Until recently, I assumed that allowing himself to become identified with immigration reform had destroyed any chance Marco Rubio had of becoming the GOP's next presidential nominee. But suddenly the tea party darling turned establishment favorite is getting good press again over on the teabaggy edge of the right. Here's Conn Carroll at Townhall:
Rubio's Foreign Policy Focus Pays OffYou probably missed Rubio's Cuba/Venezuela attack on Senator Harkin, but got right-wingers' old anti-commie juices flowing in a way nothing has in years. Here's Commentary's Seth Mandel:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) still has not fully recovered from his work with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on S.744 [immigration reform], but events in Venezuela and Ukraine last week have reminded many conservatives why Rubio would be a strong choice for the Republican White House nominee in 2016
First on Monday, Rubio gave an amazing 14-minute speech on the Senate floor taking Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) to task for his recent praise of the communist regime in Cuba. Rubio tied the Cuban regime to events in Venezuela and North Korea, making an impassioned defense of freedom and humans rights. Rubio's media team deftly got the video up on YouTube and it was admiringly posted on pretty much every conservative website....
And then, this weekend, after Obama declared it was "happy hour time with the Democratic party" while Russian troops invaded Ukraine, Rubio offered a much stronger and coherent response. On Saturday, his team placed a piece on Politico outlining "8 Steps Obama Must Take to Punish Russia," and on Sunday Rubio turned in a solid performance opposite Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press....
Over at the Miami Herald, Marc Caputo set the scene and noted that although the subject was socialist totalitarian repression, this was no dated conversation:I'll spare you the Venezuela part -- go to the YouTube link above if you want to watch the video. Here's the thing: This is what right-wing voters want. They want someone who talks all the time about enemies who are pure evil -- and the problem for Republicans lately is that Middle East conflicts have made us weary of war with Islamicists, while the right's domestic Antichrists -- Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, health care reform, the IRS -- don't seem as evil to most people as they do to the right.
Rubio's speech was about current events: the protests in Venezuela, the Maduro government and the ties it has with the Castros, who repress their own people and helped inspire the suppression in Caracas.For 14 minutes and 16 seconds, Rubio gave the best oration of his political career, speaking largely off the top of his head and with only the barest of notes. Rubio sometimes dripped with sarcasm or simmered with indignation as he made the case to Congress that the United States needs to continue Cuba sanctions and punish Venezuela.
Venezuela is becoming the new Cuba.
Indeed, Rubio came alive during the speech....
A few moments ago, the body was treated to a report from the senator from Iowa about his recent trip to Cuba. Sounded like he had a wonderful trip visiting, what he described as, a real paradise. He bragged about a number of things that he learned on his trip to Cuba that I’d like to address briefly. He bragged about their health care system, medical school is free, doctors are free, clinics are free, their infant mortality rate may be even lower than ours. I wonder if the senator, however, was informed, number one, that the infant mortality rate of Cuba is completely calculated on figures provided by the Cuban government. And, by the way, totalitarian communist regimes don’t have the best history of accurately reporting things. I wonder if he was informed that before Castro, Cuba, by the way, was 13th in the whole world in infant mortality. I wonder if the government officials who hosted him, informed him that in Cuba there are instances reported, including by defectors, that if a child only lives a few hours after birth, they're not counted as a person who ever lived and therefore don’t count against the mortality rate....
But if we're entering a period of renewed focus on foreign policy, with Vladimir Putin as a durably evil cartoon villain, and with a supporting cast of lesser supervillains, a guy who concentrates on shaking his fist at those enemies really might get the GOP voter base riled up.
I'm not surprised to see an old-line right-wing journal like Commentary praising Rubio. But when I see half-mad former tea party Senate hopeful Joe Miller of Alaska tweeting a link to an article titled "Marco Rubio: Russia is a government of 'liars,'" I think love is in the air.
If Rubio sticks with this, and drops the immigration thing, he could just be the second coming of Bush 2004, who was the second-time-as-farce version of 1980s Reagan -- a dewy-eyed believer in a foreign policy based on the belief that true patriots can drive pure evil from the face of the earth with military might and platitudes.
Rubio, of course, isn't urging Obama to drone-strike Putin or even put boots on the ground in the Crimea; his recommendations are maybe a few inches to the right of what the White House is likely to do, except that Rubio adds a lot more self-righteous foot-stamping. But that's what the rubes love -- he seems a lot angrier than Obama. That's what tyrants like Putin respect, right?
Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has had nothing but lousy options in just about every foreign policy problem he's faced. That's likely to be true for the rest of his term. It's a perfect moment for a Republican to pretend that difficult problems have simple solutions. GOP voters love hearing that.