Despite the continuing prominence of Republican outsiders Donald Trump and Ben Carson in presidential primary polls, key GOP donors are seeking to anoint Senator Marco Rubio as an alternative—and the freshman senator has gone far beyond any other candidates in tailoring a foreign-policy platform that appeals to those hawkish billionaires. Should he win the GOP nomination, their financial support may prove critical in a general election campaign likely to cost more than $2.5 billion.
That support may prove costly to Rubio in other ways, however, since to please those big donors, he has endorsed policies that echo the least popular—and most unsuccessful—US foreign endeavor of the past 50 years.
In the Middle East, Rubio is committed to rolling back the Iran nuclear deal and defending the illegal construction of settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories. That shift marks a return to the hawkish neoconservative foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration, including the pursuit of regime change in Iraq, with disastrous consequences.
Closer to home, Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba three years before the Cuban revolution, opposes the Obama administration’s establishment of diplomatic ties with Havana. He also opposes any rollback of the embargo, a policy that has failed for five decades while losing public support, even among Republicans.
If Rubio’s views seem out of sync with the electorate, that might reflect the priorities of the deep-pocketed conservatives behind him, who prioritize their niche foreign-policy issues above nearly all else. (His eagerness to cut their taxes drastically probably doesn’t hurt, either.)
Norman Braman: The Illegal Settlement Donor
Rubio’s campaign slogan, “A New American Century,” strikingly echoes the name of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century (PNAC), founded by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol in the 1990s, which helped to lay the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq. The Florida senator’s proposed foreign policy in the Middle East sounds like it could have come straight out of the first term of the George W. Bush administration—or a PNAC newsletter.
In October, the senator released a video in which he cryptically remarked, “What this president and his administration are doing in Israel is a tragic mistake.” Rubio accused the president of betraying “the commitment this nation has made to the right of a Jewish state to exist in peace.”
Rubio is determined “absolutely” to renege on the Iran nuclear deal—an agreement made not just between the United States and Iran but also Russia, China, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union. He rejected the Obama White House’s denunciation of Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem last year as “deplorable.”