Why Marco Rubio Should Join Ricochet

 

Marco Rubio gave a short speech at the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, after which he took a few questions from the audience. It put some journalists into raptures: “He delivered a master class on foreign policy” wrote Tim Mak. I figured I’d better see this for myself.

 

Yes, yes, I know, watching the whole thing takes too much time. You’d rather just read the transcript. That’s what I thought, but I couldn’t find it. No, not just the speech, the Q&A. That’s what I want you to watch.

Back up for a second. One of our new members wrote a great first post the other day. He had a clever idea for getting a bit more debate out of the upcoming Republican debate cycle. (As he explained, he’s been lurking on Ricochet since the founding days of this place, but he only recently took the plunge and joined. CL, man, we’re so glad you finally got here. No, of course you’re not too late. Come on in. Just throw your coat over there with all the others. Have a seat, have a glass of wine, the party’s only starting. The rest of you clever lurkers, don’t stand on ceremony. Click here for your free first month.)

Okay, back to Rubio.

I’m not going to give the speech a point-by-point review. Rubio is very likeable. He said some things with which I agree and some I don’t. He sounds like someone who reads the news every day. He didn’t confuse Iran and Iraq. He didn’t look like a deer caught in the headlights.

But we have a poverty-of-low-expectations crisis going on here. Shouldn’t we expect that as an absolute baseline in a presidential candidate? On his first day in office, he’ll be the Commander-in-Chief of United States military, and he won’t have time to learn about any of this once he’s elected. Any candidate who can’t get through twenty minutes of easy Q&A at this stage should never have got that far in the first place. That’s the bare minimum we should expect.

That’s not to say I didn’t like what I saw. I would be very willing to hear him out. But I don’t want the soundbites. I don’t want to know that if asked about about a serious issue, he can manage fifteen seconds without causing an international incident or saying something he’ll never live down. That’s the least I expect.

I’d like to watch a thoughtful, informed interviewer sit down with him for a few hours–yes, hours–and have an adult conversation with him. One that involves follow-up questions. Not adversarial questions designed to lure him into a trap, but questions that allow me to really hear his arguments and understand how he thinks.

I don’t want the candidates to tell me, over and over, how badly Obama’s screwed everything up. I know that. I don’t want to hear what we should have done. It’s too late. I want to hear what they think we should do–and why. I want to know if they make sense when presented with polite, sincere, serious, and sustained counter-arguments. And I cannot imagine any debate format, frankly, in which that will happen.

The other day, Titus started a conversation about whether we still need aircraft carriers. If you haven’t read the post and the ensuing discussion, have a look. Having read them, consider what Rubio says about this issue: from 48:20 to 48:33.

Thirteen seconds is not enough time to make any kind of serious argument. I’m not criticizing him for failing to do the impossible. I just want to know whether he’s able to make a serious argument in a context where it would be possible. I want to know whether he’s given as much thought to this question as everyone who commented on Titus’s post. That’s not an unreasonable standard, is it? And it’s entirely possible he has. But I won’t know from watching these speeches and debates. We’ll hear the same soundbites over and over. Interviewers will try to lure the candidates into embarrassing gaffes. No one will ask serious follow-up questions. We’ll flit from topic to topic without learning if any of the candidates have considered these issues deeply. We’ll hear the same quick, canned crowd-pleasers over and over. And we’ll find this normal.

But why? I’d know so much more about Marco Rubio if he joined Ricochet and had a few discussions with us. We’ve recently debated many of these issues–seriously, politely, and in far more depth. We do it in a public format. No one here’s running for the highest elected office in the United States, but we’re able to do it. Why shouldn’t we know if the man who will actually have to make these decisions can discuss and defend his views just as thoughtfully?

It’s not Senator Rubio’s fault that modern mass politics gives candidates no chance to debate and develop their ideas like adults. It’s the medium, not the message. But we’ve solved that problem on Ricochet.

So Senator, why don’t you come on over and join us for a conversation. We’d love to have you. Click here for your free first month. Don’t worry, you’re not too late at all.

 

 

There are 52 comments.

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  1. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @EustaceCScrubb

    Yeah, Senator, stop being a lurker!

