As regular readers know, I have long been a fan of Marco Rubio, the original anti-establishment Tea Party rebel. I don’t claim to be a personal friend, but I have interviewed Rubio quite a few times, have worked with him in various circumstances, and think very highly of him. He was in town yesterday morning for a breakfast fundraiser. Afterward, he was gracious enough to give me a few minutes for a Power Line interview. We talked about the Iran prisoner/hostage exchange and about the extraordinary presidential contest in which Rubio is now engaged. Here it is, easy to listen to at just about three minutes:
In my opinion, Marco Rubio should be the Republican presidential nominee in 2016. This is why:
1) Rubio is a solid conservative. If elected, Rubio would be the most conservative president since Calvin Coolidge. He is squarely in the tradition of Ronald Reagan’s three-legged stool: foreign policy, the economy and social issues. Of the other Republican contenders, only Ted Cruz might plausibly claim to be more conservative. But Cruz has not been a consistent conservative on foreign policy. On the contrary, early on, he supported Rand Paul’s positions on drones and the National Security Agency. Only when a series of terrorist attacks caused public opinion to shift decisively toward security did Cruz trim his sails.
The knock on Rubio, of course, is immigration. But he has recanted his early support for the Gang of Eight comprehensive reform bill, and his views on immigration are conservative enough to satisfy me. I have taken a hard line on the issue, as regular readers know, and I am comfortable with Rubio’s view of immigration as a national security issue and his determination to enforce the laws, rather than subverting them as Barack Obama has done.
2) Rubio is strongest where it counts. The president–Barack Obama and Donald Trump notwithstanding–does not have plenary authority to dictate policy by issuing executive orders. The one area where the president can wield significant power on the first day of his administration is foreign policy. Marco Rubio is, in my opinion, as knowledgeable about foreign policy as anyone in Washington. I have interviewed him on foreign policy topics numerous times, and the breadth and depth of his knowledge is impressive. He understands not just the obvious hot spots, like the Middle East and Russia; he also has encyclopedic command of issues relating to Asia, including but not limited to China, and Latin America.
Not only is Marco extraordinarily knowledgeable, he is an unabashed advocate for American power and influence. That doesn’t mean war, it means strength, consistency, and fidelity to principle. Ronald Reagan won the Cold War without firing a shot. Marco Rubio is an heir to that tradition. If you want to restore American influence in the world, Rubio should be your candidate. I can’t think who would even be in second place.
3) Marco will win. I am on record as believing that Hillary Clinton is a horrible candidate who will never be elected president, even if she escapes indictment. But many others disagree with that assessment and consider her a formidable opponent. Let’s not take any chances. Marco Rubio has, I think, the ability, unique in the current crop of Republican candidates, to reach out to the broader electorate and bring new voters into the Republican orbit.
When it comes to economic opportunity, perhaps the key issue in this years election, no one can equal Rubio’s inspiring approach. He makes the virtue of free enterprise real and tangible–something that, one might think, should be easy, but which few politicians achieve. I have seen nothing similar from Chris Christie (whom I also like a lot), Ted Cruz or Donald Trump.
We can all try to guess which candidate will best appeal to unaffiliated young voters. It isn’t a matter of age; Ronald Reagan’s best demographic, after all, was young people. But that was because he refused to accept the conventional wisdom of the moment, silly in retrospect, that America was in decline, and young people should just get used to it. Marco is a lot younger than Reagan was in 1980, but he shares a similarly optimistic message. My experience with my own children and their friends suggests that of the current crop of candidates, Marco is by far the most effective at bringing the conservative message to young voters.
4) Rubio is a good guy. As noted above, I don’t pretend to be a personal friend, but I have spent enough time with Rubio to form a strong impression of his character. In politics, there is a continuum: on one end are those for whom it is all about them and their personal psychodramas. On the other end are those who are in politics because they genuinely want what is best for the country. I think Rubio is about as far on the correct end of that scale as a politician can be.
Beyond that, he is a stable, normal guy. Rubio is almost as knowledgeable about sports as about foreign policy. Fellow Senators tell me that he is well liked and respected in that body, something that can’t be said for all of the Republican contenders. He has a sense of humor and can be self-deprecating. In person, he is unfailingly gracious.
Do these things matter? I think they do. A number of strange, obsessive people have sought the presidency, sometimes successfully. Marco, like Ted Cruz, is very smart. But that is almost incidental. What we most need in a president are judgment and character. My own experience with Rubio, as well as his public record, tells me that he has those qualities.
A final observation: recent years have been very bad for America. It is easy to be pessimistic, even to adopt an apocalyptic view. But who follows a pessimistic leader? No one. Rubio’s vision of America’s future is always positive, always optimistic, always inclusive, never spiteful or divisive. In this, too, he stands in Ronald Reagan’s big shoes. I, for one, would rather cast my lot with Marco Rubio than with any of the other contenders for the presidency. He is our best choice for 2016.