MEMO: Paging Marco Rubio’s foreign policy experience

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Brad Woodhouse, President, American Bridge 21st Century
RE: Paging Marco Rubio’s foreign policy experience
DATE: May 12, 2015

As Marco Rubio prepares for what his campaign is billing as a “major” foreign policy speech at the Council of Foreign Relations on Wednesday, his lackluster foreign policy resume is a good reminder that Rubio’s shift to ultra-hawk has been sloppy at best. Like his vertigo-inducing swing right on immigration, Rubio has tacked to the extreme right to appease the Tea Party base that still controls the Republican Party.

Rubio likes to remind voters that he has the most foreign policy experience of any GOP presidential contender with spots on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, but those assignments haven’t translated into substantial achievements. Here’s what that “experience” actually covers:

  1. Little command of facts

Rubio has accrued at least five “false” or “mostly false” fact-checks – including two last week – that leave a pattern of dangerous misinformation.

  • PolitiFact: Rubio’s Claim That ISIS Was “Now The Predominant Islamist Group In Benghazi” Was “Mostly False.” [PolitiFact, 2/19/15]
  • Politifact: Rubio’s Claim That The United States Was Not “Building The Aircraft, The Long-Range Bombers, The Additional Aircraft Carriers, The Nuclear Submarines” Was “False.”  [PolitiFact, 5/5/15]
  • Politifact: Rubio’s Claim That The United States Was Not “Modernizing Its Nuclear Weapons” Was “False.”  [PolitiFact, 5/5/15]
  • Rubio Received Three Pinocchios For His “Factually Wrong” Comment That Obama And The White House Did Not React To Iran’s 2009 “Green Revolution.” [Washington Post, 3/24/15]
  • PolitiFact: Rubio’s Claim That The Chinese Government “Provides Their People With No Access To The Internet” Was “Mostly False.” [PolitiFact, 3/15/13]
  1. Wrong on Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry took Rubio to task for his claim that Iran was influencing U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria, saying the “facts completely contradict” Rubio’s argument. Rubio has also staked out an extreme position on the proposed Iran deal to curb their nuclear weapon capabilities. He’s said he would “absolutely” defy our European allies and put into jeopardy U.S.-led work on Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and fight against ISIS.

  • Over Iran Deal, Rubio Would “Absolutely” Defy Allies, And “Put Washington At Odds With European Countries That Are Strong Partners On A Vast Array Of International Issues.” According to the Associated Press, “Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says that if elected president, he would “absolutely” defy stalwart European allies if necessary in order to revoke an Iranian nuclear deal he might inherit from President Barack Obama… The U.S. is negotiating the high-stakes nuclear deal with Iran alongside three European allies: Britain, France and Germany. Russia and China are also part of the U.S.-led negotiating team. If the U.S. were to break with the international coalition, it would put Washington at odds with European countries that are strong partners on a vast array of international issues, including Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. It could also leave Russia and China in a stronger position to take advantage of economic opportunities in Iran.” [Associated Press, 3/18/15]
  • Kerry: “Facts Completely Contradict” Rubio On His Claim That U.S. Strategy In Iraq And Syria Was Influenced By Iran. According to Politico, “During the hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio also tangled with Kerry over the issue of Iran’s influence in the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. The Florida senator, who is weighing a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, said he believes much of the U.S. strategy in Iraq and Syria is ‘being driven’ by a desire not to upset Iran amid sensitive nuclear negotiations. ‘Because the facts completely contradict that,’ Kerry shot back.” [Politico, 3/11/15]
  1. Hawkish positions to appease Tea Party

 Rubio is doubling down on his immigration capitulation to the Tea Party and taking extreme hawkish positions. As recently as 2012, Rubio was agreeing with President Obama’s Iran policy. Commentators noticed Rubio’s foreign policy shifted soon after his failed immigration reform blunder. Now, he’s become one of the most conservative presidential prospects on foreign policy. 