    • #1
  2. PJS Coolidge
    PJS
    @PJS

    It would be nice to have a number of candidates join us and have their own threads where we can ask them questions and give our opinions.  We often have great ideas here;  I’d love to hear what the candidates think of them.

    • #2
  3. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    If the powers that be on Ricochet can get a couple of 1st or 2nd tier candidates to join and actually talk in threads I’d be willing to bump up to Thatcher. Anybody else?

    • #3
  4. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Sound bites need to be backed up by substance. I saw Rubio’s interview on O’Reilly and he demonstrated skill in inserting the soundbite and not moving off message even as O’Reilly constantly pushed for him to do so. That is a good strategy to fit in the message in headline packages and not make any news you don’t want to make.

    But that is so 1986-2004. Save that for the twitter feed, but give us substance on a website and a periodic long form appearance.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @ChipHead

    If he joins he can get his daily fix of Mac & Wally (and the associated wonderful member comments).

    • #5
  6. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @SoDakBoy

    That’s a very good point about the desirability to have a sustained conversation with these candidates, but I doubt that happens in any democracy in the world.  I am sure when the politburo chose the next leader of USSR, they had the benefit of being able to listen to the “candidates” for sustained lengths of time.  In democracies, though, the candidates need to appeal to the masses.

    But, let’s compare how Rubio and Obama compare in that arena.  For an example of Rubio appealling to the hoi polloi, look at his speech on Venezuela and Cuba on the Senate floor.  Sure, the immediate audience was the chamber, but I am sure he was really speaking to the general public.

    Then, watch any one of Obama’s or Clinton’s speeches to the general public.

    In my opinion, Rubio gives an articulate proposal and defense of a coherent vision for America.  Obama gives a political version of a high school pep rally, often with a bit of “mean girls” drama inserted to inspire a particular demographic of the student body.  Hillary does the same thing, only with less inspiration and less consistency with the message given.

    All in all, I am loving what Rubio says and how he says it.  I largely agree with his vision (though I am a bit less hawkish than he sounds) and I doubt we will ever see stories about advisors huddled to decide what Rubio believes like we constantly see for Hillary!.

    • #6
  7. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    SoDakBoy:

     In democracies, though, the candidates need to appeal to the masses.

    Is there something off-putting or unappealing about the way we discuss things here? There shouldn’t be–we’re not saying anything we don’t want other Americans to know or think about, right? Serious question. Why wouldn’t “the masses” have the same questions I do?

    But, let’s compare how Rubio and Obama compare in that arena.

    That’s why I said “poverty of low expectations.” We don’t just need “a better president than Obama.”

    All in all, I am loving what Rubio says and how he says it.

    He’s really charismatic. My thought process was something like–“I’m loving him and how he says things. He’s so smart, and he’s charming, and funny, and it sounds as if he’s actually thought about these things and–”

    And then he said something that made me remember–“Wait, hold on. I’m not on a date with him. We need follow-up questions. When he says the problem with the Libya war is that we didn’t follow through correctly, I really need him to tell me a little more about how he thinks that should have been done.”

    I’m not saying there’s no way he could give me an answer that would have satisfied me, but I want to know how the next president will decide to go to war. I don’t want more Libyas. And if he thinks we could have achieved a different outcome with a ground invasion, I want to know why he thinks this, and whether he believes Americans would sign up for that. See what I mean?

    And I think we’re entitled to ask questions like that. I don’t think it would be strange at all to have a presidential candidate who talks about things like that. But I think we’ve made it strange, by making it so unusual.

    • #7
  8. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    No candidate is perfect, but so far I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Rubio more than I have any other presidential candidate since I don’t know when. He’s conservative, thoughtful, well-spoken, and he learns from his mistakes. He seems like a genuine person who does not believe he would be a better speech writer than his speech writers, etc., or who wants to be our champion, whatever the hell that means.

    Oh yeah, he also genuinely loves America.

    • #8
  9. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    If it’s a question of membership fees, I could probably kick in a couple of bucks.

    As for Rubio’s performance so far, I gotta say that he’s been very, very good. He’s a very sharp guy to begin with, and he’s on the Foreign Relations committee – so he’s conversant with the issues. He has a definite polish and poise when it comes to handling questions.

