Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been quite candid on most of the hot-button social issues of the day, and despite national ambitions, the Florida Republican has positioned himself well to the right of the American mainstream on issues like contraception, reproductive rights, and marriage equality.
But the senator nevertheless believes he has a strong case to make when it comes to the culture war, and yesterday he delivered a big speech his staff billed as an address on “the breakdown of the American family and the erosion of fundamental values that has followed.” The remarks, which can be read in their entirety here or watched online here, covered a fair amount of ground, though as Benjy Sarlin explained, there was a special emphasis on gay rights.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged Wednesday that American history was “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians.” But in a speech at Catholic University in Washington, Rubio drew the line sharply at marriage equality and accused supporters of same sex unions of “intolerance.”
“I promise you even before this speech is over I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” Rubio said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Support for the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage.”
Rhetoric like this is familiar – the right has long believed it’s unfair for the left to be intolerant of intolerance. Despite its repetition, though, the argument always seems to come up short.
Consider the underlying point Rubio is trying to make. On the one hand, he and his allies intend to keep fighting, hoping to use the power of the state to deny equal rights and basic human dignity to Americans based on sexual orientation. On the other hand, Rubio and his allies would appreciate it if no one said mean things about them while they push these policies.
I’m afraid the public discourse doesn’t quite work this way. No one is suggesting Rubio must abandon his opposition to civil rights for LGBT Americans, but if he wants to avoid criticism while pushing public policies that create second-class citizens, he appears to have chosen the wrong line of work.
That said, let’s not overlook the part of the speech in which Rubio also tried to position himself as a critic of anti-gay discrimination.
“We should acknowledge that our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians. There was once a time when the federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required private contractors to identify and fire them. Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants. And many cities carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay Americans.
“Fortunately, we have come a long way since then.”
Yes, that is fortunate. But under existing federal law, American employers, right now, can legally fire gay employees – or even employees they think might be gay – regardless of their on-the-job performance.
Our history is, in fact, “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” but that discrimination can still happen under existing law – and though he didn’t mention it yesterday, as far as Marco Rubio is concerned, federal anti-discrimination laws should not be changed. Indeed, when the Senate rather easily passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last fall, only 30 senators voted against it, and Rubio was one of them.
The far-right senator, in other words, is trying but failing to thread a culture-war needle. Rubio wants to block consenting adults who fall in love from getting married, but he doesn’t want to be accused of intolerance. The Republican senator wants to decry employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, but he doesn’t want to take action to prevent the discrimination he claims not to like.
As culture-war visions go, this one needs some work.
By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2014
Too much about the Republican candidate for the presidency is far too mysterious.
When Mitt Romney was governor of liberal Massachusetts, he supported abortion, gun control, tackling climate change and a requirement that everyone should buy health insurance, backed up with generous subsidies for those who could not afford it. Now, as he prepares to fly to Tampa to accept the Republican Party’s nomination for president on August 30th, he opposes all those things. A year ago he favored keeping income taxes at their current levels; now he wants to slash them for everybody, with the rate falling from 35 percent to 28 percent for the richest Americans.
All politicians flip-flop from time to time; but Mr. Romney could win an Olympic medal in it (see “Mitt Romney’s chances: The changing man”). And that is a pity, because this newspaper finds much to like in the history of this uncharismatic but dogged man, from his obvious business acumen to the way he worked across the political aisle as governor to get health reform passed and the state budget deficit down. We share many of his views about the excessive growth of regulation and of the state in general in America, and the effect that this has on investment, productivity and growth. After four years of soaring oratory and intermittent reforms, why not bring in a more businesslike figure who might start fixing the problems with America’s finances?
But competence is worthless without direction and, frankly, character. Would that Candidate Romney had indeed presented himself as a solid chief executive who got things done. Instead he has appeared as a fawning PR man, apparently willing to do or say just about anything to get elected. In some areas, notably social policy and foreign affairs, the result is that he is now committed to needlessly extreme or dangerous courses that he may not actually believe in but will find hard to drop; in others, especially to do with the economy, the lack of details means that some attractive-sounding headline policies prove meaningless (and possibly dangerous) on closer inspection. Behind all this sits the worrying idea of a man who does not really know his own mind. America won’t vote for that man; nor would this newspaper. The convention offers Mr. Romney his best chance to say what he really believes.
There are some areas where Mr. Romney has shuffled to the right unnecessarily. In America’s culture wars he has followed the Republican trend of adopting ever more socially conservative positions. He says he will appoint anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court and back the existing federal Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA). This goes down well with southern evangelicals, less so with independent voters: witness the furor over one (rapidly disowned) Republican’s ludicrous remarks about abortion and “legitimate rape” (see “The Todd Akin affair: Grenades and stilettos”). But the powers of the federal government are limited in this area; DOMA has not stopped a few states introducing gay marriage and many more recognizing gay civil partnerships.
The damage done to a Romney presidency by his courting of the isolationist right in the primaries could prove more substantial. He has threatened to label China as a currency manipulator on the first day of his presidency. Even if it is unclear what would follow from that, risking a trade war with one of America’s largest trading partners when the recovery is so sickly seems especially mindless. Some of his anti-immigration policies won’t help, either. And his attempts to lure American Jews with near-racist talk about Arabs and belligerence against Iran could ill serve the interests of his country (and, for that matter, Israel’s).
Once again, it may be argued that this will not matter: previous presidents pandered to interest groups and embraced realpolitik in office. Besides, this election will be fought on the economy. This is where Manager Romney should be at his strongest. But he has yet to convince; sometimes, again, being needlessly extremist, more often evasive and vague.
In theory, Mr. Romney has a detailed 59-point economic plan. In practice, it ignores virtually all the difficult or interesting questions (indeed, “The Romney Programme for Economic Recovery, Growth and Jobs” is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” without the sex). Mr. Romney began by saying that he wanted to bring down the deficit; now he stresses lower tax rates. Both are admirable aims, but they could well be contradictory: So which is his primary objective? His running-mate, Paul Ryan, thinks the Republicans can lower tax rates without losing tax revenues, by closing loopholes. Again, a simpler tax system is a good idea, but no politician has yet dared to tackle the main exemptions. Unless Mr. Romney specifies which boondoggles to axe, this looks meaningless and risky.
On the spending side, Mr. Romney is promising both to slim Leviathan and to boost defense spending dramatically. So what is he going to cut? How is he going to trim the huge earned benefits programs? Which bits of Mr. Ryan’s scheme does he agree with? It is a little odd that the number two has a plan and his boss doesn’t. And it is all very well promising to repeal Barack Obama’s health-care plan and the equally gargantuan Dodd-Frank act on financial regulation, but what exactly will Mr. Romney replace them with—unless, of course, he thinks Wall Street was well-regulated before Lehman went bust?
Playing dumb is not an option
Mr. Romney may calculate that it is best to keep quiet: The faltering economy will drive voters towards him. It is more likely, however, that his evasiveness will erode his main competitive advantage. A businessman without a credible plan to fix a problem stops being a credible businessman. So does a businessman who tells you one thing at breakfast and the opposite at supper. Indeed, all this underlines the main doubt: Nobody knows who this strange man really is. It is half a decade since he ran something. Why won’t he talk about his business career openly? Why has he been so reluctant to disclose his tax returns? How can a leader change tack so often? Where does he really want to take the world’s most powerful country?
It is not too late for Mr. Romney to show America’s voters that he is a man who can lead his party rather than be led by it. But he has a lot of questions to answer in Tampa.
By: The Economist, Business Insider Contributor, August 25, 2012