The Slatest

Moderator: None of You Served in the Military. Rubio: My Brother Lost Two Teeth in the Army.

Rubio debate
Marco Rubio at Saturday night’s Republican debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters

American politicians talk a lot about their respect for the armed forces, but few politicians of either party are veterans. This reality was underlined at Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire by WMUR’s Josh McElveen, who mentioned during a question about veterans’ affairs that none of the candidates onstage had “ever worn a uniform as a member of the armed services.” Marco Rubio then mentioned a personal connection that he did have to veterans’ issues: his brother’s teeth.

To be fair to Rubio and especially to his brother, that does sound like it would be real annoying.

The transcript of McElveen’s question:

None of you onstage tonight have ever worn a uniform as a member of the armed services, that’s the reality of it. As commander in chief, you are charged with the care of veterans in this country. Some have suggested privatizing the V.A. is a way to enhance care and increase the quality of care and access. Others say that veterans should carry I.D. cards to allow them access to any hospital or health care provider. … What specifically would you do to ensure those who have sacrificed for us are cared for? 

Rubio’s answer:

Well, my brother’s a veteran. We’re very proud of him in our family. He served as a Green Beret from 1968 through 1971. And as part of his training he jumped out of an airplane and he lost his two front teeth. For years he has had dental claims. When he goes to get one filled, the V.A. says, “How do we know you lost your teeth in the Army?” He said, “Well, it’s the only time I’ve jumped out of a plane.” I worked in a bipartisan way—we passed a V.A. accountability bill that for the first time allows us to fire, allows the V.A. secretary to fire someone who is not doing a good job who is a senior executive. 

And [Jeb Bush] is right. They have only fired three people up until now. More people will be fired if I’m president. But the portability part of it is incredibly important. Veterans should be able to take their benefits to any hospital or doctor they want to go to. When I am president of the United States, veterans will be able to take their benefits to any hospital or doctor that they choose. 

Mario Rubio, who’s now 65, works for the city of Jacksonville and appeared alongside Marco in Iowa in December as the younger Rubio brother delivered a speech about veterans’ care.

Correction, Feb. 7, 2015: The headline of this post originally referred in error to Mario Rubio having “chipped” his teeth. Marco Rubio said that his brother lost two teeth.