Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is clearly aware of the fact that many of the Republican presidential candidates are current or former governors. But the Florida senator believes he would have an important advantage over his GOP rivals.
“The next president of the United States needs to be someone that has a clear view of what’s happening in the world, a clear strategic vision of America’s role in it and a clear practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs,” Rubio said. He added that for governors running for the White House, international affairs will be “a challenge, at least initially, because they don’t deal with foreign policy on a daily basis.”
On the surface, that’s not a bad pitch. Indeed, presidential candidates from the Senate have made similar arguments against governors for many years. But listening to Rubio’s remarks this morning at CPAC, the trouble is that his own views on foreign policy need quite a bit of work.
“ISIS is a radical Sunni Islamic group. They need to be defeated on the ground by a Sunni military force with air support from the United States,” Rubio said.“Put together a coalition of armed regional governments to confront [ISIS] on the ground with U.S. special forces support, logistical support, intelligence support and the most devastating air support possible,” he added, “and you will wipe ISIS out.”Rubio’s remarks solicited applause from the mostly college-aged audience, as did the senator’s claim that “the reason Obama hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS is because he doesn’t want to upset Iran,” during sensitive negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.
Given Rubio’s interest in the issue, and the months of research and preparation he’s completed, I’m genuinely surprised at how bizarre this is.
Right off the bat, the notion that the president wouldn’t go after ISIS because he “doesn’t want to upset Iran” is bizarre – ISIS and Iran are enemies. Tehran is more than happy to see U.S. forces go after ISIS targets; in fact, Iran has done the same thing. When it comes to the terrorist group, Americans and Iranians are on the same side. How could Rubio not know this?
For that matter, the argument that Obama “hasn’t put in place a military strategy to defeat ISIS” is plainly untrue. Rubio should know this, not only because he’s a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and an unannounced presidential candidate, but also because Obama’s strategy to defeat ISIS is largely identical to Marco Rubio’s.
The senator fleshed this out at CPAC: target ISIS by using local ground forces, coupled with air support from the United States, all while U.S. officials take the lead in assembling an international coalition.
That, as of this morning, is Rubio’s plan. It’s also exactly what Obama has been doing since August.
This isn’t even the first time the senator has run into this problem. A month after the president launched a military offensive against ISIS targets, Rubio wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post with the following pitch:
To confront the Islamic State terrorists, we need a sustained air campaign targeting their leadership, sources of income and supply routes, wherever they exist. We must increase our efforts to equip and capacitate non-jihadists in Syria to fight the terrorist group. And we must arm and support forces in Iraq confronting it, including responsible Iraqi partners and the Kurds. In addition, we must persuade nations in the region threatened by the Islamic State to participate in real efforts to defeat it.
I’m not accusing Rubio of plagiarism, but this is awfully close to a word-for-word summary of the Obama administration’s policy.
If the senator wants to complain about the pace of progress against ISIS, fine. He’s not alone. But for Rubio to criticize Obama for adopting a policy Rubio endorses, all while getting Iran’s position backwards, is a bad sign for a guy whose “clear view of what’s happening in the world” is supposed to set him apart from his GOP rivals.