By Jeremy Lott, March 1, 2016
After Donald Trump's big Vegas victory, the Republican Party is spooked. Big elephants are now stampeding to endorse second place finisher Marco Rubio, and they are not light on their feet. They may just trample the peace of nations while they're at it by boosting a candidate who dreams only of national greatness and war.
Campaign whisperers tell us Jeb Bush is likely to endorse the Florida senator soon. More importantly, so too is 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who still has some sway with Republican primary voters. After Nevada, Rubio traveled to Minnesota to campaign with popular former governor Tim Pawlenty in a state that looks gettable for him.
Endorsements on their own do not win elections for presidential hopefuls, but they can make a crucial difference, especially if the endorsers put extra elbow grease to it. It's hard to imagine Rubio beating Texas Senator Ted Cruz in South Carolina without the state's governor, Nikki Haley, or its junior senator, Tim Scott, by his side or canvassing the state on his behalf.
The endorsers are hoping Rubio can sell a certain version of the Republican Party to voters: a party that is youthful, vigorous, diverse, tolerant and proudly patriotic. They think general election voters will prefer this over an older, needier, whiter, less tolerant, explicitly nationalist Trump Party, or the Lite version that Texas Senator Ted Cruz is selling.
What they’re hoping we’ll overlook is the damning fact that Rubio has learned nothing from Iraq, other than how to play word games about it. Rubio likes to talk of “American exceptionalism,” which means different things to different people. To him, it means America is in charge, almost by divine right.
Rubio was in favor of the invasion and lengthy occupation of Iraq. He supported the Obama administration’s efforts to overthrow the strongman of Libya, which led to a failed state that now harbors anti-American terrorist groups.
The Florida senator supports America’s simultaneous anti-ISIS, anti-Assad efforts in Syria, which helped create the refugee crisis threatening Europe. Rubio calls Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin a “gangster” and a “thug” for taking Assad’s side against ISIS and other regime foes.
Rubio also wants “boots on the ground” in Iraq, fighting ISIS. He insists that these should be Arab boots to voters who do not want to throw “our boys” back into the maelstrom, yet he also insisted that he would be against amnesty when he ran for the Senate. How did that work out?
Anyone who challenges the wisdom of Rubio’s world-remaking vision in the slightest way is the enemy, including Rubio’s Republican opponents. Leading up to the Republican debate on December 15, Rubio accused Cruz of “sid[ing] with the isolationist” wing of American politics. He also pilloried Cruz for opposing huge military budgets and mass government spying on Americans through NSA bulk data collection and wiretaps. After the debate, his campaign denounced “the isolationist tag team duo” of Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul in a fundraising letter.
This same stark and often wrongheaded vision was on display at Rubio’s disastrous New Hampshire debate this month, where he kept “robotically” (per press reports) insisting that President Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.” Former prosecutor Chris Christie tried to interrogate what he meant by that. Rather than explain, Rubio opted for rote talking points.
He didn’t explain because the truth would be hard for some general election voters and maybe even some Republicans to swallow. Rubio views Obama as the enemy. One other candidate for president has claimed in the debates this year that political opponents are the real enemy. Her name is Hillary Clinton. At least she was forthright about it.
Jeremy Lott is a senior fellow at Defense Priorities.
This piece was originally published by The Federalist on March 1, 2016. Read more HERE.
Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore.