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LOL: GOP Florida Senator, walking empty suit and "pathetic liar" Lil' Marco Rubio is looking like a wet pale bath towel hung out to dry this month after two blistering public encounters with very different but equally fierce critics. Running for a third term in the Senate - even though he was sick of it until he got beat by Trump and galvanized by his state's 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting which he then did "nothing" about maybe because he's missed almost four times more roll call votes than other lawmakers - he faced off this week against incendiary Democratic Rep. Val Demings in their only debate, much of which he spent gazing sullenly down at his lectern looking like his mom was yelling at him. Wonkette's very fine headline: "Val Demings Performs Live Weasel Dissection in Florida Debate." 

To his shame if he had any, Rubio took far-right positions on both big issues of the day - abortion and guns - but clumsily scrambled not to admit it; confronted on abortion, he said he's "100% 'pro-life'" but repeatedly dodged questions about a national ban without exception, which he's said he supports. "He can make his mouth say anything today," snapped Demings. "He is good at that, by the way. What day is it and what is Marco Rubio saying?" Then she furiously ripped the stance he denied he had: "No, Senator, I don’t think it’s OK for a 10-year-old girl to be raped and have to carry the seed of her rapist...I don’t think it’s OK for you to make decisions for women and girls." One observer, "I wouldn't trust him to make decisions about cereal."

In his most contemptible swerve, Rubio backtracked on his earlier support for basic gun control after 2018's Parkland massacre (also in his state), at the time proclaiming he "absolutely" believed 18-year-olds shouldn't be buying assault rifles and he'd "support a law that takes that right away." In the debate, proving himself to be "a pathetic liar" and "useless," he declared "that doesn’t work," which we're sure has nothing to do with the $3-plus million he gets from the NRA, the 6th biggest blood-soaked pay-off in the Senate, along with their A-plus rating. 

Lamely trying to justify his cowardice, he babbled the issue "is why these people are going out there and massacring these people" - umm, guns? - and also don't forget "the danger involved in using drop boxes" to vote 'cause someone could blow it up, but sure, assault rifles for everyone! A livid Demings: "What in the hell did he just say?" "This is about taking dangerous guns out of the hands of dangerous people," she said. "How long will you watch people being gunned down" - first grade to college, synagogue to night club - "and do nothing?" The ugly truth: Rubio would "say anything to win an election." 

Other indefensible stands: He wants to repeal Medicare's right to negotiate the price of prescription drugs because in a state of older people let's keep prices high and Big Pharma rich; he opposed hurricane aid for NYC during Sandy but wants $33 billion after Ian; he missed the disaster funds vote to go on Hannity and shill for donations against "Marxist misfits"; he's also derided LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, protections for same-sex migrants, but hey, don't call him a bigot.

Enter Lil Miss Hot Mess, "The People's Drag Queen," to do just that, and not a moment too soon. This week, amidst what's already a surge of draconian homophobic and transphobic laws by GOP state legislators, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson introduced a national bill critics call "Florida's Don't-Say-Gay bill on steroids." Backed by 32 more GOP bigots in the House, the sweeping "Stop the Sexualization of Children Act" would prohibit federally funded libraries, schools, hospitals, military bases from developing or funding "any sexually-oriented programs or material" for children under the age of 10; it defines "sexually-oriented" as any depiction of sexual activity or "any topic involving sexual orientation, gender identity or gender dysphoria" - aka, just stop feeling confused. 

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The bill would ban, say, school libraries from providing kids with inclusive sex education or library books that discuss LGBTQ topics; it would also presumably ban the popular, non-profit Drag Story Hour events at public libraries where drag performers read books to kids to promote literacy and diversity - what the right deem "sick displays" and "sexual exhibitions." 

In a June op-ed, Lil Miss Hot Mess took on the false trope and "dangerous rhetoric" that drag sexualizes children and constitutes "grooming." A well-known drag queen who performs in L.A. and lives in Tucson, where she is a visual artist and professor at the University of Arizona "when not twirling," she cites research that argues drag invites a sense of wonder, activates creativity and play, and encourages children to challenge "traditional ways of thinking," so no wonder it's anathema to the right - and, clearly, Marco Rubio.

In a powerful video earlier this month, Hot Mess had a query for Rubio: "Why are you so obsessed with me and Drag Story Hour?" She has a point. In June, three days after the Ulvade shooting, Rubio boldly moved to protect our kids (from drag, not guns) by writing the Air Force Secretary to protest a "completely insane" Pride event at a base in Germany that included a Drag Story Hour putting "young children in close proximity with adults who are intentionally and explicitly sexualized”; he singled out a kids' book to be read, "The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish," one of two books by our own Hot Mess, to rant about "publicly funded propaganda on US Air Force bases." The event was cancelled. 

Last month, Rubio released a histrionic ad, the day Hurricane Ian hit Florida, that also featured Hot Mess: "The radical left will destroy America if we don't stop them. They indoctrinate children and try to turn boys into girls." Cue video of Hot Mess, peaceably reading to kids. He also whined "if you speak out, they call you a racist." Not true: She called him a bigot. This is not her first rodeo or drag show - she's on the Story Hour board, hosted many readings, been widely published - so she worked with GLAAD to respond. "We're simply out here reading books to children, encouraging them (to) envision a more (just) world," she said. "You, on the other hand, are out here during a hurricane that's pummeling your state spreading hateful, homophobic and transphobic bigotry" - and not addressing the "devastating" impact of climate change, gun violence, an inequitable economy. 

At the end of the day you work for us, and let me tell you, dear, it's not working," she chided. "You can either stand up for those of us who deserve justice and rights in this country, or you can stand out of our way. Because we are here to spread joy, justice and a more fabulous future." Fabulous, indeed.

Crossposted with the author's permission from Common Dreams.