“Marco goes full-on nativist,” MSNBC host Joe Scarborough proclaimed. “Says he feels out of place in his own country. It’s such a crass play. It’s offensive.”

Scarborough’s characterization of the latest Rubio campaign ad was a hyperventilating version of the description of the spot published on the New York Times’ website. “In new ad, Marco Rubio appeals to supporters of Trump and Cruz,” the Times declared. Surely, that can only mean one thing: vulgar know-nothingism of the kind that moved one MSNBC host to fits of revulsion. How disappointing – Rubio surely sacrificed his principles upon the altar of political expediency.

Or did he? The script for the brief spot reads as follows:

“This election is about the essence of America. About all of us who feel out of place in our own country. A government incredibly out of touch and millions of us with traditional values branded bigots and haters. This is about wages growing slower than the cost of living, a generation drowning in debt, and a president humiliated by Putin, Iran, and Islamic jihadists. I’m Marco Rubio. I approve this message because this is about the greatest country in the world and acting like it.”

… That’s it? Where is this supposed nativism? If Rubio’s contention that many Americans “feel out of place in our own country” constitutes nativism, Scarborough’s indictment of Rubio is harsher than any verdict he’s rendered on Donald Trump’s countless questionable comments. Many of which the celebrity candidate was invited on Scarborough’s program to defend.

More likely, Scarborough’s assessment of Rubio’s comments was simply an echo of how Times reporter Nick Corasaniti characterized the ad. The reporter asserted that this line was an appeal “directly to” Trump and Ted Cruz’s “core supporters.” Corasaniti noted, however, that the allure of this comment was more for “people who feel disaffected from politics.” That’s not nativism; that’s not even about immigration. It is, however, about the radical pace of cultural change in the United States.

Corasaniti further highlighted Rubio’s claim that Americans who regret being branded “bigots and haters” for holding traditional values, which is far more likely an expression of lament shared by those who, like the Florida senator, believe in the traditional definition of marriage. For anyone to claim otherwise is a bizarre admission that they don’t spend a lot of time talking with or making an effort to understand the concerns of people who identify as conservative.

While the Times portrayal of Rubio’s campaign spot might be a bit more gracious than Scarborough’s, it also serves to illustrate precisely the problem that Democrats will face in 2016 in the papers’ tortured effort to “fact check” the ad.

“Mr. Rubio’s contention that Mr. Obama has been ‘humiliated by Putin, Iran, and Islamic Jihadists’ would surely draw objections from many, not least the president himself, who says that his nuclear deal will prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and that the United States-led military effort is hitting the Islamic State ‘harder than ever,’” the “fact check” read.

That’s not a factual audit; it’s a preemptive rebuttal on the White House’s behalf.

What’s more, it is a laughably contrived attempt to issue the contention that the president’s approach to foreign affairs in his second term has been laudably competent, which is a case that Hillary Clinton will also be obliged to make. She will find defending the president on these three issues a Sisyphean task.

Barack Obama hoped that Vladimir Putin would rescue him from following through on his promised military action in Syria if his “red line,” consisting of the movement and use of chemical weapons, was violated. More than a year after this line was crossed (repeatedly), a Putin-negotiated deal to remove those weapons from Syria saved Obama from the consequences of his own imprudent commitments. Temporarily, at least. Two years later, chemical weapons are still being used in Syria, and not merely by Bashar al-Assad’s forces, but by Islamic State militants as well. Furthermore, despite all his efforts, American troops are now on the ground in Syria. If that’s not humiliation, I don’t know what is.

The notion that the Iran nuclear accord will make it “harder than ever” for the Islamic Republic to build a nuclear bomb concedes the point of the deal’s critics: It doesn’t make it impossible, just less likely. In the interim, however, this terror-supporting regime enjoys millions of dollars in sanctions relief, has come in from the cold and is now being courted by European corporations, and is the recipient of defensive weaponry that will make neutralizing any future nuclear weapon program from the air extremely costly if not impossible.

As for Islamic terrorists, the realization that the United States now has ground forces fighting and even dying in the Middle East in a war against what the president described as the “JV team” speaks for itself.  Just hours before this terrorist organization projected power out from its nascent “caliphate” to murder 132 civilians in the heart of Europe, Barack Obama declared this group “contained.” Even as 14 Americans were being killed in an ISIS-inspired attack — the worst such act of radical Islamist terrorism inside the United States since September 11th — and as police were still hunting for the attackers, Barack Obama declared the bloodshed a result of America’s lax gun laws. Only days later, after his FBI director asserted that this was not an act of crime but terrorism, did the president reluctantly concede the point. Objectively, this is mortifying.

This is what Hillary Clinton and her supporters will be forced to defend in 2016, and it will be an uphill battle. If the Times’ “fact check” is any indication, there is still no way to competently defend the indefensible.

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