Marco Rubio in his uphill Republican primary campaign for the Senate against the unprincipled Florida Governor Charlie Crist. Back then, he ran as an unabashed Tea Party conservative. I also supported Mike Lee and Ted Cruz, among others, in their campaigns against the entrenched GOP establishment. But soon after arriving in Washington, Rubio decided to throw in with these politicians – including John McCain and Lindsey Graham and take an active leadership role in the Gang of Eight fiasco. As he runs for the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio has attempted to redefine his position on immigration yet again, resulting in his utter incoherence on the subject.
Moreover, Rubio’s views on foreign policy are also more in line with McCain-Graham pseudo-conservativism. It is a kind of naïve and radical interventionism, involving endless demands for American ground forces, that President Ronald Reagan would never have supported – and did not. For example, Rubio’s support for the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, joining with Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and, of course, McCain and Graham, has not led to democracy. Instead, Libya has become another extremely dangerous and growing stronghold for Islamic terrorists and a direct threat to our country. “Democracy projects” have also led to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, ushering in the current Islamic terrorist state that directly threatens America, as well as the more recent rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which was eventually ousted by the Egyptian military, and so forth. Democracy requires more than an election. It requires, first and foremost, a civil society. I’ve talked about this a great length on my radio program.
But my commentary here is not intended as a thorough analysis of immigration and foreign policies, which may come in a later essay. This is a friendly warning to Marco Rubio and his campaign donors, advisers, and consultants that they cannot wash away some of Rubio’s less than stellar legislative actions and related positions and pronouncements by embracing and unleashing Saul Alinsky-type tactics against Ted Cruz or other conservatives. Such unprincipled ambition has not and will not go unnoticed by conservatives.
Rather than proudly standing on his own record, and contrasting his positions honestly with those of Cruz, the latter of whom is clearly the more conservative and anti-establishment candidate, Rubio and his surrogates have launched a propaganda campaign against Cruz in a deceitful attempt to distort his record. As an activist in Ronald Reagan’s 1976 and 1980 primary and general election campaigns for president, I can tell you this is also something Reagan did not do as he was proud of his record and sought a true battle over ideas with the GOP establishment and liberal Democrats. However, his primary and general election opponents over the years -- Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, or Walter Mondale -- preferred the route Rubio has now taken – distortion and personal smears.
The “Cruz voted against Israel” Smear
Now let’s get to specifics. Did you know that Ted Cruz is not supportive of Israel? For anyone who has followed Cruz’s career, it would be like accusing Jeff Sessions of supporting amnesty. Oh wait, Rubio has already done that.
The Rubio campaign has also accused Cruz of being weak on immigration, weak on national security, and even supportive of Syria’s Assad! And we conservatives are supposedly so stupid we will fall for all of it!
At each stage, there has been an almost seamless coordination with Republican establishment media at the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, Weekly Standard and Commentary Magazine, to do the bidding of the Rubio campaign – no matter how false and preposterous the assertion.
Late last week, the Weekly Standard obsequiously peddled the Rubio campaign attack that Cruz voted to cut funding for Israel’s defense as part of his support for Rand Paul’s budget in 2013. The Rubio transcribers there are claiming that the Paul budget, which balanced the budget in 5 years, “among other cuts, slashed defense funding and international aid, including aid to Israel.”
This is breathtakingly dishonest. Aside from Cruz and Paul, 16 other Republicans, including Mike Lee, Tom Coburn and Jeff Sessions, voted for the budget. The notion that one can pull out any single provision of a massive budget, which doesn’t set policy, in order to attack an opponent is wittingly disingenuous, as witnessed by some of the pro-Israel conservative champions who voted for it.
Indeed, the Weekly Standard omitted that the Paul budget zeroed out all aid to Israel’s enemies and terrorist entities like the Palestinians. If it is fair to say Cruz voted against aid for Israel by supporting the broader Paul budget, it is equally fair to say that Rubio voted to continue aiding anti-Israel governments and terrorists because he opposed the Paul budget. It would then be also equally fair to suggest that Rubio opposes a balanced budget. The Rubio campaign’s notion that Cruz opposes Israel’s Iron Dome program because it was one provision in the massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which he voted against, is also absurd. There have been many reasons to oppose the NDAA that include both the policy and the actual process. For example, last year’s 1,648 page NDAA bill was voted on less than two days after the text was posted online and contained a massive federal land grab. Or the time Harry Reid allowed only 2 amendment votes on arguably the most important annual bill. And each time the future of the Iron Dome was not hinging upon passage of this entire bill. Rubio and his media cheerleaders know it.