    But then again, senators usually do. There’s a whole ‘nother aspect of the presidency, namely, getting people to follow you and coordinate their efforts. That’s part of being an executive, having the people skills to move many people. That’s an aspect that can’t be measured by interviews or soundbytes, and that’s why we rely instead on experience. Rubio doesn’t have that experience, so I’m hesitant to back him. Still, on the policy and communication aspects, Rubio is very, very good.

    I can’t say for sure, but wasn’t Paul Ryan a member – or one of his staff, at least? I got that feeling on 2012.

    • #9
  10. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    The way politics works these days, it seems like the worst mistake a candidate can make is to offer too many specifics at which his opponents could take aim.

    If this were not the case I’d recommend an Uncommon Knowledge interview with Peter Robinson as a way to find out what the candidate really thinks.

    • #10
  11. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Hello, Miss Claire, I was piqued by the mention of challenging Chinese moves in the waters around China. You are right, it all comes & goes so fast that that it’s more of a summer romance than anything serious…

    The man sounds tough, serious–even angry, about Cuba–but I am unsure that that has much to do with what is required for the chief executive office. He is an inspirational figure, everyone says. & Brutus is an honorable man…

    He says things to let you know he knows his stuff–artificial islands, visited Libya before Ghaddaffi underwent his last name change, he knows the corporation by which silly liberals & greedy would-be oligarchs are lining up to pay the Castros tribute! But those things are details. Policy expertise is always deceptious in this way. It’s like the CIA: One wants first a mission, then intelligence to help it, not the other way around. Which brings me to the real problem: If we knew there were no WMDs, then we would not have invaded Iraq. Unserious.

    Now, a few notes–Mr. Rose, Charlie Rose? Unacceptable. Have Americans no one serious? I thought the CFR was all bushy eyebrows convincingly furrowed & chewed eyeglass frames over very expensive suits of no particular taste…

    I thought I heard Mr. Niall Ferguson ask a very silly question about whether Islamic extremism–sounds like something kids in denim shorts & message t-shirts would do on MTV–compares, in the view of the Senator, with Communism?

    • #11
  12. Claire Berlinski Editor
    Claire Berlinski
    @Claire

    Man With the Axe:No candidate is perfect, but so far I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Rubio more than I have any other presidential candidate since I don’t know when.

    Me too. And I know he’s a politician, but I feel that his love for America is sincere and very much for the right reasons, and that his instincts toward foreign policy come from the place mine do: This American, certainly, “hears their cries, sees their suffering, and desires their freedom.”

    He’s conservative, thoughtful, well-spoken, and he learns from his mistakes. He seems like a genuine person who does not believe he would be a better speech writer than his speech writers, etc., or because he wants to be our champion, whatever the hell that means.

    Oh yeah, he also genuinely loves America.

    • #12
  13. Ricochet Contributor
    Ricochet
    @TitusTechera

    Claire Berlinski:

    And then he said something that made me remember–”Wait, hold on. I’m not on a date with him. We need follow-up questions.

    Well, people want to be seduced. Inspired, I believe, is the politically correct phrase in American politics. Some figures are inspirational. One hears of men of a certain age experience the mythical thrill up the leg, by which method Arthur is said to have been chosen in the olden days…

    But it sounds like you recommend something along the lines of of an Austen romance, where character is judged from action before any legs are thrilled in any way.

    I think it’s better to look for some kind of midway between thoughtful long debates that go on for hours–a la Lincoln–& soundbites that look good on the internet. Politics requires that those who really care about politics & those who do not be addressed together, at the same time. This sort of CFR meeting is not the highbrow thing it’s supposed to be: It’s the philistine’s fantasy of snobbism. Something like the Lincoln speech is required–talking about immediate political problems & fundamental political principle, talking to politicians & private citizens at the same time. I do not say someone could be Lincoln–but that the political art allows for learning from & imitation of masters. Or you could quote JFK…

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @SoDakBoy

    Claire Berlinski:

    And I think we’re entitled to ask questions like that. I don’t think it would be strange at all to have a presidential candidate who talks about things like that. But I think we’ve made it strange, by making it so unusual.

    Isn’t that a problem with the press more than with the candidates?

    <insert Lileks segue here> I have been enjoying my Sirius XM trial subscription on my new car primarily because I can listen to BBC World rather than NPR or Rush Limbaugh (my previous, rather pathetic radio options for getting both sides of the story).  Now, I know BBC has its own biases, but the breadth of their news coverage is comparatively extraordinary.

