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November 21, 2013 12:34 PM Eye of the Beholder

By Ed Kilgore

I briefly mentioned yesterday that Sen. Marco Rubio had made what was being billed as a “big foreign policy speech” at AEI, and wanted to return to the subject dozy. But I quickly realized the real “story” could be found in the Google search of headlines about the speech.

The AP account highlighted Rubio’s endorsement of the use of foreign aid and diplomacy in foreign policy, presumably because these have been rare topics among Republicans of late, particularly in the neoconservative faction with which the Florida senator has usually been associated.

But the Free Beacon headlined its story: “Rubio Defends Use of Force.”

The Orlando Sentinel suggested Rubio’s speech was an attack on Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The U.S. News account made Rand Paul as well as Obama a target.

Many articles focused on Rubio’s self-positioning. The Christian Science Monitor did Rubio the favor of calling it a “muscular middle” in Republican foreign policy thinking. But NBC’s First Read described it as an attempted “straddle.” And at the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin argued Rubio was sort of presenting himself as Hillary Heavy, with a posture similar to but tougher and more competent than that of the likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

If Rubio was trying to become all things to all people, it seems obvious he did a pretty good job. Which is why the most accurate headline about his speech may have been from Isaac Chotiner’s piece at TNR: “Marco Rubio’s Foreign Policy Speech Proves He Is the Most Craven U.S. Senator.”

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.

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