying about my record.”
Dole was riled about a Bush campaign ad that accused him of “straddling” on taxes.
Later that year, Bush all too memorably vowed in his nomination acceptance speech: “Read my lips — no new taxes.”
Four years after that, those words came back to haunt him. So keep in mind that politicians aren’t the only ones who should be careful about what they say on the record.
Keep in mind that every day’s a new chance to improve your record.
And keep in mind that complaints about this column will go on your permanent record.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.