    It seems to me that the BBC believes it has a responsibility to have relatively in depth coverage of the entire world, but primarily Europe and the former British Empire.  So, why doesn’t NPR have any kind of a similar mandate for our hemisphere?  As an example, we have an enormous immigration crisis right here in America, but our public discussion is limited to “send ’em back” vs “be nice”.  Why don’t we hear about the situation in Venezuela, Guatamala, and Mexico as well as the impact immigration is having on local economies/individuals in the USA?  We may be more interested in the Kardashians but if we have enough eggheads to support NPR, I am sure that same market would support a more substantive discussion.

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @SoDakBoy

    We could go a long way to meeting Claire’s goal by immediately and harshly condemning any candidate who communicates via Twitter.  Hillary does this and it really drives me crazy to hear a 5 minute news report about a story which ends “Hillary Clinton tweeted that she supports women”.  Any reporter with any self respect would not allow the candidate to completely drive their own messaging.

    • #15
  16. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    PJS:It would be nice to have a number of candidates join us and have their own threads where we can ask them questions and give our opinions. We often have great ideas here; I’d love to hear what the candidates think of them.

    Santorum posted here in 2012

    • #16
  17. user_57140 Member
    user_57140
    @KarenHumiston

    It’s still early enough to be frivolous.  I’d like to see a Carly Fiorina/Marco Rubio ticket just for the sheer awesomeness of the sound of it.  Echoes of Bohemian Rhapsody: Fiorina-Rubio! Magnifico-O-O-O-O!!

    • #17
  18. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    The only two people who are even in the ballpark of Claire Berlinski’s knowledge and understanding of world affairs are John Bolton and Mitt Romney, and they aren’t running.

    • #18
  19. HeartofAmerica Inactive
    HeartofAmerica
    @HeartofAmerica

    lesserson:If the powers that be on Ricochet can get a couple of 1st or 2nd tier candidates to join and actually talk in threads I’d be willing to bump up to Thatcher. Anybody else?

    I’d actually consider that too but sadly I don’t think any candidate’s campaign or social media manager would allow their candidate to play duck and weave on the thread here.

    • #19
  20. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    I’m listening and I just about wanted to tear my hair out at this section (begins around 14’55”):

    A strong military also means a strong intelligence community, equipped with all the tools it needs to defend the homeland from extremism, both homegrown and foreign-trained.

    And key to this will be extending Section 215 of the Patriot Act. We cannot let politics cloud the importance of this issue. We must never find ourselves looking back after a terrorist attack and saying “We could have done more to save american lives.”

    Let’s go through that step-by-step:

    A strong military also means a strong intelligence community…

    Fine.

    …equipped with all the tools it needs to defend the homeland…

    I am not interested in giving our intelligence community “all” the tools it needs toward this goal. We can debate where the proper balance between liberty and security, but certainly there are some tools that would be extremely useful for our intelligence community to have that would be — nonetheless — inappropriate for it to have.

    It’s not surprising (or even bad) that the intelligence community should be pushing for greater powers, but it’s absolutely the President and Congress’ duty to to tell them “no” on occasion.

    …both homegrown and foreign-trained.

    I’m a little dubious on this, but persuadable. It’s not necessarily true that every act motivated by Islamic Extremism rises to a matter of national security.

    • #20
  21. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Continued.

    And key to this will be extending Section 215 of the Patriot Act. We cannot let politics cloud the importance of this issue.

    In other words “everyone who disagrees with me is playing politics; I, however, am a Very Serious Statesman™.”

    Gosh, thanks, senator.

    We must never find ourselves looking back after a terrorist attack and saying “We could have done more to save American lives.”

    No, sometimes we should. This sentiment is little different from leftist arguments that a policy is worth it “even if it only saves one life.” I am willing to accept some degree of increased risk to my life to greater secure my liberties and privacy.

    Islamic terrorism is a serious matter and we need to be serious about fighting it and that likely includes some degree of domestic surveillance. But just because there are serious risks does not mean there shouldn’t be limiting principles in terms of how much power we’re willing to give the government to secure our safety.

