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Marco Rubio Makes ‘Keyboard Cowboy’ The New Chickenhawk


During the Republican presidential primary, Marco Rubio decried Donald Trump as dangerous for our country. As such, some were a bit surprised when Rubio announced that not only would he vote for the Republican candidate, he’d be “honored to be considered” to speak on his behalf. What Rubio isn’t real keen on is being questioned about this decision.

When Philip Klein suggested “Donald Trump has exposed Marco Rubio,” Rubio responded with, “Funny piece…Easy to be a ‘Keyboard Cowboy.’ I actually ran and spent a year away from home trying to prevent choice before us.” Got that? The only people allowed to criticize politicians are other politicians. That should do wonders for the country.

It’s all reminiscent of a lazy pejorative that used to get lobbed around more frequently when a Democrat wasn’t the one ordering armed sky robots to do his bidding in the Middle East. That term is “chickenhawk,” a person who advocates for war without enlisting in the military. The New Hampshire Gazette, among other sites, even maintains a “Chickenhawk Hall of Shame.” The list doesn’t have a date for when Rubio was added, although presumably before he called for drafting our wives and daughters to fight in Libya.

What supposedly makes “chickenhawk” such a devastating line of attack is the idea that those who aren’t in the business of actually going to war have no business influencing how the military conducts itself. Those who lob it about rarely seem concerned if the commander in chief or other elected representatives with whom they agree have opinions about the military; the term is only deployed when someone with an opinion that differs from the one who utters it offers support for military action, kinetic or otherwise.

Marco Rubio Is Who His Critics Thought He Was

Now Marco, once presented as the sunny hope for a new generation of conservative leadership, is tossing about the equivalent of “chickenhawk” against those who have the temerity to suggest that maybe, just maybe, backtracking on his statements about Trump being mentally unfit and dangerous isn’t consistent with the pure and cool image he cultivated.

Sure, he’s a party man and he’s not leaving politics. As a party man with an eye on his own political future, maybe such support is necessary to an extent, but to impugn those who actually stick to their ideological guns tends to prove correct those who questioned his authenticity. Perhaps he should read Sun Tzu instead of focusing on the long game: “In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”

In other words, Rubio is who his critics thought he was. Not only is he going sour grapes since people didn’t have the wisdom to give him the nomination, he’s engaging in verbal attacks reminiscent of a Code Pink rally as he positions himself for future runs. Maybe that whole Gang of Eight thing was more indicative than some realized.

Note that it’s highly likely Ted Cruz will also flip on Trump, so for those interested in keeping that particularly ridiculous civil war going, you may want to keep your powder dry on this.

De Tocqueville? Keyboard Cowboy

Back to Rubio. Is “keyboard cowboy” actually an effective and accurate depiction of those on the idea side of conservativism and not the public servant side? Actually, no, it is not. First, there is the truism that holding public service up as a loftier profession than welding or prostitution—just to name two examples—is a heavier lift than that undertaken by Atlas.

Second, in any given year only about 200 people could realistically run for president. Maybe those 200 people could offer better ideas about governance and criticisms of presidential candidates than those keyboard cowboys. Of course, of those 200, about 50 did run for the Republican nomination, and 46 of those have since endorsed Trump, which doesn’t offer much room for criticism or competing ideas.

There are some other inconvenient realities for Rubio’s assertion, as well. Alexis de Tocqueville, G.K. Chesterton, Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, to name just a few of those, are revered for their service to the public in the form of thinking and keyboard cowboying, if not in the form of the world’s second-oldest profession. Of course, we cannot know how they would respond to Rubio’s statements that he’d be honored to help a dangerous lunatic take over the Oval Office. Surmising how those from the past would behave in the present is a fool’s errand, so we won’t.

What we can take from that, though, is that elected officials are not there to rule us, but represent us. True, we’ve drifted from that ideal, but unless we switch from a constitutional republic to a kingdom ruled by a philosopher sovereign, we sort of need those keyboard cowboys out there doing the ideological lifting. Not only do they provide the intellectual foundation for what we expect our representatives to do, they also attempt to keep them honest.

Will Citizen Rubio Follow Senator Rubio’s Rules?

Not everyone wants to be kept honest, however, especially when it comes to government’s messy sausage-making. So rather than explain why they were against something before they were for it, it’s easier to lob a seemingly clever slur at an interlocutor and hope the misdirection works. 2016 has been a great year for misdirection and the electorate can be irrational, but it’s harder to excuse it from a man who wanted to be leader of the free world.

Donald Rumsfeld once said, “You go to war with the army you have.” Currently, many Republicans are going along with that maxim and making their peace with Trump, mostly on the premise that he’s better than Hillary. That’s their prerogative, and politicians will always disappoint you. The thing is, it’s still a volunteer army. Rubio could have taken the honorable discharge; instead, he’s marching ahead, thinking about his political future.

This leads back to the wisdom of Sun Tzu: “Conceal your dispositions, and your condition will remain secret, which leads to victory; show your dispositions, and your condition will become patent, which leads to defeat.” At this point, we definitely know what Rubio’s dispositions are. The only question that remains is whether Citizen Rubio will be governed by the same rules about keyboard cowboys that Senator Rubio would impose on his critics.

Something tells me we haven’t heard the last from him, but unless he can learn to better conceal his dispositions and accept that his about-face on Trump is an affront to those who passionately championed him as a new kind of politician, victory will remain elusive.