Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) seems to be biding his time while Trump-mania burns itself out. Unlike Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, he has not become a human pretzel trying to imitate Donald Trump. Unlike Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), he is not trying to become the Trump “Mini-me.” Unlike Jeb Bush, who had an uneven debate performance, Rubio rarely makes a bad showing. The day before both he and Walker were due to give competing foreign policy speeches, Rubio went on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. Again he demonstrated why, in terms of political talent, he has no equal. He will be among a handful of contenders able to unite a post-Trump party.
Rubio brushed aside Hillary Clinton’s attacks. (“Look, she’s a failing candidate, has no credibility, being exposed for being deceitful on the whole issue of her server, compromised the national security of the United States.”) He pivoted to offense, going after her abortion extremism: “Hillary Clinton voted against the partial birth abortion ban, which an overwhelming majority of Americans support, and she voted against it. She believes that children should be aborted even after 20 weeks of the pregnancy, when it’s clearly a formed human being, obviously still in development stages, but at 24 weeks, survivable outside the womb. She doesn’t believe that the parents of minors should be notified when their daughter is going to have a procedure of the magnitude that is an abortion. These are extremist views.” Then he played the experience card, scolding her for her e-mail scandal. “I’m on the Intelligence Committee, so I know exactly what this means. And I receive intelligence information every day when I’m in Washington, for example. We never receive it by email,” he said. “And what happened in her case, it doesn’t matter if someone decided to erase or take off the classification because it was more convenient to send it by email. She exposed classified information to foreign intelligence agencies.” Boom.
Does it matter if the Democratic nominee is VP Joe Biden? Rubio scoffed: “He didn’t want to do the bin Laden raid. It’s been documented. He was against the bin Laden raid. I mean, he’s been wrong time and again on issue after issue. He was a huge fan of the reset with Russia. . . . So Joe Biden is actually a very nice person, but he’s been wrong on every major foreign policy issue before this country over the last 20 years. He would be a disaster as commander-in-chief.”
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal previewing his speech today, Rubio writes: “The U.S. must continue to pursue cooperation with China when possible, but we can no longer succumb to the illusion that more rounds of cordial dialogue with its rulers will effect a change of heart. That is why President Xi Jinping’s visit to Washington next week should not be canceled, but rather downgraded to a working visit from a state visit. This is an opportunity to speak bluntly to this authoritarian ruler and achieve meaningful progress, not to treat him to a state dinner.” This is a much sounder stance than canceling the visit, something Walker rashly advocated. Rubio specifically outlines his approach to China that would include “an end to defense sequestration and a restoration of the Pentagon’s budget to its appropriate level.” Good for him. He and Bush have called for repealing sequestration outright; others should follow. In addition to restoring alliances, Rubio talks about bringing human rights to the top of the list. “I will instruct all U.S. officials meeting with their Chinese counterparts to demand the unconditional release of political prisoners. I will impose visa bans on Chinese officials who violate human rights. I will do all I can to empower Chinese citizens to breach what has been called the Great Firewall of China, and gain accurate news and information online about their country and the world.”
Rubio exudes confidence and has a deep understanding of the issues. He criticizes foes on the issues and without nastiness. While Walker and many other candidates can read a speech, Rubio doesn’t need to read others’ words. He has plenty to say in a debate or an interview because he knows what he wants to say and isn’t afraid of making a boneheaded remark.
But are smarts, knowledge and verbal acuity enough in the age of rampant know-nothingism and crass bullying? Rubio’s answer: “I honestly believe that when it’s all said and done, our nominee is someone who is realistic and understands the concerns people have about our challenges, but is also optimistic about what we can achieve about our opportunity. We’re still the greatest nation on Earth. There’s still no country in the world I would trade places with. We face some significant challenges, many of our own government’s doing. If we confront them, and we solve them, and we’re capable of solving them, there’s no reason why the 21st Century can’t be greater than the 20th. There’s no reason why we can’t have another American century.” The GOP and the country should hope he’s right.