After Donald Trump’s big Vegas victory, the Republican Party is spooked. With the notable exception of Chris Christie, the 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 helping elect a candidate who dreams only of 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. Trump tried to lessen this blow by taunting Romney on Twitter to go ahead and get it out of the way, you big loser. After Nevada, Rubio traveled to Minnesota to campaign with popular former governor Tim Pawlenty in a state that looks gettable for him on Super Tuesday.
Endorsements on their own do not win elections for presidential hopefuls, but they can make a crucial difference with wavering voters, especially if the endorsers put extra elbow grease to it. It’s hard to imagine Rubio beating Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in South Carolina without the state’s governor, Nikki Haley, or its junior senator, Tim Scott, by his side and canvassing the state on his behalf.
Rubio Has Learned Nothing from Iraq
The endorsers are hoping Rubio can sell a certain version of the Republican Party in November: 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 Cruz is selling.
They’re hoping we’ll overlook 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 favored the invasion and lengthy occupation of Iraq. He supported the Obama administration’s efforts to help overthrow and kill Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi, who had gone to some effort to make peace with America. The aftermath led to a state that now harbors anti-American terror groups, as we saw vividly illustrated in the infamous September 11, 2012, attack on the American consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
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 these should be Arab boots to American voters who do not want to throw “our boys” back into the maelstrom, yet he also insisted he would be against amnesty when he ran for the Senate seat that he is now trying to use as a springboard to the presidency. How did that work out?
Who’s the Real Enemy?
Anyone who challenges the wisdom of Rubio’s world-remaking vision in the slightest way is the enemy, including Rubio’s Republican primary 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 Sen. Rand Paul in a fundraising letter.
This same stark and often wrongheaded vision was on display at Rubio’s disastrous New Hampshire debate, where he kept “robotically” (per press reports) insisting that President Obama “knows exactly what he’s doing.” Former prosecutor Christie tried to interrogate what he meant by that and was so unimpressed that he’s now endorsed Trump. Rather than explain, Rubio opted for rote talking points.
He didn’t explain because the truth would be hard for general election voters and many Republicans to swallow. Rubio views Obama as the enemy. One other candidate for president this year has claimed in debates that political opponents of the other party are the real enemy. Her name is Hillary Clinton. At least she was forthright about it.