In any election, the candidate at the top of the ticket matters most, but it’s not the only consideration. Who a presidential hopeful surrounds himself or herself with – for policy guidance, substantive details, strategic thinking, etc. – tells the public something important about the kind of White House team that candidate will assemble.
And with that in mind, take a look at Mother Jones’ latest reporting on Marco Rubio and his “Neocon Dream Team.”
Among the 18 members of Rubio’s new “National Security Advisory Council,” which his campaign announced on Monday, are Elliott Abrams, a former special assistant to President George W. Bush who’s best known for lying to Congress about the Reagan administration’s role in the Iran-Contra scandal; Eliot Cohen, a historian, Iraq war supporter, and lawyer at the State Department during the Bush administration; Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security during Bush’s second term; and Michael Mukasey, a Bush administration attorney general.Abrams and Cohen were members of the Project for a New American Century, an early-2000s group of neconservatives who pushed for big increases in defense spending, more American military intervention abroad, regime change in Iraq, and other policies that became Bush administration staples.
Keep in mind, when Rubio first arrived on Capitol Hill, he wasn’t exactly eager to be seen as a neoconservative hawk. In 2012, the Floridian said, “I don’t want to come across as some sort of saber-rattling person.”
But a common thread tying together much of Rubio’s career is his willingness to embrace far-right ideas if he thinks it’ll help advance his ambitions. In 2016, the senator sees neocons in need of a standard-bearer, so Rubio has decided to be pick up that torch and espouse an aggressive foreign policy that would likely involve several new U.S. wars.
Naturally, then, when it came time for Rubio to unveil his “National Security Advisory Council,” it’s filled with familiar names associated with a failed policy.
This tells us quite a bit about the senator’s candidacy, but it also sheds some light on the shamelessness of those who contributed to the Bush/Cheney catastrophes. I’m reminded again of a James Fallows piece from a couple of years ago.
We all make mistakes. But we are talking about people in public life – writers, politicians, academics – who got the biggest strategic call in many decades completely wrong. Wrong as a matter of analysis, wrong as a matter of planning, wrong as a matter of execution, wrong in conceiving American interests in the broadest sense.None of these people did that intentionally, and many of them have honestly reflected and learned. But we now live with (and many, many people have died because of) the consequences of their gross misjudgments a dozen years ago. In the circumstances, they might have the decency to shut the hell up on this particular topic for a while.
Except, lacking decency, many of these folks have not only ruled out shutting up, they’ve decided to declare themselves credible policy leaders, ready to help advise another Republican president on matters of national security and foreign policy.
What could possibly go wrong?