  • Rubio’s Approach To Foreign Policy Showed He Was “Willing To Go Further Than Even His Hawkish Colleagues,” Which Helped His Success In Washington. According to McClatchy Washington Bureau, “A simple applause line from a Hollywood blockbuster says a lot about Rubio’s foreign policy, which has been central to his rise in Washington. It’s an approach that puts Rubio, a first-term Republican from West Miami, Fla., in the mainstream of his party’s thinking. But he’s also shown himself willing to go further than even his hawkish colleagues, and in some cases – such as his push-back on administration policy on Cuba – when there might not be a political advantage to doing so.” [McClatchy Washington Bureau, 5/15/15]
  • 2014: Rubio’s Foreign Policy Evolution Began When He Wanted To Repair His Relationship With The Republican Base After Supporting Immigration Reform. According to Bloomberg, “The evolution began early in 2014 as Rubio was working to repair his standing with the Republican base for supporting immigration reform. Within a year and a half, he was publicly taunting America’s enemies in South Carolina, quoting Liam Neeson’s character in the action film Taken: ‘We will look for you, we will find you, and we will kill you,’ he boasted.” [Bloomberg, 5/12/15]
  • Bloomberg: “Rubio’s Full-Throated Embrace Of A Bellicose Foreign Policy May Have Helped His Rehabilitation With The Republican Base.” According to Bloomberg, “Rubio’s full-throated embrace of a bellicose foreign policy may have helped his rehabilitation with the Republican base, and distinguished the young member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from his rivals. Most recent polls place Rubio in the top three with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who the senator can argue haven’t made any foreign policy decisions. The shift has also endeared him to mega-donors like Sheldon Adelson and neoconservatives like Bill Kristol.” [Bloomberg, 5/12/15]
  • Rubio’s Attacks Of The Obama Administration’s Relationship With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Grew Increasingly Aggressive. According to Bloomberg, “The fraught relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave Rubio more openings. In October, he assailed as ‘deplorable’ the Obama administration’s criticism of Israel for building settlements in Jerusalem, calling it ‘another case of President Obama’s bizarre logic of tearing down our closest partners while building up those who do not share our values.’ Those attacks have since grown more aggressive.” [Bloomberg, 5/12/15]
  1. Criticism of opponents falls flat

Given Rubio’s blunders and dangerous misinformation on foreign policy, his criticism of other GOP presidential candidates lacks authority. Rubio touts his foreign policy chops on the trail often, saying, “Few, if any, have spent the amount of time on it that I have.” He says governors can “read about foreign policy” and has criticized Sen. Rand Paul, but Rubio hasn’t shown he has a grasp of foreign policy or the experience to back it up.

  • Rubio Insisted He Had The Most Foreign Policy Experience Of All GOP Presidential Potentials. According to the Des Moines Register, “As Iowans and the nation fret over what to do about Middle East terrorists who cut off their captives’ heads, Marco Rubio thinks he might have the most foreign policy experience of the GOP lineup contemplating a presidential bid. ‘If I run for president,’ Rubio, a 43-year-old U.S. senator from Florida told The Des Moines Register in a telephone interview Wednesday, ‘I don’t know what rest of field would look like, but I would certainly say that about most of the people that are being mentioned. Few, if any, have spent the amount of time on it that I have.’” [Des Moines Register, 2/12/15]

Governors

  • Rubio Noted That While Governors Would “Read About Foreign Policy,” They Lacked The Foreign Policy Experience Required To Be President. According to a blog post by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, “Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) for some time has made the argument that a senator such as himself is better prepared to be commander in chief. On Saturday in Iowa he upped the ante, telling an Iowa radio host, ‘I believe that I take over on Day One as president prepared to lead this country in the most crucial obligation the president faces, as commander in chief,’ Rubio said. ‘Governors can certainly read about foreign policy, and take briefings and meet with experts, but there is no way they’ll be ready on Day One to manage U.S. foreign policy.’” [Washington Post, 4/26/15] 
  • Rubin: “Rubio Will Not Convince Voters He Is Superior To Other Candidates On Foreign Policy Because He Is A Senator.” According to a blog post by Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post, “In short, Rubio will not convince voters he is superior to other candidates on foreign policy because he is a senator. He is extremely knowledgeable and inspiring, but he will have considerable competition from Perry, Bush and, if he continues to learn and travel, Scott Walker. It will be an impressive field and the country can look forward to a robust debate on national security.” [Washington Post, 4/26/15] 

Other One-Term Senators 

  • Rubio Criticized Senator Paul, Called President Obama “Naïve” And “Ignorant” On Foreign Policy. According to a blog by Arturo Lopez Levy and Jhon Cores in The Huffington Post, “Rubio called President Obama the ‘worst negotiator in his lifetime,’ with a ‘naive’ and ‘ignorant’ foreign policy. He went on to criticize fellow Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul after he publicly endorsed the president’s position. Senator Paul, who demonstrates equanimity on Cuban policy, enjoys the support of several Republican heavyweights with pro-business, pro-trade and libertarian values.” [Huffington Post, 1/5/15]