“This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”
Thus spoke President Obama to outgoing Russian president Dimitri Medvedev near a hot mic.
Predictably, all the usual suspects have struck a feigned, outraged pose when they overheard that a politician planned to do something political.
The last Republican presidential candidate compared Putin’s Russia to the Soviet Union of Lenin and Stalin. The probable Republican presidential nominee regarded Russia as America’s #1 geopolitical foe. And Newt Gingrich classified Obama himself as “destructive of American interests.”
But the hot mic incident was the unlikely spring board for a highly coveted endorsement. Yet it also tells us a lot about the endorser.
Freshman Florida senator Marco Rubio has played his cards close to the vest throughout the primary process. When it came time for Florida’s primary on January 31, there had been three contests and three different winners. Rubio’s endorsement would have meant something. But now that it appears the only way to deprive Romney of the nomination is through a floor fight Rubio has come to Romney’s side, and as fellow Tea Partier Mike Lee put it with his own recent endorsement of Romney, it was time “to start getting behind our eventual nominee.”
Rubio has been the fashionable choice for VP for some time. And as someone who has already been a national figure for over two years, it seems like he’s been prepared and preparing for this.
In 2009 National Review placed the former Florida speaker of the House on its cover with the caption “Yes He Can” and Rubio gave a lengthy interview to NRO the sum of which suggested that the would-be insurgent candidate was not likely to question party orthodoxy. And even before Rubio officially won his primary he was the keynote speaker at the 2010 CPAC. Was it a little odd that someone who had only been a state legislator was granted such a prominent speaking role unless the GOP saw him as a potential national figure? Does that not sound a little, although not exactly like the way another state legislator was introduced to the country in say, 2004?
Rubio has the potential to be in 2012 what Sarah Palin was in 2008 when Republicans were likewise destined to be stuck with a nominee they didn’t really want: an energizing figure whose red meat rhetoric is designed to make the base forget why the presidential nominee is so uninspiringly awful.
I’ve suggested for awhile that Rubio was the likely VP nominee because he fulfills most of the criteria Republicans are looking for. He talks conservative, has establishment support, hails from a swing state, never saw a potential intervention he didn’t like, and he is Hispanic.
None of this is to suggest that Rubio is the right person for VP. Republicans always overestimate the appeal their showcased minorities bring. And when Republicans promote minorities as they did with Sarah Palin for VP or Michael Steele as RNC Chairman, it’s so transparently obvious what they are doing that it backfires.
But Rubio’s use of Obama’s hot mic incident as the opening to throw his weight behind the front-runner tells us what he considers important in his endorsement. Telling the Daily Caller, Rubio said:
“It’s been weighing on my mind all week.”
“I’ve never thought about this as a political calculation. I’m just sitting back here and watching a president that just got back from overseas — where he told the Russian president to work with him and give him space so he can be more flexible if he gets re-elected.
“We have to win this election in November. We have to! If we don’t win this election in November — and we get four more years of Barack Obama — I don’t know what that means … But I know it ain’t good.”
And if there was any doubt whether he’s the man to tell conservatives that Romney is one of them:
"I have zero doubt in my mind of two things. No. 1 that Mitt Romney will govern as a conservative, and No. 2, that he will be head and shoulders better than the guy who is in the White House right now.'' [emphasis mine—CW]
In his short time in the senate, Rubio hasn’t made much of a mark except in trying to position himself as a successor to the McCain-Liebermann-Graham bipartisan axis of uberinterventionists. Not only did Rubio loudly support the Libyan intervention but he banged the drum to ultimately intervene in Syria, an intervention thwarted in the UN with Russia’s veto. Perhaps most startling was late last year when Rubio called for a unanimous voice vote, without debate, on a non-binding resolution to accept Russia’s neighbor Georgia into NATO.
The plan failed, thanks in small part to Rand Paul, but it highlights what Rubio considers his job in the senate: spokesman for every proposed intervention.
It should come as no surprise though. A close examination of the neophyte’s 2010 CPAC speech shows that Rubio dedicated much of it to aping standard-fare intervention rhetoric. There was nothing particular deep to it nor was there any indication he had thought about it beyond neocon boilerplate.
For a party that refuses to come to terms with the Bush years, Marco Rubio is just the high they are looking for to avoid reality.
Regular Columnist, THL
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