Political Animal


February 07, 2013 10:49 AM The New Boss

By Ed Kilgore

David Frum mocks the phenomenon, posting a Time Magazine cover depicting Sen. Marco Rubio as “the Republican Savior” and noting sardonically: “Well That Was Easy.” WaPo’s Chris Cillizza takes it very seriously with a piece on Rubio as the “new leader of the Republican Party,” based in part on the Floridian’s selection to deliver the GOP response to the State of the Union Address. But he also enthuses about Rubio’s youth, non-terrifying rhetoric, and communications skills. And then, of course, there is the senator’s ethnicity, and his front-and-center role in the legislative effort (by no means assured of success) to rid the GOP of its current nativist image and bury the immigration issue, at least for a while.

But before we all go into a national swoon over Rubio as the vehicle for a Republican revival from the extremist trap it has laid for itself since 2008, it might be good to look at his thinking on issues other than immigration. How’s about the tangle of economic and fiscal issues at the center of Washington’s gridlock?

Glad you asked. Rubio has long been (and so far as I know, still is) an enthusiastic advocate for the “Cut, Cap and Balance” proposal that would place a fixed limitation of federal spending directly into the U.S. Constitution, reflecting the Tea Party belief that we need to roll back the entire New Deal and Great Society legacy in order to get back to the hardy individualist society of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. In a Politico op-ed that he co-authored less than a year ago with his mentor, Jim DeMint, along with the noted “moderate” Senate colleagues Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson, Rubio and his friends make the case for Cut, Cap and Balance, beginning with these remarkable words:

The most important policy imperative in the world today is for the United States to balance its budget.

In the whole world!

But turns out “balancing” isn’t enough: it must be accomplished purely on the domestic spending side, beginning with those profligate entitlements:

Raising taxes on high earners has only accelerated and exacerbated fiscal problems everywhere from Sacramento to Athens. And everyone outside Washington knows that the true inequality crisis in America today is not between rich and poor, but between government and everyone else.
A balanced budget will encourage Congress to reorganize the federal government around principles of wealth creation rather than wealth redistribution, and force long-overdue reforms to long-outmoded policies.

Anybody who doesn’t know how to translate that code really hasn’t been paying attention.

So if Rubio has been on the crazy fringe of his party on fiscal policy, why exactly are we supposed to believe he’s somehow the voice and face of a middle-class-friendly GOP? He was front-and-center late last summer in defending the Republican platform’s support for a flat ban on abortions even in cases of rape and incest. So why is he “saner” than Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock?

I’ll tell you why: immigration is the only issue on which Republicans as a whole are actually considering a “shift” in their policies (though not so much their ideology). Rubio is the front-man for that effort, and the fact that on virtually everything else he is to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage makes him the ideal “leader.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on February 07, 2013 11:16 AM:

    Marco Rubio - same old cerdo.

    But now, with a new and bold Hispanic-red lipstick color!

  • Ryan Seacrest on February 07, 2013 11:16 AM:

    Leave handouts to war profiteers ALOOOOOONE!

  • Epicurus on February 07, 2013 11:28 AM:

    We are "expected to believe" this just like we are expected to swallow ALL GOP propaganda. I do hope that the more the public sees of this schemer, the more they will realize that he's just another idiot in Republican clothing. Ooooh, but he speaks Spanish! That must make him doubleplusgood. In other news, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, etc.

  • Jeff on February 07, 2013 11:33 AM:

    "...to the right of Jimmy Dean Sausage..."
    Sounds funny, but I have no idea what it means.
    Equivalent to "to the right of Genghis Kahn"?
    Is this a Southern Thang?
    Everything else is spot-on, of course.

  • BuffOrpington on February 07, 2013 11:36 AM:

    Rubio is the new Paul Ryan. God, these superstar Republicans have a shelf life almost as short as frontrunners during the 2012 GOP primaries.

  • boatboy_srq on February 07, 2013 11:39 AM:

    And then, of course, there is the senator’s ethnicity

    Anyone who thinks that introducing a Cuban-American to talk intelligently about Latino issues generally is a good idea clearly understands neither the Latino community nor the last 50-odd years of Cuban-American.

    At least Rubio is more photogenic than his predecessors. Pretty goes a long way with the GOTea.

  • boatboy_srq on February 07, 2013 11:40 AM:

    make that: ... Cuban-American relations.

