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Rubio's Foreign Policy Views Key to Primary Strategy

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Wednesday, 14 Oct 2015 10:00 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As he pursues the Republican nomination for president in 2016, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has staked out the position, next to Lindsey Graham, of being the GOP's lead "hawk" on foreign policy and national security issues.

In a short time he has become the darling of several key "neo-cons," who are ascendant again because of the rise of ISIS, Russian President Vladimir Putin's growing involvement in the Middle East and President Barack Obama's lead-from-behind strategy.

A number of Rubio-watchers in Florida and Washington agree that the present persona of "Marco the Hawk" is light years from that of the young state legislator and up-and-coming politician in the Sunshine State. 

In the days after Sept. 11, Rubio was a vigorous opponent of the data-collection procedures and other terrorism-policing national security measures he now vigorously champions.

"I hope no one thinks we're Captain America out saving the world," Rubio told the Miami  Herald in February of 2002. 

These days, presidential hopeful Rubio heralds the secret data collection of the National Security Agency that Bernie Sanders and other Democrats call for shutting down. 

In addition, the Floridian regularly derides Obama as a weak foreign policy leader and champions a beefier military budget in Congress.
 
Recently, Rubio earned kudos for accurately having predicted at the last Republican presidential debate that Russia would become military involved in Syria.

"Here's what you're going to see in the next few weeks: the Russians will begin to fly combat missions in that region, not just targeting ISIS, but in order to prop up Assad," Rubio declared at the Sept. 16 debate.

"He will also, then, turn to other countries in the region and say, 'America is no longer a reliable ally, [for] Egypt. America is no longer a reliable ally, [for] Saudi Arabia. Begin to rely on us.'"

In an Oct. 5 interview on CNBC, Rubio urged the creation of a no-fly zone over Syria to prevent Syrian strongman Bashar Assad from bombing civilians and added that any Russian incursion over the no-fly zone "would be no different than any other adversary."

Strong words and potentially a policy that could ignite a regional or global war with Russia. Still, Rubio seems to be gaining traction with hawks, especially Jewish Republicans concerned about Israel's security and America's failed efforts to counter growing Islamic terrorism.

Politico reported this week that Rubio is close to shoring up the endorsement of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who ponied up as much as $100 million during the 2012 election.

Rubio watchers says the junior Florida senator's interest in national security began about two years ago, as an outgrowth of his assignments to the Senate's Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees.

Rubio has quickly grabbed the mantle of national security, reversing some previous stances in the area.

As part of his national security profile, Rubio heralds the secret data collection of the National Security Agency.  Writing in USA Today in May, the senator warned that "now is not the time to end this program."

This position represents a 180-degree turnabout from the stand Rubio took as a Florida state representative in February 2002, when he put the brakes on legislation that would have required the state's higher-education institutions to submit the visa information of foreign students to state-government officials in the interests of policing terrorism. 

"I hope no one thinks we're Captain America out saving the world," he told the Miami Herald in reaction to the proposal.

In the month following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attack, Rubio was among a Cuban-American delegation raising concerns as state House and Senate leader proposed beefing up police powers and watering down public records law, the Palm Beach Post reported in October 2001.

"So many of these measures that we are talking about implementing were the very same one that were forced on the people of Cuba right after Castro took over," he said, according to the Post.

Two years later, Rubio decided that "in the aftermath of 9/11, everything with law enforcement was terrorism-this and terrorism-that," reported the Orlando Sentinel.
         
Since taking office in 2011, Rubio as senator has changed considerably on these issues.  In 2011, he voted "yes" to bill to extend expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, relating to access to business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers, and roving wiretaps.
 
Rubio's "evolution" on these issues has been noted by national security experts.
         
"'Evolve' is the wrong word," James Carafano, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, told Newsmax, "I wouldn't call it 'evolution' as much as I would 'change.'  Anyone who is in the Senate in the times we're living in who finally concludes that having an aversion to risk means there is a greater likelihood for conflict down the road does so less in terms of evolution and more in terms of a strategic assessment of the situation."

It's also proving to be smart politics. Early on, Rubio had trouble gaining traction with voters and donors after supporting immigration reform.

He appeared to lack any natural constituency in the GOP base. Even most Cuban-American leaders, including the entire South Florida Congressional delegation of Cuban-Americans, have endorsed Jeb Bush for president.

With Sen. Lindsey Graham nowhere to be found in national polls, Rubio has moved to lay claim to party hawks, those who see national security as paramount. Their numbers are  small, but many are wealthy donors like Adelson or are influential in conservative media.

With his new "national security" theme and funds flowing to his PAC, coupled with two strong debate performances, many pundits think Rubio may have created a pathway to electoral success in a crowded GOP field.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.














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As he pursues the Republican nomination for president in 2016, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has staked out the position, next to Lindsey Graham, of being the GOP's lead "hawk" on foreign policy and national security issues. In a short time he has become the darling of several...
marco rubio, foreign, policy, views, strategy, 2016
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Wednesday, 14 Oct 2015 10:00 PM
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