Marco Rubio, the Junior Senator from Florida, has positioned himself as this election cycle’s establishment shill, however also has a decent enough conservative record to appeal to those on the Right of the party. Although he had alienated many on the Right with his proposed immigration bill in 2013, by virtue of being a young Latino the establishment Republicans that think their message is acceptable think he is more marketable. Unfortunately I fear that this assessment may be correct.
Rubio’s first comments came about ISIS in which he arguing that he understands why most Republicans want to ban all Muslims from the country but blamed Obama. He said that “ISIS is the most dangerous terrorist group in the world ever” and that “the President has left us less safe”. Even if we take these premises as true, which I would say they aren’t, Rubio’s solution, as he mentions later in the evening, is to spend more money on the military and defeat ISIS with a coalition of Sunni Arab countries.
Credit where credit is due, Rubio was the one of two people on the stage who acknowledged that Sunnis existed whereas the others simply said “Muslim countries”. However anyone with a fundamental understand on logic knows that if ISIS don’t care about Russia, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, France, Canada, Britain, and the US militaries combined, they probably aren’t going to be that bothered about the US spending a bit more. ISIS is a fundamentalist Islamic death cult that think they are doing the work of a divine power. As a consequence, they have no fear of death and they believe their actions to be justified; the solution, therefore isn’t, spend more money on bombs, the solution is multifaceted and complicated.
The main event in regards to Senator Rubio came in the form of three disputes. The first with Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and the second and third with Senator Cruz toe to toe.
Rubio declared that ISIS was the most sophisticated terrorist group ever and that it was a bad decision to get rid of the bulk collection of people’s metadata. As a consequence Rubio tried to attack Ted Cruz’s vote in support of getting rid of the programme. Technically, although I hate to say it, Cruz is correct in saying that the programme violated the Fourth Amendment, and therefore going after Cruz for not voting favour of continuing to break the Constitution is stupid. Admittedly Cruz’s response was equally stupid in which he said that Rubio’s campaign ads attack Cruz were “Alinsky-like”.
This is a reference to the political activist Saul Alinsky who was a left-wing community organiser that tried to improve the wages and living conditions of African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. People on the Right have claimed Alinsky to be a communist agitator, which is untrue, but this was largely because his style of organising influenced the political campaign of Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic Primary. Because of this link to Obama, people on the Right have straw-manned Alinsky to be this all encompassing figure of hate that has become nothing more than a sound-bite to the Republican base.
Rubio’s average response to Cruz’s criticism was swiftly followed up by comments from Rand Paul who argued that Rubio’s 2013 Immigration Bill would have liberalised immigration requirements. The Kentucky Senator also said that Rubio had voted against an amendment that he had proposed that called for greater scrutiny of immigrants coming into the country. This claim had a mixed reaction in the audience, and Rubio used this response to get the audience back on his side by saying that had his plan been implemented, the FBI and others would have had the phone records of the San Bernadino shooters. This proved to be popular with the audience.
The second dispute was over the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that was signed into law by President Obama that prevented the Federal government from detaining US citizens without due process. The fact that this bill had to be passed is depressing as this kind of power-grab is clearly unconstitutional but I guess the Bush Administration blurred the line of what counter-terrorism laws can and couldn’t do constitutionally. Rubio didn’t see it this way, arguing that “Cruz voted against the NDAA three times which funds troops and Iron Dome. If he’s voted against it three times, surely he’d veto it as President”. He went on to say that Cruz supports the containment budget which “would reduce military spending”.
First of all the NDAA doesn’t fund Iron Dome, what the bill in question did was double the funding of the Iron Dome programme to $600 billion. Secondly anyone who thinks that the entire US military is funded through this single piece of legislation is clearly a moron. However to Rubio’s credit he is correct that Cruz has supported containment budgets which would have reduced military spending. Personally I don’t think this is a bad thing but for Republican voters this is a real no no.
Rubio’s response to this was depressingly predictable and came in three parts. First, he said that “if you’re an American citizen and you join ISIS you’ll not be read your Miranda rights, you’ll be treated as an enemy combatant”. This shows a terrifying lack of understanding from Senator Rubio. According to the Constitution all US citizens have Miranda rights whether you know you do or not and the government cannot take these away. Why? Because if the government could randomly suspend somebody’s constitutional rights they wouldn’t be worth the paper they’re written on.
The second part of this terrible plan was his belief that cuts to the military would diminish the US’ military strategy. This is totally subjective as it depends the nature of the strategy. If cuts to the military mean there are no more tanks and your plan heavily relies on tanks then the strategy would be diminished; if military strategy was not dependent on tanks it wouldn’t have any real effect.
Finally Cruz, according to Rubio, was outsourcing US foreign policy because Cruz wasn’t in favour of invading loads of countries. Don’t get me wrong, Cruz is a very dangerous man, but Rubio is a staunch neo-con when it come to foreign policy and, along with others like Lindsay Graham, literally advocates further US imperialism.
The final verbal fracas between Cruz and Rubio came on the issue of immigration. When asked directly whether he supported his own immigration bill. His response was something along the lines of ‘yes, but it should be implemented in the future’, which is a very politician answer. Cruz responded with a strange set of self contradictory statements. The Texas Senator accused Rubio of supporting amnesty (which he doesn’t) before quoting Ronald Reagan (who actually did).
Senator Cruz then went on to say that San Bernadino is “evidence of what happens when you let people in without FBI vetting”. This is impressively stupid as the whole furore following the shooting was that one of the shooters was a US citizen. The other shooter was a legal immigrant who underwent background checks; basically lack of vetting was not anything to do with the shooting. Rubio’s final comments in these area were bizarre as he implied that refugees in 2013 were fleeing oppression, whereas now they weren’t.
Outside of attacking other candidates, Rubio spoke about Syria. He wrongly stated that Sunni countries weren’t getting involved because of Obama’s ‘lack of leadership’ rather than acknowledging that there are a multitude of complicated geo-political reasons. He also claimed that ISIS want to attack other Sunni Muslims first; this plainly isn’t true as the one set of people mentioned by ISIS as people they hate are Shia Muslims. I’m not saying that ISIS want to kill other Sunni Muslims, but they would much rather focus on a Shia genocide first. Rubio also argued that Assad was a puppet of Iran which also isn’t true; he’s aligned with Iran but he’s not a puppet of Iran. Assad is a secular Alawite, in addition to being a repressive nut-case. Iran is led by theocrats. Assad is many things but he is not a theocrat.
To conclude all the other candidates came out all guns blazing and were successful in their bid to marginalise the Florida Senator. As he is all but guaranteed to receive campaign funds from establishment Republicans, Rubio had to come across as sufficiently conservative in order to appeal to a base that talks about the importance of small government whilst also supporting Donald Trump’s fascism. He was able to position himself as a ‘strong-man’ that wants to make America safer but when he was challenged by others on being too liberal (which is hilarious by the way) the crowd appeared not to be fans of Senator Rubio. In the year of the outsider being the establishment’s choice seems, at this point in time at least, to be a curse and not a blessing.