What Marco Rubio Should Have Said: Advice To Conservatives


Marco Rubio
You’ve already heard the story. A GQGQ still exists?—reporter sandbagged Marco Rubio. Immediately the honorable gentleman from Florida thought his interview over, the journalist, Columbo-like, turned and asked, “Just one more thing, sir. What is the age of the earth?”

Now, you see above what answer Rubio should have given. What he instead said was this:

I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it…it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.

That strike you as wishy-washy? It should: it is. But I see I have misquoted Rubio. That answer was the one our esteemed leader President Obama gave when asked the same thing four years earlier. Rubio actually said this:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States…

And he went on, in best Obama mode, saying nothing. It was already a lost cause when Rubio glued onto his first sentence that inelegant, one-of-the-people appendage.

Again, what he should have said was, “What kind of ignorant, unprofessional question is that? Behave yourself, sir.” If the uncouth reporter persisted in pushing the query, a query which is utterly irrelevant to any matter that will ever come before the United States Senate, Rubio should have stood and left.

This isn’t for the reason you’re thinking about. Everybody knows the politics, that there are a significant number of people who “cling”, as Mr Obama would say, to the false but completely harmless belief that the earth is a few thousand years old, and that nobody wants to risk alienating them. These voters are, however, far less likely to decide their vote on a matter of science trivia than on the moral stance of the candidates.

No, there are two other reasons Rubio should have answered in the manner I suggested. Firstly, it’s too easy to make a simple mistake, which will (if the politician is a conservative) be amplified in the press into the scandal of the century. “Rubio said the earth was only 2 billion years old. What a rube–io!” What will never be mentioned is that reporters who make this claim will have only just looked up the right answer themselves.

The second reason to refuse is to discourage asinine behavior, and encourage respect, on the part of reporters. No question that is not relevant to the job itself should be entertained, especially questions that are quite obviously designed to be “gotchas.” Politicians, especially conservatives, need to understand that reporters are adversaries. Chris Christie gets this (but he is now in the doghouse).

Refusing to answer only works for truly irrelevant questions, such as age of the earth, mechanisms of evolution, and so forth. (Yes, you can always make a tenuous argument that any question is relevant, to which I say, don’t be an ass.) If a reporter asks, say, if abortion is wrong in the case of rape, if you don’t have an intelligent answer which includes, “All life is sacred,” then do what Mr Obama did: temporize. Say the question is “Above my pay grade” or that your views on the matter are “evolving.”

And then shut up. Reportorial exchanges are not intellectual debates. They are not there to try and understand the delicacies of your position. Be not afraid of saying, “I’m not going to talk about that.” Always keep firmly in mind the words of Mark Twain “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”


  1. Gary

    Amen. I constantly wonder why the Republicans remain the stupid party. Why don’t they have stock answers memorized? Why do they feel compelled to over-explain? They’re generally more forthright than Democrats, but they should learn just to shut up. If they have the wits, like Christie appears to have, a bit of humor could turn away these gotcha questions easily. At least call out the “journalist” as a shill for the opposition. There’s nothing to lose, they’re going to try to destroy you anyway.

  2. Jim Fedako

    “This isn’t for the reason you’re thinking about. Everybody knows the politics, that there are a significant number of people who “cling”, as Mr Obama would say, to the false but completely harmless belief that the earth is a few thousand years old, and that nobody wants to risk alienating them. These voters are, however, far less likely to decide their vote on a matter of science trivia than on the moral stance of the candidates. (my emphasis)

    Interesting. Genesis is not simply the first book of the Bible, it is also the core. To step away from Genesis while claiming the rest of the Bible is truth is a specious claim at best.

  3. GoneWithTheWind

    Gary you are right of course. The Democrats are much better at this. What Rubio should have done is claimed the reporter was racist and that the question was dog whistle for wanting to put us all back in chains. Or he should have done what the Clintons did when under oath accused of crimes they never answered any questions honestly and at best would claim “I do not recall”.

    More to the point why don’t reporters constantly ask Democrats “gothcha” questions? The answer is obvious in that the media leans towards or is in the camp of the Democrats and they are part of the team. It is like playing sports where all of the referees are on the opposing teams side. Given these conditions is it really Rubio’s fault that he was blindsided by a “gotcha” question? If Republicans memorized some stock answers to all the known gotcha questions wouldn’t the biased media come up with a new list of “gotcha” questions?

  4. JH

    What Marco Rubio Should Have Said:…

    Three words (no more, no less): God only knows!

    Sometimes, just like pencil drawing, the more you touch things up the darker they get.

  5. Ye Olde Statistician

    @Jim Fedako: the question is not whether Genesis is true, but whether the account is fact. Not all truths are expressed as facts. (And I don’t recall the 6000 figure from the text anyhow. See St. Augustine of Hippo for pointers.)

  6. Jim Fedako

    @Ye Olde Statistician: The problem with such a metaphysical argument is that you are unable to determine where so-called biblical truths become fact.

    To follow the argument, can you emphatically state that Jesus died for our sins in fact, not just in truth? Is Elijah’s ascent simply truth, not fact? What about Jonah or Lazarus?

    As with Genesis, if science is to be the judge of fact, then you must claim that Elijah, Jonah, and Lazaus are nothing but truths that never occurred in fact. Even Jesus becomes suspect. And, in the end, there is little left to the Bible — and no reason to believe in it.

    I claim the Bible is fact as well as truth. Otherwise I am forced to apply my limited (and clouded by sin) opinions to what the Bible states.

    By the way, a truth is this: Nothing good arises when man believes he can substitute his beliefs for statements in the Bible — a truth that can be seen in fact, time and again.

  7. George Steiner

    There was a wonderful English comic film made some sixty years ago, School for Scoundrels. A nice earnest young man is screwed over by everybody. Until he attends School for Scoundrels. Than reeducated he returns to give it back to all of those who screwed him.

    The Republicans are earnest but witless. Their politicians must go to the School for Scoundrels modern version.

    Otherwise there is no hope for them.

  8. Thank you for a well-reasoned discussion of this.

  9. Gary

    Gonewiththewind, half a dozen stock answers should do it. Memorize the meme, riff on it with your own words, and keep it short and sweet. For example, Rubio could have asked, “What does the President think?” When the “journalist” responds, whatever he says, deflect and move on. Simple.

  10. Noblesse Oblige

    It all starts in the J-schools which turns out these indoctrinated, lazy, skilless parrots by the hundreds. The attack of the clones.

  11. Bill S

    I like JH response the best (so far).
    But in the flavor of Brigg’s see nothing wrong with something like
    ” why are you such a twit?” (I like confrontation),
    Also like “I’m a little behind on the present estimate. What do you think!”

  12. rank sophist

    He’s not a scientist, man.

  13. revGDright

    We don’t have real journalists any more. Just “communications” majors. Their job is to decorate bandwidth to be transacted by networks. With so much bandwidth available, I fear we are now just amplifying noise.

  14. Sylvain Allard

    1-) Why was he afraid to answer? Maybe it is because a huge part of supporter wouldn’t have liked his answer if he had said billions of years. Or he doesn’t have faith in his own belief.

    A best answer would have been that the earth was there before him and that it will be there after him.

    2-) It is amazing from the outside the disbelief that there is toward the media. The important is not source but the accuracy of reporting. I find MSNBC to be the most accurate. They point out when they get something wrong, they present both side of the argument, and they rarely interrupt the guest. Michael Steel and Steve Schimdt have presented strong and coherent argument.

    3-) The same attack on the media is also visible on the school system, which is in a death spiral in the last few years. Where the USA keeps getting farther and farther behind.

  15. Bill S

    A follow up on your last wish casting poll.
    Could not believe how wrong I was.
    Now have a hypothesis.
    After conversing with a couple of liberal friends have come to believe that
    Ãœber democrats and Midwest republicans share a severe religious bigotry for Mormons.

  16. DNY

    I rather think delphic answers to such questions are in order: When asked about views on creation, “Personally, I incline to the views of the Cappadocian Fathers on the matter,” would work well. A similarly obscure reply noting that secularists very much want to reformulate Darwinian evolution to be unfalsifable, and thus non-scientific, due to their own theological commitments should be given for questions about evolution.

    A few rounds of getting replies like those and the press will stop asking such questions.

  17. JesusHimself

    “Oh, and the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years. You pathetic bunch of deluded f***-tards”–Jesus F*****g Christ.

    Edited by blog owner for content. Another, worse post from the same individual was deleted. I only left this to show the level of mind Rubio and other conservatives encounter and how easy it is to deal with.

  18. andyd

    Christians trying to interpret ancient Jewish texts, hilarious. Just f***ing hilarious.

    Edited by blog owner for content: and that it had to be edited ought to tell you something.

  19. Chinahand

    Prof Briggs, what should a politician answer if a journalist asked them:

    “Do you understand that the same physics which allows us to understand how transistors and lasers work, which allows us to make nuclear power and find the Higgs Boson also tells us the composition of elements in the universe, how stars and galaxies form and how long these processes take. Do you accept the findings of science or do you believe you can accept or reject those findings due to your own personal religious beliefs.”

    That is the nub of the issue as far as I am concerned not whether he personally knows or understands the physics.

  20. GoneWithTheWind

    Gary: Again I agree with you. Republicans need to be more evasive and less honest to get them past the bias that the media has against them. But where I still disagree is that somehow this would work. The media are out to get Republicans like Rubio and if he won’t cooperate by giving honest answers then they will use stronger tactics. It is a lose/lose situation. Imagine you are pro-life and think that even killing an unborn baby that was the result of rape is still murder. Now imagine you are running for congress and your pro-life view and honesty get you attacked not only by the left but even by the right. And as a result you lose the election to a Democrat who has demonstrated incompetence and bias through out her carear. Would a “stock answer” have prevented that?

  21. Jim Fedako


    To me, such arguments are employed as justification for the ascent of science over the Word of God. In other words, the Word of God is dependent on science — and without confirmation in science, the word of God is suspect. I say, take the Bible as the Word of God and keep science suspect. That is the time-tested approach.

  22. Gary

    GoneWithTheWind, we agree. However, stock answers show who is in control. And that’s what it’s really all about — keeping control in an adversarial confrontation. It helps if you can be charming or at least wittier than your questioner.

  23. TMLutas

    God did what He did. It’s part of the role of the politician to fund the search for details on what He did. It’s a really bad idea for a politician to put his thumb on the scale. Go look up Lysenko sometime.

  24. GoneWithTheWind

    Gary, Again I agree. However do not under estimate the ability of the media to go negative and even in bizarre ways without restraint. There were a couple of times that Romney had stock answers and even witty answers to questions and then through gyrations not even seen in olympic gymnastics they were able to twist his meaning to make him look stupid or out of touch or too rish to hold office. For Republicans an interview with the media is more like Wile E. Coyote thinking he finally has the road runner where he wants him only to be fooled again.

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