Rubio fans are griping at me on Twitter that it was unfair to post this truncated clip of what he said in 2008 in Headlines when the full clip of what he said at the time reveals something different. Fair enough. Watch the truncated one below, followed by an extended answer — or, better yet, click here and skip to 23:00 to watch the full, unedited response at the time (it only runs two minutes or so). The truncated clip makes it sound like Rubio is endorsing a cap-and-trade scheme for Florida. Not so:
In his second session, Rubio played hardball with Crist. Climate change was one of Crist’s signature issues, and he wanted the Legislature to pass a bill that would lay the groundwork for a California-style cap-and-trade system to cut carbon emissions. Rubio and House conservatives opposed the idea, but public sentiment was with Crist. The House ultimately passed the bill, but Rubio’s team inserted a poison pill that prevented the plan from going into effect. “I fully credit him with the gutting of the bill,” Gelber says.
You’ll see him say in the extended clip that he supports market solutions to the problem, not a government mandate. So why does he also say that he wants Florida’s EPA to design a cap-and-trade scheme? The key comes at the beginning of the first clip, when he says a federal cap-and-trade program is “inevitable.” That wasn’t a crazy thing to believe at the time: In March 2008, when he gave this interview, Obama and McCain both favored the idea. Seven months later, during her VP debate with Joe Biden, none other than Sarah Palin said she was in favor of it too. If I’m understanding him correctly, Rubio’s point here was that Florida needed to be prepared for the new federal rules about carbon by cooking up its own cap-and-trade model now, which it could take down off the shelf and implement if, and only if, the feds finally passed something. Once there was a mandate in place and federal money was available, Florida would have no choice but to play ball. That wasn’t Rubio’s preferred way of tackling the problem, just a pragmatic take on how to be ready for when the new carbon regime was instituted.
In other words, if you want to punish him for this, you’re on firmer ground punishing him for looking ahead to playing ball with the feds on an expensive new federal program than in focusing instead on drumming up grassroots opposition to stopping it. It’s a bit like saying in late 2009, before ObamaCare had actually passed, that Florida should design its own ObamaCare exchange and be ready to implement it once O-Care was on the books. That was … not where conservative priorities lay at the time. But that’s unfair to Rubio since it’s not a perfect analogy: As noted, support for a cap-and-trade scheme was bipartisan whereas party divisions over ObamaCare were stark as can be. It wasn’t crazy to think cap-and-trade was a done deal even before legislation had passed; in fact, had Obama focused on that instead of O-Care when he had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, we’d have it today. I can imagine Rubio tanking in New Hampshire and beyond, but not because of this.