Marco Rubio spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on foreign policy yesterday. Not surprisingly, the speech recycled many of the tedious complaints and dangerous ideas that we have come to associate with his views. Beginning with a predictable warning against non-existent isolationism, he complained that the labels of hawk and dove were too outdated. The speech did not not get much better after this.
He rattled off the usual talking points from the last four years. Despite being a prominent Libyan war supporter, he had the gall to complain about “the debacle in Libya,” as if the instability and chaos he now condemns are not effects of the war he favored. He tries very hard to balance his need to bash the administration and his view that Obama’s only real mistake has been insufficient eagerness in intervening abroad, but it doesn’t succeed. If Rubio had his way, the U.S. would be far more committed in Libya and Syria than it is now, and some U.S. forces would be staying in Iraq and Afghanistan indefinitely. If that sounds smart to you, Rubio’s bromides will sound very appealing. Otherwise, everything else he says in his speech won’t matter, because he gets all of the major questions of the last four years wrong.
Issac Chotiner observes that Rubio tried to avoid the label of “hawk,” but his speech was little more than a rehearsal of standard hawkish positions:
Even though Rubio frames it as a middle-ground address, the speech is actually a full-throated defense of hawkishness. All it lacks, of course, is any sort of prescriptive, hawkish vision.
If heard or read in its entirety, the speech is very vague and manages to say very little of interest. Even Jennifer Rubin was struck by the bland emptiness of the speech, and she can usually can be counted on to praise any hawkish politician no matter how vapid the argument:
If Rubio wants to return to a more sophisticated brand of conservatism and be taken seriously again, he can’t recycle old speeches.
In fact, it was something less than a recycled speech, because some of his previous speeches have been more substantive. It was similar in tone to his Brookings speech from last year, but it had much less to say about specific issues. Then again, that isn’t such a bad thing for Rubio. As I said on another occasion:
The speech he gave at Brookings last year was much more detailed, but including specifics didn’t make things any better.