Rubio’s Bad Foreign Policy Judgment
Rubio wants to use his supposed foreign policy experience to give him a boost against his rivals:
“The fact of the matter is Jeb has no foreign policy experience,” Rubio said. “He has no foreign policy experience and was governor a long time ago. The world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Foreign policy has changed a lot in the last five years. No one on that stage has more experience or has shown better judgment or has shown a better understanding of national security threats than I have.”
This is the story that Rubio and his admirers like to tell, but it’s quite misleading. It’s true that he has some experience being on the Foreign Relations Committee that Bush and most of the other candidates don’t have, but considering how often he has skipped out on his job in the Senate that isn’t as significant as it sounds. Besides, Kasich could plausibly claim to have more experience on these issues than Rubio from his many years in the House. This argument may work against Bush, but it nonetheless exaggerates how much experience the senator has.
As for having better judgment and understanding, that’s not at all obvious. More so than any Republican candidate still in the race, Rubio was on board with Obama’s foolish military intervention in Libya, which helped to destabilize Libya and its neighbors for the last five years. That not only calls his judgment into question, but it would make him uniquely ill-suited to face Clinton in the general election. He may not be alone in his supporting reckless actions in Syria that risk war with Russia, but that by itself shows that his judgment is worse than that of at least a couple of his rivals. Any Republican candidate unwilling to risk an armed confrontation with a nuclear-armed major power over Syria has already shown that his judgment is better than Rubio’s.
The problem for Rubio is that this alleged advantage on foreign policy is the only card he has left to play, and it isn’t a very good one. Many Republicans distrust him in part because of his reflexive interventionism, and in the end a lot of what Rubio claims as his “better understanding” of foreign threats amounts to exaggerating those threats and overreacting to them. Where he is inclined to see a U.S. role in virtually every crisis and conflict in the world (including his deplorable support for the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen), at least some of his rivals aren’t willing to involve the U.S. in so many places. Rubio’s foreign policy experience isn’t that great (and compared to some previous Republican nominees it is extremely brief), and his judgment is frequently very poor. Like Clinton, he invokes his foreign policy record as if it were something to be proud of, but in the eyes of many Republicans it is exactly the opposite.