At the recent CPAC gathering, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a likely Republican presidential candidate, seemed to stumble on one of the basic facts of the Middle East. “The reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” the Florida Republican said.
The senator seemed confused. In reality, President Obama has put an anti-ISIS military strategy in place, and that’s fine with Iran, since Iran and ISIS are enemies.
I’d hoped that Rubio just misspoke, or had been briefed poorly by an aide, but apparently not - -at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this afternoon, the far-right Floridian continued to push this strange theory, pressing Secretary of State John Kerry on the point. “I believe that much of our strategy with regards to ISIS is being driven by a desire not to upset Iran so they don’t walk away from the negotiating table on the deal that you’re working on,” Rubio said. “Tell me why I’m wrong.”
And so, Kerry told him why he’s wrong.
For those who can’t watch clips online, here’s the heart of the exchange.
KERRY: What’s important, senator, with respect to your question is to understand this. And I think this has been a misread by a lot of people up here on the Hill, to be honest with you. There is no grand bargain being discussed here with regards to this negotiation, this is about a nuclear weapon potential. That’s it. And the president has made it absolutely clear they will not get a nuclear weapon. Now the presumption by a lot of people up on the Hill here has been that we somehow aren’t aware of that goal even as we negotiate that goal. Our negotiation is calculated to make sure they can’t get a nuclear weapon. It’s really almost insulting that the presumption here is that we’re going to negotiate something that allows them to get a nuclear weapon.RUBIO: Well I haven’t discussed about the nuclear weapon but I – and I’m not saying there is a grand bargain – what I’m saying is that I believe that our military strategy towards ISIS is influenced by our desire not to cross red lines That the Iranians have –KERRY: Absolutely not in the least.
Rubio went on to insist that many of our Sunni allies in the region – including Jordan and U.A.E. – feel as if we’ve kept them “in the dark” about the nuclear talks with Iran, reducing our “trust level” in the region.
Again, Kerry had to patiently explained to the Republican, “Senator, that is actually flat wrong.”
Honestly, it was like watching a competent teacher trying to explain the basics of current events to a student who failed to do his homework. Andrea Mitchell said the Secretary of State took Rubio “to school.”
Rubio recently said he’d have an important advantage in the race for the White House because he, unlike the GOP governors, has “a clear view of what’s happening in the world.” The senator added that for governors running for president, international affairs will be “a challenge, at least initially, because they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”
That’s not a bad argument, though it’s predicated on the assumption that senators who deal with foreign policy actually have some idea what they’re talking about. This afternoon, Rubio fell far short.
For more on today’s committee hearing, be sure to check out msnbc’s related coverage.