But we need not focus on one line item of a broader, more important, balanced budget vote. A cursory glance at Cruz’s brief career in the Senate reveals a record of standing for Israel on more fronts and with more force than any other senator in modern history, including Rubio, who is undoubtedly a supporter of Israel as well.
There was perhaps no vote that had a more deleterious effect on Israel than the nomination by Obama of John Kerry for Secretary of State. Rubio supported the nomination and voted to confirm Kerry. Cruz was one of only three Republicans to oppose him. And Kerry has been an unmitigated disaster across a wide range of foreign policy issues.
Cruz’s other pro-Israel actions include:
- A bill to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem
- Using his subcommittee chairmanship to conduct hearings on Obama’s refusal to follow a court order and grant restitution to American victims of terror in Israel.
- Introducing legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood, a sister of Hamas, as a terror group.
- During the Israel-Hamas war, when Obama imposed a de facto travel embargo on Israel, Cruz shut it down within 24 hours after he threatened to block all State Department nominees from confirmation.
- Nobody did more to fight the Iran deal harnessing every messaging tool at his disposal.
Rubio’s major legislative achievement in the Senate was the Gang of Eight travesty.
Where is Rubio’s Voice?
Which brings us to the next logical question. Cruz has used his committee assignments, legislation, floor speeches, and media appearances to fight against Obama’s war on Israel. By Rubio’s own admission, he has for the most part checked out of the Senate and as such has been MIA for fights on many of these important issues.
Rubio would be wise to focus on what he has done for conservatives on national security or any other issue. But this is where he may be having some difficulty. His record is thin. As I mentioned earlier, Rubio’s major legislative achievement in the Senate was the Gang of Eight travesty. This bill would have created permanent open borders, invited back countless dangerous aliens who were already deported, and created an unlimited new pipeline of immigration and refugees from the Middle East.
To this day, Rubio defends his Gang of Eight role, while simultaneously trying to distance himself from aspects of the bill. Last week, he also refused to vote for Rand Paul’s plan to pause the flow of refugees entering our country from the Middle East or other areas of the world where terrorism is pervasive. Given ISIS’s promise to hide terrorists among refugees, including those from Syria, which they accomplished in the recent slaughter in Paris, and the incompetence of the Obama’s administration’s vetting processes, prudence should have guided Rubio to vote for the Paul plan – if he is the national security hawk he and his media surrogates claims him to be.
Furthermore, the notion that Rubio is little different from Cruz on immigration, as suggested by Rubio and his campaign, ignores the dichotomy between the two of them on every aspect of this issue. Cruz fought tooth and nail to block the Gang of Eight bill. Rubio championed it. Cruz has led the fight against DACA, DAPA, sanctuary cities, and Obama’s lawless refugee policies, while Rubio has remained largely silent. The truth matters.
Rubio’s NSA Hit on Cruz
Rubio has accused opponents of the earlier NSA metadata collection system, in particular Cruz, of being national security doves. In fact, he has even warned them that if the country is attacked as a result of the new law’s judicial review requirement, which was spearheaded by Mike Lee and voted for by, among others, Cruz, they will be responsible for weakening the nation’s defense. Yet there’s not even one example of the earlier metadata collection system stopping terrorism. In the latest terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Rubio fails to mention that despite the telephonic activities, apparently the killers somehow avoided NSA notice. There are honest disagreements about this program, based on legitimate constitutional issues, but to insist that constitutional conservatives, like Cruz, who backed a modified metadata program are weak on defending America is contemptible. As Rubio knows, Sen. Steve Daines voted with Cruz, as did Sen. Cory Gardner, both of whom are supporting Rubio.
For now, I will stop here. Marco Rubio is a talented man who can potentially contribute a lot to this presidential race in the remaining months. But that will only happen if he abandons his Alinsky tactics for a more Reaganesque approach and treats the conservative electorate with the respect it deserves. If Rubio is proud of his record, then he should defend it. If he objects to Cruz’s record, he should challenge it. But stop falsifying both.
Mark R. Levin serves as Editor-in-Chief of Conservative Review.
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