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“Marco Rubio, Angry Young Man”: In Order To Get Real Attention, He Has To Become A Little More Trumpian

With the Iowa caucuses just 27 days away, the Republican race for president is getting more intense by the day. You can see it in the way the candidates are all shifting their focus to whatever they think is going to make voters more fearful, as Matea Gold documents in today’s Post. My favorite quote comes from Chris Christie, who says that the world “is a dark and dangerous place right now. In every corner that we look.”

That’s the optimistic spirit that Americans are yearning for! It’s also coming through in the candidates’ ads, which are filled with grainy images of terrorist hordes and immigrant hordes and anything else that looks sufficiently frightening.

There’s a tone of desperation to it all, as though the candidates are saying, “Not sure about voting for me? Well what if I told you that you and your children are all gonna die — how about now?” And nobody is sounding more desperate than Marco Rubio, who’s adopting a newly angry and personal tone that seems decidedly out of character.

Yesterday, Rubio gave a speech on foreign policy that was brimming over with contempt, as though he’s not just afraid of what’s happening in the world, he’s disgusted with both Democrats and Republicans for not seeing things his way. Let’s begin here:

It’s now abundantly clear: Barack Obama has deliberately weakened America. He has made an intentional effort to humble us back to size. As if to say: We no longer need to be so powerful because our power has done more harm than good.

This idea — that Barack Obama is intentionally harming America as part of his diabolical plan to exact revenge for the sins of the past — is nothing new. It’s been the topic of a hundred rants from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. But it’s usually the province of those media figures who spew their hateful bile out over the airwaves every day in an attempt to keep their audiences in a state of perpetual rage, not people who want to be president of the United States.

But that’s not all. Here are some more excerpts from Rubio’s speech:

We saw this clearly with [Obama’s] despicable speech after the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. When America needed a bold plan of action from our Commander-in-Chief, we instead got a lecture on love, tolerance, and gun control designed to please the talking heads at MSNBC.

The result of all of this is that people are afraid. And they have every right to be. To make matters worse, candidates for president in both parties cling to the same plan of weakness and retreat…

Not only is Hillary Clinton incompetent, she’s also a liar… She lied to our faces. No one in the mainstream media has the courage to call her out for it. If I am our nominee, voters will be reminded of it time and time again.

On the other side of this election is the party of Reagan, the party of strong national defense and moral clarity, yet we have Republican candidates who propose that rulers like Assad and Putin should be partners of the United States, and who have voted with Barack Obama and Harry Reid rather than with our men and women in uniform. We have isolationist candidates who are apparently more passionate about weakening our military and intelligence capabilities than about destroying our enemies. They talk tough, yet they would strip us of the ability to keep our people safe.

Rubio then went on to attack Ted Cruz, while describing the American military as a weak, degraded, pathetic force utterly incapable of defeating ISIS. Really:

Words and political stunts cannot ensure our security. ISIS cannot be filibustered.  While some claim they would destroy ISIS, that they would make the sands of the Middle East “glow in the dark,” my question is: with what? Because they certainly can’t do it with the oldest and smallest Air Force in the history of this country, or with the smallest Army we’ve had since World War II, or with the smallest and oldest Navy we’ve had since 1915. Yet these are what we will have thanks to the cuts these candidates have supported and even tried to deepen.

One might argue that if Rubio thinks the reason defeating the Islamic State is a difficult challenge is that we don’t have enough planes, soldiers, and ships, then maybe he doesn’t understand quite as much about the military as he claims. As for the jab about ISIS being filibustered, Ted Cruz does indeed describe his filibusters as an achievement of the highest order. But Rubio, who  has been a legislator since he was 29 years old, now seems to have nothing but disdain for the very idea of legislating. Asked today why he has lately missed more votes than any other senator, he said:

“I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda, only a president can set the agenda. We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen.”

Yeah, to hell with those guys. I guess if you’re worried that voters won’t like a candidate like you who serves in Congress, the way to handle it is to say that you think Congress is even more useless than they do.

What’s the explanation for Rubio’s newly sour rhetoric? The logical place to look is the frontrunner, Donald Trump. It’s usually the case that the really personal, nasty language is left to surrogates, who can get down and dirty while the candidate himself finds more subtle ways to reinforce the attacks without sounding bitter and mean. But Trump has no surrogates, and gets as means as he pleases — and of course it has worked. Perhaps with the clock ticking down to the first votes being cast, Rubio concluded that he had no choice but to do the same, that in order to get real attention for what he’s saying he has to become a little more Trumpian.

He might be partly right — but only partly. It’s always been true that going negative attracts attention, and the more personal and strident the attack is, the more attention it gets. The trouble is that this kind of rhetoric doesn’t fit with the rationale for his candidacy that Rubio has presented until now. He has argued that he’s the candidate of a new generation, with fresh ideas and a hopeful vision of the future. Yet despite all the smart people saying Rubio ought to be the party’s nominee, the idea has yet to catch on with enough actual Republican voters. With time growing short, he’s willing to try something else. But it’s hard to see how this will be all that much more appealing.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 5, 2016

January 6, 2016 - Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, Iowa Caucuses | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. He is getting bad advice. He cannot best Trump (or Cruz for that matter) at being jerk-like and short on definitive solutions.


    Comment by Keith | January 6, 2016 | Reply

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