    Too busy parsing Captcha to pay attention to grammar.

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on February 07, 2013 11:49 AM:

    the true inequality crisis in America today is not between rich and poor, but between government and everyone else.

    Maybe I'm just really thick... But what exactly is this supposed to mean????

    Anywho, I like to think that the SOTU rebuttal is actually more like the American Idol reject reel for aspiring pols who's future worth to the party is still questionable. If he's a hit with the base, the GOP will stick with him. If he tanks it... Well, the GOP will be like "Marco who???"

    I'm still surprised that they're letting Bobby J. resurface on the national scene after his little Eureka's Castle Sing-a-long in'09. But the GOP did decimate its own during the primaries, didn't they? Who's still left? Talk about slim pickings...

  • serita on February 07, 2013 11:56 AM:

    "Talk about slim pickings..."

    I think this is where the fetuses come in.

  • jim fillyaw on February 07, 2013 12:21 PM:

    strikingly reminiscent of paul ryan or bobby jindal. his vapid ideology doesn't stand up to critical examination, and---he's bone dumb.

  • boatboy_srq on February 07, 2013 12:53 PM:

    @Sgt Gym Bunny: I think that line translates as "Big Gubmint took all your money in taxes." It's Part One of the Great Redistributionist Lie. Rubio was just smart enough not to follow that up with Part Two (that Welfare Queens™ and Young Bucks™ are getting rich, fat and happy on the backs of Good, Hardworking, Patriotic Ahmurrcans™ as a consequence of that).

  • PTate in MN on February 07, 2013 1:01 PM:

    We've seen a concerted PR effort since Obama's re-election to beguile minority voters to the GOP--lots of "Look, we're so not racist!" actions & images (Rubio, Haley, Jindal, Tim Scott, emphasis on immigration reform.) They won't be able to sustain their smiles for long, I am confident.

    The person to watch is the new Senator from Texas, Ted Cruz. A brilliant man, Cuban, extremely handsome, as paranoid as conservatives come. He definitely has the potential to be a 2016 POTUS candidate, or, if not that, a new Joe McCarthy. He's the one who has managed to delay Hagel's confirmation because Cruz wants examine all Hagel's private speeches and business dealings to document who is influencing Hagel. Cruz is arguing that Hagel is an anti-semite mole out to destroy Israel. Just substitute "Communist" for "anti-semite" and you've got a nascent Committee on UnAmerican Activities. He's going to blow Rubio out of the water. He's scary.

  • Joe Friday on February 07, 2013 1:04 PM:

    RUBIO: "Raising taxes on high earners has only accelerated and exacerbated fiscal problems everywhere from Sacramento to Athens."

    No, what has actually "only accelerated and exacerbated fiscal problems everywhere from Sacramento to Athens" is the failed austerity advocated by the RightWing.

    "Raising taxes on high earners has succeeded SPECTACULARLY !

  • Tom Q on February 07, 2013 1:05 PM:

    Of all the vapid nostrums peddled by our pundit class, none is dumber than the idea that some candidate by sheer force of personality will overcome the political winds of his time. There's really no example for this in modern American history. Yes, charismatic politicians (a label I'm not willing to grant to Rubio just yet) have led movements in one direction or another, but always when their opposition had collapsed into disfavor (as in 1932, 1980, 1992) or their ideology was still in ascendancy. There's no case of the electorate turning out an incumbent party in reasonably gpood times for a pretty face.

    Rubio would have to win a presidential election with a platform that the electorate has been opposing for two decades now. Short of another economic collapse laid squarely at the feet of Democrats, his chances are very slim, however much the Beltway tries to pimp him.

  • Kathryn on February 07, 2013 1:18 PM:

    @PTate in MN,,,,,,,,agree about Cruz, one problem though, believe he was born in Canada, Calgary btw. I guess technically he could be considered handsome, but his arrogance, lying , etc. block that possibility for me. He is a dangerous POS for sure, cocky, confident and out to make a name for himself, truth telling extremely optional to non existent. He is more intelligent than most GOP elected, Marco for sure is lacking, which makes him more lethal.

  • emjayay on February 10, 2013 12:02 AM:

    Ted Cruz is indeed frightening, but he is hardly extremely handsome. Not even sort of handsome. He's fat. And it shows in neck, which will soon turn into jowls. Hope he gets fatter. Now those Castro twins on the other hand....