Rubio: Clinton Presidency ‘Would Be a Death Blow to the American Dream’

And eight other fascinating takeaways from the senator’s new book.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 13: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon May 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Sen. Rubio delivered a policy speech on social security and answered questions during the luncheon. 
National Journal
Tim Alberta
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Tim Alberta
Jan. 6, 2015, 3:39 p.m.

Marco Ru­bio’s new book, Amer­ic­an Dreams, reads in some parts like a pres­id­en­tial mani­festo—and in oth­ers like a con­ser­vat­ive guide to gov­ern­ing with a re­form agenda in the 114th Con­gress.

That’s pre­cisely the cross­roads at which Ru­bio now finds him­self—de­cid­ing wheth­er to run for the White House in 2016, or roll up his sleeves and fo­cus on policy in the new GOP-con­trolled Sen­ate.

Ru­bio has spent the past sev­er­al years man­euv­er­ing in­to po­s­i­tion for a pos­sible pres­id­en­tial run in 2016. And the of­fi­cial tim­ing of his book re­lease—Jan. 13—has al­ways seemed or­ches­trated to co­in­cide with the dawn of cam­paign sea­son. With that in mind, Na­tion­al Journ­al, which ob­tained an early copy of Amer­ic­an Dreams, pulled the nine most fas­cin­at­ing pas­sages from the book—ones that could pre­view what a Marco Ru­bio pres­id­en­tial cam­paign looks (and sounds) like:

1. Ru­bio holds noth­ing back in at­tack­ing Hil­lary Clin­ton. The Flor­ida sen­at­or takes sev­er­al strongly worded shots at the Demo­crat­ic front-run­ner. “Hil­lary Clin­ton has proven her­self wed­ded to the policies and pro­grams of the past,” Ru­bio writes in the book’s in­tro­duc­tion. “The elec­tion of Hil­lary Clin­ton to the pres­id­ency, in short, would be noth­ing more than a third Obama term. An­oth­er Clin­ton pres­id­ency would be a death blow to the Amer­ic­an Dream.” Later in the book, Ru­bio cri­ti­cizes Clin­ton’s re­mark last year—”Don’t let any­one tell you it’s busi­nesses and cor­por­a­tions that cre­ate jobs”—and links it with Obama’s “in­fam­ous de­clar­a­tion, ‘If you’ve got a busi­ness, you didn’t build that.’”

2. Ru­bio doesn’t apo­lo­gize for au­thor­ing a com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill, but does of­fer a new, “piece­meal” pro­pos­al. It starts with stem­ming the flow of il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion. Then, Ru­bio calls for sep­ar­ate bills in­tro­du­cing an E-Veri­fy sys­tem, entry-exit track­ing for visas, and an over­haul of the visa pro­cess that fo­cuses on re­tain­ing high-skilled work­ers. Once those pieces are in place, Ru­bio pre­scribes a solu­tion for the 12 mil­lion il­leg­al im­mig­rants in the U.S.: Bring them out of the shad­ows, de­port those with crim­in­al re­cords, give the oth­ers tem­por­ary “non­im­mig­rant visas,” make them pay taxes and fines to keep it, then, fi­nally, after a dec­ade, al­low them to ap­ply for per­man­ent res­id­ency.

3. Ru­bio pre­views a uni­fy­ing, as­pir­a­tion­al stump speech—one that bor­rows from the Barack Obama play­book. “I be­lieve deeply in the con­ser­vat­ive re­form pro­pos­als” writ­ten about in the book, Ru­bio writes. “But what they seek to achieve—a rising, striv­ing Amer­ica for all of us—isn’t par­tis­an. There isn’t a Re­pub­lic­an Dream and a Demo­crat­ic Dream. There is only one Amer­ic­an Dream. Be­fore us lies the chance not just to re­store it, but to bring it with­in reach of more people than ever be­fore. This is our chance to claim our her­it­age as a people who al­ways leave be­hind a na­tion bet­ter than the one left to them. My grand­par­ents and par­ents kept the dream alive. So did yours. Now it’s our turn.”

4. Ru­bio makes no men­tion of his po­ten­tial 2016 Re­pub­lic­an rivals. Un­like his first book, An Amer­ic­an Son, Ru­bio’s new book con­tains no ref­er­ence to—or ac­know­ledg­ment of—former Gov. Jeb Bush. In Amer­ic­an Dreams, Ru­bio speaks highly of cer­tain Sen­ate col­leagues—but makes no men­tion of either Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. Nor does Ru­bio men­tion Scott Walk­er, Chris Christie, Rick San­tor­um, or any oth­er po­ten­tial GOP op­pon­ent. The one ex­cep­tion: Ru­bio lav­ishes praise on his friend, Rep. Paul Ry­an, whose name is men­tioned nearly a dozen times.

