Nel's New Day

April 13, 2015

Rubio Wants to be the Young President

Another GOP presidential candidate rollout, today Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Writing for Nate Silver’s famous election analysis website, fivethirtyeight.com, Harry Enten puts him in the top tier following Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Despite Rubio’s poor showing in polls, Enten calls him “electable and conservative.” A hawk on foreign policy, he may avoid Rand Paul’s pitfalls; less extreme than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), he hasn’t alienated fellow senators; and more conservative than Bush, he could be an alternative, rather than a challenger.

resizeRubio’s entrance into the ring failed to make the splashes of the first two because Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy yesterday. His polling is even below Donald Trump with New Hampshire Republicans. Twitter responded with Rubio’s infamous video of reaching for a water bottle 11 minutes into his 14-minute speech responding to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech. Constant references to the incident may seem cruel, but his votes against the people of the United States are also cruel.

Tweets about Rubio’s positions were less funny than the water bottle. As one said, “Rubio used to believe in climate change. Now he’s running for president.” Another suggested that he would lose Latino votes through his denial of climate change. They also included his argument that employers should be able to fire people for being LGBT and recorded robocalls for the National Organization of Marriage, an anti-LGBT group. One tweet posted a video of his top-ten anti-LGBT statements. He has also called adoption as a “social experiment” on children and joined 29 other senators in voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In 2013, the Russian parliament declared war on LGBT people with a law that promoted anti-LGBT atrocities, including beatings and causing LGBT Russians to try to flee the country. The same day, Rubio dropped his personal immigration reform legislation because of an amendment allowing U.S. LGBT citizens to sponsor foreign spouses for permanent residency, even if they had death sentences in other countries. Thirteen days later the Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, making Rubio’s argument moot. Because conservatives were increasingly opposed to his reform, Rubio may have jettisoned the immigration reform by blaming LGBT people.

Rubio has made as many—if not more—flip-flops as Rand Paul. Originally a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, he changed his position to look GOP presidential. He could separate himself from the GOP crowd by opposition to lower taxes for high earners and punishing the poor and working class, but he won’t. When he fails in persuading anyone toward his position, he caves to the popular GOP position on increasing income inequality. He makes promises such as improving the lives of poor people with no substance, even compromising in causing more harm to the poor.

To identify as the foreign policy specialist in the candidate field, he collected right-wing advisers who call themselves “reform conservatives” to address economic issues. Rubio’s tax reform pairs a few middle class benefits with massive cuts for the wealthy, similar to George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts that cost the country trillions of dollars. His tax plan would eliminate capital gains taxes and the estate tax, dropping taxes for the wealthy like Mitt Romney far below the 14 percent that Romney claimed he paid. Romney’s sons would also pay no taxes on the millions that they inherit from their wealthy dad.

Criticized by conservatives as too generous, Rubio added more regressional tax cuts for the wealthy into his earlier unworkable plan, greatly increasing his plan’s original $2.4 trillion deficits over a decade. He also followed the conservative approach that solves the increased deficit with massive reductions in social spending, just like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In theory, that worked when he was just a senator. As a presidential candidate, he will be scrutinized for his tax and spending proposals. No one can successfully argue the success of simultaneous upper-income tax cuts, middle class credits, and anti-poverty spending.

Attempts to woo warring parties usually alienate both of them. Rubio wants both the conservative base and the left-leaning minorities. The Tea Party calls Rubio’s former immigration reform as his “amnesty” plan and refuses to believe that he has abandoned this position. His public scolding of undocumented protesters also alienated Latino voters. According to his own campaign staff, Rubio needs over 40 percent of the Latino vote but is trailing Hillary Clinton in polls with this population. Romney got only 27 percent of Latino vote.

Rubio brags that his foreign policy credentials as his signature, setting him above other GOP candidates, but he vows to block normal trade with Cuba, calling President Obama’s position a “victory for oppression.” Koch Brothers’ business megadonors think that Rubio’s philosophy is “out of step with the more noninterventionist” beliefs amongst Koch network donors.

In March, Rubio stumbled badly while questioning Secretary of State John Kerry on foreign affairs. Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that Rubio fails his own test that the next president have a “clear view of what’s happening in the world” and a “practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs.” The next week he complained that President Obama is nicer towards Iran than Israel, despite Netanyahu’s gratitude for the billions of dollars the Obama policy annually gives Israel and the help for attacks on Israel, for example the Hamas rocket assault. Rubio’s position is that he would immediately abandon U.S. allies and negotiating partners by “unilaterally” imposing “crushing” sanctions on Iran—which, as president, he couldn’t do.

Rubio wrote in his memoir that he has shifted among the Mormon, Catholic and Baptist churches. He grew up a Catholic before he became a Mormon, then switched back to Catholicism, then became a Southern Baptist and a Catholic, then left the Baptists and simply became a Catholic, then he became a Baptist again, then a Catholic again, all the while technically remaining a Mormon. Even right-wing websites are a bit snarky about this statement, responding that “many Americans might question how someone could attend both churches and fully share in both denominations.”

Last year he alienated both LGBT and conservative religious people by condemning discrimination against gays and lesbians and arguing they should be denied equal legal rights. He went farther this year with harsh statements against the pope for helping arrange talks between the US and Cuba, accusing him of not prioritizing “the cause of freedom and democracy.” Seventy percent of Latino voters identify as Catholic.

Enten may see Rubio as a viable “alternative” to Jeb Bush, but Bush has been working behind the scenes to collect the elite support to decide the nomination. Both are establishment-oriented candidates who aim for compromise within the party. The New York Times described Rubio’s competition:

“Scott Walker, who took on unions and won in Wisconsin, is a conservative hero. Ted Cruz is a favorite of the Tea Party. Mike Huckabee is a favorite of evangelical Christians. Then there is a long list of other conservative candidates—like Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal—who might compete for votes.”

enten-datalab-rubio-21 chart conservativeRubio has lost credibility with almost everyone in the GOP. He failed to carved a niche in any majority faction of the party, and his message fails to resonate with any wing of the GOP. A winning candidate needs to be seen as exceptional—and Rubio does not have that designation.

Rubio’s speech slogan is that “it’s time for our generation.” The 43-year-old disses his old mentor, 62-year-old Jeb Bush, as well as many more in the over-50 crowd—Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, Fiorina, Graham,  Rick Perry—even Rand Paul and Chris Christie. On the other hand, he has “young” competition: 48-year-old Scott Walker, 44-year-old Ted Cruz, and 44-year-old Bobby Jindal. President Obama was only 47 when he was elected for his first term. Everyone took the hit from Rubio’s slam against 67-year-old Hillary Clinton.

Other conservatives are attacking Clinton, for example Meet the Press host Chuck Todd who asked, “How does Hillary Clinton deal with this freshness issue?”

Panelist and journalist Maria Hinojosa responded: 

“I have to be honest with you. The terms ‘expiration date’ and ‘stale’ and ‘too late for you’ as a woman, it’s like, I don’t know if men have that same reaction, that’s nuclear.”

Panelist Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, agreed, adding that the GOP is “stale.”

Rubio’s website uses the motto, “New American Century,” an organization that led the U.S. into war against Iraq. In 1997 founders called for regime change and much greater defense spending for the U.S. as the “world’s pre-eminent power” that led to George W. Bush’s “dominant” power. The focus was on military attacks rather than diplomatic strategy. By 2006, the organization had dissolved into a voice mail-box. Rubio may be bringing back the neo-con group to declare war on the world.

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