    • #21
  22. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    I think most of the candidates have credible talking points on what is wrong with domestic policy and America’s retreat in foreign affairs. But I fear that things are going to get substantially worse before January 2017. So one or more of these candidates needs to find a way of demonstrating not just what they will do on the 3am call, but what they are going to do in a persistent 24/7 crisis they will likely inherit.

    • #22
  23. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Someone should remind Rubio that the KGB And the Stasi had “all the tools necessary to defend the homeland”.

    • #23
  24. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @SoDakBoy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:Let’s go through that step-by-step:

    A strong military also means a strong intelligence community…

    Fine.

    …equipped with all the tools it needs to defend the homeland…

    I am not interested in giving our intelligence community “all” the tools it needs toward this goal. We can debate where the proper balance between liberty and security, but certainly there are some tools that would be extremely useful for our intelligence community to have that would be — nonetheless — inappropriate for it to have.

    I am sure that if Charlie Rose asked a follow-up question like “Do you really mean to say ALL the tools it needs?  Would you support, for instance, subcutaneous GPS devices for all citizens?” that Rubio would clarify that.

    The funny thing is that many conservatives would complain that Charlie Rose was inappropriately antagonistic if he did bother to ask such a follow-up even while we complain that the press is not thorough enough.

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Rubio’s stuff on protecting global commerce, however, is very solid.

    • #25
  26. Mario the Gator Inactive
    Mario the Gator
    @Pelayo

    I would love to see Rubio and other candidates join Ricochet and answer questions they don’t have time to answer in short TV interviews.  At the same time, we have to remember that the MSM is always lurking and waiting to pounce on anything a Republican candidate says that can be misconstrued.  Hillary Clinton herself, even with all of the advantages of being a Democrat, is avoiding the media like the plague.  Would it really be wise for Rubio or any Republican to put their cards on the table so early in the game?

    • #26
  27. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    SoDakBoy:

    I am sure that if Charlie Rose asked a follow-up question like “Do you really mean to say ALL the tools it needs? Would you support, for instance, subcutaneous GPS devices for all citizens?” that Rubio would clarify that.

    Likely. But it’s infuriating that Rubio doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the controversy in his prepared remarks.

    As implied earlier, I would some sense from our leaders that there are things the intelligence community might conceivably ask for that they would deny. One of the most infuriating things about the Bush administration is that — by their own telling — everything the military and/or intelligence community claimed to need was legal and, therefore, granted. That’s utterly implausible.

    • #27
  28. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    SoDakBoy:

    I am sure that if Charlie Rose asked a follow-up question like “Do you really mean to say ALL the tools it needs? Would you support, for instance, subcutaneous GPS devices for all citizens?” that Rubio would clarify that.

    Likely. But it’s infuriating that Rubio doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the controversy in his prepared remarks.

    When it comes to national security few Republican’s believe a controversy exists.

    I swear to god if we threw Navy uniforms on the employees at the IRS Republican’s would give them all the money they wanted.

    • #28
  29. Rodin Member
    Rodin
    @Rodin

    Jamie Lockett

    I swear to god if we threw Navy uniforms on the employees at the IRS Republican’s would give them all the money they wanted.

    Just so. The future is going to be one of hard choices. I don’t think I have heard a coherent plan for prioritizing. While I do think the correct policies could substantially improve the economy, that will not be happening in a vacuum. So simply hoping that a return to robust economy will let us gradually rebalance expenditures between debt, entitlements, and national security is insufficient. A destabilized world means a smaller global market. A smaller global market even with the right policies means we will not be able to grow the economy as much. But debt and entitlements will not wait until the robust economy shows up.

    • #29
  30. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    HeartofAmerica:

    lesserson:If the powers that be on Ricochet can get a couple of 1st or 2nd tier candidates to join and actually talk in threads I’d be willing to bump up to Thatcher. Anybody else?

    I’d actually consider that too but sadly I don’t think any candidate’s campaign or social media manager would allow their candidate to play duck and weave on the thread here.

    Which is a shame.

    Posting on Ricochet, answering questions in the comment section would reach more Republican primary (and they’re all that matters at this stage) than any appearance on one of the Sunday shows.

    And I am certain that Joe of England and Fred Cole would ask better questions than, “What’s your favorite Cuban dish?”

    • #30
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