5. Ru­bio goes light on bio­graphy, and heavy on policy. Per­haps that’s one reas­on why Ru­bio men­tions Ry­an so of­ten. (Ry­an, as Na­tion­al Journ­al re­por­ted late last year, is highly un­likely to run—and might con­sider en­dors­ing Ru­bio, whom he views as a like-minded re­former.) Where­as Ru­bio’s first book re­lied heav­ily on his fam­ily’s mul­ti­gen­er­a­tion­al im­mig­rant story, Amer­ic­an Dreams fo­cuses on ma­jor policy de­bates and pro­pos­als—health care, reg­u­la­tion, the tax code, stu­dent loans, So­cial Se­cur­ity, de­fense spend­ing, and for­eign policy, among oth­ers. This is part of a con­scious rebrand­ing ef­fort to help Ru­bio be viewed as a young policy wonk, not just an ex­cep­tion­al orator with a com­pel­ling bio­graphy.

6. Ru­bio out­lines a mus­cu­lar for­eign policy built upon three pil­lars. Ru­bio has con­sist­ently been the most hawk­ish voice in the 2016 con­ver­sa­tion, and the book ar­tic­u­lates something of a Ru­bio Doc­trine. First, he says the U.S. “must boldly op­pose ef­forts by oth­er na­tions to in­fringe upon the free­dom of in­ter­na­tion­al wa­ters, air­space, cy­ber­space and out­er space.” Second, he calls for “mor­al clar­ity re­gard­ing what we stand for and why”—which means “be­ing un­abashed in sup­port of the spread of eco­nom­ic and polit­ic­al free­dom” and “res­ist­ing ef­forts by rising and re­sur­gent powers to sub­jug­ate their neigh­bors.” Third, Ru­bio ad­voc­ates a big­ger budget for the Pentagon, which he says will “demon­strate a strength in de­fense cap­ab­il­it­ies that, as Pres­id­ents Wash­ing­ton and Re­agan en­vi­sioned, leaves our en­emies un­will­ing to pro­voke us.”

7. Ru­bio agrees with Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren that “the game right now in Amer­ica is rigged”—but says the gov­ern­ment is rig­ging it. Ru­bio makes sev­er­al men­tions of War­ren in the book, re­fer­ring to her at one point as a “lib­er­al pop­u­list hero.” He im­pli­citly po­s­i­tions him­self as her coun­ter­part—a con­ser­vat­ive pop­u­list hero who faults both polit­ic­al parties for pro­mot­ing “crony cap­it­al­ism” that cre­ates ex­cess­ive gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion that, in turn, pro­tects big busi­ness and stifles com­pet­i­tion. “After all, big cor­por­a­tions can af­ford to in­flu­ence gov­ern­ment, and the little guys can’t,” Ru­bio writes. “And the more power gov­ern­ment has over the eco­nomy, the more those with the power to in­flu­ence gov­ern­ment win.”

8. Ru­bio teaches a col­lege class at Flor­ida In­ter­na­tion­al Uni­versity, and cited Uber to con­vince his stu­dents of the dangers of reg­u­la­tion. When Ru­bio heard his polit­ic­al-sci­ence stu­dents dis­cuss­ing the ride-shar­ing ser­vice that their friends use in oth­er cit­ies—and won­der­ing why it hadn’t come to Miami—he seized the op­por­tun­ity. After ex­plain­ing that Miami has a gov­ern­ment-im­posed cap on “sedan medal­lions,” he told them Uber isn’t leg­ally per­mit­ted to com­pete for their busi­ness. “As my pro­gress­ive young stu­dents listened to me ex­plain why gov­ern­ment was pre­vent­ing them from us­ing their cell phones to get home from the bars on Sat­urday night,” Ru­bio writes, “I could see their minds change.”

9. Ru­bio thinks Obama’s apo­logy to art-his­tory pro­fess­ors was “kind of pathet­ic.” In cri­tiquing the high­er edu­ca­tion sys­tem, Ru­bio em­phas­izes “the re­spons­ib­il­ity of stu­dents to make their edu­ca­tion a wise in­vest­ment” and not dis­miss less glam­or­ous pro­fes­sions. As such, he was “very en­cour­aged, when Pres­id­ent Obama told a crowd in Wis­con­sin last year: ‘Folks can make a lot more, po­ten­tially, with skilled man­u­fac­tur­ing or the trades than they might with an art his­tory de­gree.’ ” When Obama apo­lo­gized for the re­mark soon after, “I thought that was kind of pathet­ic and I said so,” Ru­bio re­calls. “The point he was mak­ing was an im­port­ant and le­git­im­ate one. We no longer live in an eco­nomy in which most young people have the lux­ury of go­ing deep in­to debt for an edu­ca­tion that pre­pares them for an entry-level job at Star­bucks.”

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