Via the Daily Rushbo, that’s the second time in a week that Rush has given Rubio a vote of confidence at a moment when the rest of the field (Ted Cruz very much included) is desperate to blow him up. That feels strange after so many months of Limbaugh mainstreaming Trump on the right — as I said in last week’s post, it’s hard to be pro-Trump and pro-Rubio — but it makes sense strategically. If Rubio collapses, conservatives are left with Cruz and … that’s pretty much it, given that the other remaining survivors in the field are apt to be Trump, Kasich, and/or Bush. Unless you want to (shudder) take a second look at Jeb, you need Rubio in there in case Cruz hits a wall after the SEC primary. For all his faults, from amnesty to hyper-interventionism to his inability to stray off-script even when he’s being mocked for staying relentlessly on script, Rubio would still be more conservative as president than the rest of his center-right competition. Rush is simply playing the long game here by declining to wreck him for his debate stumble.
As for the substance of Rubio’s answer, I wouldn’t go as far in claiming that “Obama knows what he’s doing.” Domestically, that’s true: ObamaCare wasn’t an accident. It’s true in some foreign policy matters too, like the Iran deal. O succeeded there in his goal of neutralizing the threat, if you define “the threat” as “American hawks willing to risk war with Iran to stop their nuclear program.” He took war off the table for the foreseeable future, even at the price of legitimizing uranium enrichment by Iran in 15 years’ time. He knew what he was doing. I’ll never buy that he knew what he was doing in Libya and Syria, though. There’s no strategic benefit to setting red lines for Assad on WMD and vowing that Assad must go and then failing to follow through on either of those threats later. It’s pure amateurism, a bluff with nothing behind it, and emblematic of Obama’s short-sighted approach in Syria of doing just enough so that hawks can’t claim he’s doing absolutely nothing while doing little enough that doves can’t claim we’re on our way to Vietnam 3.0. Rubio, I’m sure, does have some concrete ideas about what the commander-in-chief should be doing in Syria. Whether a McCain-ish ramping up of America’s presence in the Syrian maelstrom would be better than Obama’s “strategy du jour” approach, I leave for you to decide.
Anyway. It’s fine to say, as Rush and Andy McCarthy do, that Rubio was right on the merits of his “Obama knows what he’s doing” talking point. The problem, as McCarthy notes, was Rubio’s insistence on mindlessly repeating the point even while being mocked for mindless repetition, as though he couldn’t delve into the substance of it. The point of Christie’s jab was that a freshman senator is too inexperienced to successfully advance his agenda as president, which is really stupid considering that Obama’s actually done it. He got the stimulus through; he got ObamaCare through; he made a dubious deal with Iran and proclaimed a dubious mass amnesty via executive action. Claiming at this point that young legislators can’t move the ball for their team as president is like claiming that it’s scientifically impossible that the sky is blue. Just look up! But rather than say that, Rubio stuck to his script, and as Ace noted yesterday, once you’ve seen the 25-second speech exposed it’s hard not to see it in everything Rubio says. That’s unfair insofar as all of the candidates are giving canned speeches — Christie’s famous townhall passage on drug addiction is one he’s repeated many times — but Rubio’s dependence on it under fire, when he was practically being dared to say something spontaneous, created a filter through which he’ll be viewed going forward. Not fatal, I think, but it’s a problem now.
One more thing. Rush praises Rubio (and Cruz) here for correctly identifying that Obama has succeeded in moving his agenda whereas so much of the rest of the party, most notably Trump, dismiss Obama’s problem as incompetence and inexperience. Rush’s theory for that is that the establishmentarians have to pretend that Obama screwed up because they’re complicit in his successes. They’ve worked with him, after all. Okay, but … so has Rubio, first and foremost on the Obama-friendly Gang of Eight bill and to a lesser extent in lending rhetorical support for the disastrous intervention in Libya. (McCarthy notes both of those in his piece.) If Rubio knew all along that Obama had bad intentions with his policies, why did he cooperate with him on anything, let alone major initiatives? And why are we knocking Trump for believing that Obama’s an incompetent when the whole premise of his candidacy rests on that assumption? This goes back to what Rush said a few weeks ago about how Trump, in his own way, is making the case for smaller government by relentlessly attacking government as incompetent. Not so. Trump’s problem with government is that it’s run by morons, not that it’s too big and therefore destined to behave inefficiently. Obama’s just the head moron. Replace him with Trump and yuge improvements will be seen. If we’re going to boost Trump, let’s at least be clear-eyed about his message is.