Marco Rubio rallied a crowd yesterday afternoon at the convention center in downtown Little Rock. The video above isn't of the best quality, but the audio is decent if you're curious to hear the Florida senator's speech.
It was well-crafted Republican boilerplate, for the most part. Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president because of Benghazi. The Iran nuclear deal is a betrayal. "We are going to repeal and replace Obamacare." Something about Common Core being a federal takeover of education. "When I’m president of the United States, if you’re on welfare you’re going to be either working or going to school so you can get a good job and never again rely on government."
At the centerpiece of Rubio's stump speech was a fervent exultation in American exceptionalism. From early in his address:
We are the greatest nation in the history of all mankind. Never be afraid to teach that to your children; we have to do more of that in this country, because people will not work hard or sacrifice on behalf of the ordinary. Our kids need to know the truth — that they were born citizens of the single greatest nation in the history of all of mankind. All of mankind. Do you realize that most of the people who have ever lived have lived in a country that said to them it didn’t matter how hard they worked? It didn’t matter how long they tried, it didn’t matter how good they were? Their future was going to depend on who their parents were.
But we have been blessed to live in the one place on Earth where that’s not the case — the one place on Earth where your future is up to you.
He wanted to change America to make it more like the rest of the world. He wanted us to become a country more like other countries, but what he didn’t realize was that America didn’t want to be another country. We want to be the United States of America.
This is Rubio's axiomatic answer to Donald Trump's insistence that he and he alone will Make America Great Again: America is the greatest, always has been.
It's city-on-a-hill stuff straight from the Reagan playbook, but I wonder how much resonance that message has in a foreign policy era in which the U.S. lacks a clear and present rival and threats seem increasingly chaotic and diffuse. Trump's muddled paranoia seems a better fit for the times, depressingly enough.
After listening to the stuff peddled by Trump and Ted Cruz, Rubio's calculated but familiar conservatism feels almost soothing: At least the man talks like a presidential candidate is expected to talk. He projects an air of starchy decency and canned inspiration; he doesn't swear! Yet Matthew Yglesias at Vox argued fairly convincingly on Saturday that Rubio may be a worse presidential prospect than Trump.
Yes, Trump is a raging bigot, or at least someone who's happy to indulge raging bigotry for his own ends — but consider that Rubio's response to Trump's Muslim-bashing has been somewhere between muted and sympathetic and that he's done a 180 on immigration reform of any kind, a disingenuous policy reversal based entirely on the prevailing political winds.Yglesisas writes:
Under pressure from Ted Cruz, Rubio is now promising to start deporting DREAMers as soon as he takes office. He's even turned a wink-nudge promise to bring back torture as an instrument of government policy into an applause line in debates and on the stump.
Nobody knows what lurks in Rubio's heart on these matters, of course. But one could say the same about Trump. What we do know for sure is that Rubio's strategy for beating back the most repugnant aspects of Trumpism is to imitate them.
On foreign policy, meanwhile, Rubio vows to nix the Iranian nuclear deal, escalate involvement in Syria and take a hard line against Russia in the Ukranian conflict. For all his plans to "knock the shit out of" ISIS, Trump forwards no such neoconservative ambitions.
In contrast to Rubio, Trump is more prone to offering simply ignorant remarks but also has considerably more restrained instincts. Trump essentially takes the world-conquering nationalism of George W. Bush and turns it inward, offering suspicion of outsiders and a reluctance to launch new wars. This kind of quasi-isolationist thinking isn't exactly my cup of tea, but it certainly reduces the risk of utter catastrophe relative to a return to high Bushism.
In a poll earlier this month, Cruz led among Arkansas Republicans, at 27 percent. Rubio and Trump both came in at 23 percent. But a lot may have changed in the last few weeks.
Mike Huckabee, whose daughter works for Donald Trump, has written an op-ed for the Washington Post endorsing continued funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, which Trump has proposed to eliminate. /more/
Poor Richard Nixon would be so hurt, and baffled. He went to his grave knowing that while his historical reputation was in tatters owing to the deceptions and corruption of Watergate, he at least could lay claim to a few of the great advances in human rights in Western history. /more/
Government can work, Ernest Dumas writes this week. See the Environmental Protection Agency and the cleaner air and water it produced, a great legacy of Richard Nixon. The EPA is now on the chopping block in the Trump Administration. /more/
Donald Trump has signed a new executive order to ban certain immigrants. He's dropped the list of seven Muslim majority countries to six. Iraq is no longer included. It will only apply to new visas and not affect legal permanent residents. /more/
Alec Baldwin got a rest Saturday night, but Kate McKinnon stepped in ably, doing a Forrest Gumpian depiction of Jeff Sessions, including his being served a fragrant slice of pie from The Help, Trump's campaign manager in Arkansas didn't find it a bit funny. /more/
Vice President Mike Pence will visit Little Rock tomorrow afternoon (Friday, March 24) the Republican Party of Arkansas announced today. He'll speak about health care. The visit will happen the day after the U.S. House of Representatives votes on the Trump Administration's preferred vehicle for Obamcare repeal.
An op-ed in today's New York Time by Katha Pollitt says what I've been struggling to say about the reaction to the attack on women's reproductive rights launched by means of the undercover videos made by anti-abortion activists.
Tens of thousands of Arkansans have been kicked off of Medicaid for failure to respond to an income verification letter. Many of them are eligible for the program according to the very data that triggered the letter in the first place.
Hog fans just can't quit blaming the refs for the NCAA men's basketball tournament loss to North Carolina. Now the Arkansas Senate has gotten in on the act, with this resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram and getting bipartisan co-sponsorship from that brutish and short sandlot roundball player, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
IndieWire breaks news long whispered downtown — a more ambitious successor to the Little Rock Film Festival is in the works, with backing from writer/director Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native. His "Loving" has won wide acclaim recently.
House Republicans pulled down the Trumpcare legislation this afternoon and walked out, depriving Democrats of some fun in pointing out all the anti-woman, anti-poor, pro-rich aspects of a bill too generous for hardcare Republicans and too mean for the few remaining moderates.