[Editor’s note: Today has been an energizing and thought-provoking day at CPAC 2010. Surprise guests — such as Vice President Cheney — brought the overflow crowd to its feet repeatedly.
But Marco Rubio rocked the house. The conservative Floridian now leading Charlie Christ in the race for the Republican senatorial nomination gave a keynote speech that was the political equivalent of “shock and awe.” If a presidential vote was taken today, Rubio would probably get 100% of the votes at CPAC.
After the speech, Rubio was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me in an exclusive interview. Here’s a transcript of the interview, edited for length.]
Jed Babbin: I know it’s pretty hectic for you today. You gave an excellent speech. You rocked the house. I’ve been going to these things for many years, and in all seriousness, that’s, if not the best speech, it’s one of the top three.
Marco Rubio: I don’t know. Reagan gave a pretty good one here.
JB: I wasn’t here to see that one, but yours was was Reaganesque…
MR: You know what, I’m just grateful I have the opportunity, and least one time in my life, to stand in front of an audience of that magnitude and speak about why I think America is so special, and my life experience and how my life experience, and my parents’, and my grandfather’s experience, all tie into that.
JB: One of the things that struck me is that you said that there never has been a country like the United States. I think, if you look at many in our government, including our President and number of others, they’re really multiculturalists. They see America through a different lens that equates us that, pretty much that every society is created equally. You obviously disagree. You are not a multiculturalist. How do you describe yourself?
MR: Well the great thing about America is that we are… we draw people from all over the world, in essence. Anyone from anywhere in the world can become an American. And so, we know that what makes America great, is not a result of anything other than the fact that we made some choices that are different from other countries. Other nations chose to have the government control more things. They were told, look you need government because the governmentt is run by smart people who know what is best for us. We need the government to pick winners and losers in the economy because otherwise some people will make all the money and others will be left out. The problem is, that it doesn’t work that way. Ironically, the more the government is involved in the economy, the same people will keep winning. because they will use the influence they have… to ensure the marketplace is difficult for competitors to rise up.
JB: Well, you said a lot of important things this morning. One of the things that struck me most was you said that 2010 was a referendum on the identity of our country in the future. Pose for me the two choices. What are the choices in that referendum on our identity?
MR: Well the choice I want us to make is that the notion America IS exceptional. Again, we are exceptional not because we are superior to other people, but because we have made the choice that we are going to allow there to be individual liberty. In essence, people are going to go out and decide what it is they want from life and go out and provide it for themselves. We have free enterprise where we are going to allow people to pursue their economic dreams. That may mean working for someone, or that could mean have people working for you. The employee has the chance to become the employer. We want to live in a society where it doesn’t matter where your parents come from. It doesn’t matter what they did for a living or whether they were members of high society. You can be anything you want if you have the talent and the work ethic to accomplish it. All those things are direct product of the choices about what role our government will play. The more government is in involved in our economy and our lives, the harder it is for those things to happen. That’s what history teaches us. That’s what the world shows us.
The other alternative is the notion that, look, yes it was fun while it lasted, but the truth is that this great American miracle that you talk about is really not that great. A bunch of people have got left behind, some people have made a lot of money, too many haven’t made enough. And the truth is, unless government gets involved and smart people like us get involved and pick the winners and losers, we are never gonna have a quality of results which is what they hope to have.
JB: How stark is that choice?
MR: It’s generational! And it’s one of those choices that, once you make it, it’s hard to come back from.
JB: Well that’s one of the other things you said this morning that I wanted to get back to. You said if we don’t make the right choices soon, the next generation is not gonna even be able to. It may not even be reversible.
MR: Well, you see it now already. For example, if you look at what is happening in Greece, okay? And how the debt problem is coming home to roost in Greece and how it limits their options. The same thing can happen in America in the very near future. I mean, we are not far from the day, if we continue down this path, where the American government will have to borrow money to pay the interest on its debt. We are already at point where 48% of our debt is owned off shore.
Where interest payments on that debt are being reinvested in other countries. Where China today, as the president meets with the Dalai Lama, is reminding us not to offend them because what if they stop buying our debt, how will we run our government?
So, these are the choices… these are the things that are already happening and they are obvious to us…I want us to view what’s happening from the perspective of 100 years from now. What will historians write about this moment? And not get caught up in the minutiae of which we end up losing the forest to the trees.
JB: You said this morning that the tea parties and the other people who are getting active this year, is the single biggest push back in American history. What’s propelling that push back?
MR: Americans wanted their country fixed, but they didn’t want their country changed.
JB: I love that. One of the biggest rounds of applause you got here this morning was when you said that United States Senate has one Arlen Specter too many, we don’t need another. Clearly, Mr. Crist is not a conservative. He isn’t the kind of person that we would identify with. What is…what would you say are the two or three things that define you as different from him. What are those two or three bullet points, gold stars?
MR: Well the first thing as of right now, is I want to have a series of debates to talk about public policy. And he has instead engaged in name calling and sloganism. So, I don’t…That is the major difference apparent from a political asspect. From an issues aspect, I think clearly I am only candidate in this race that’s gonna come up to this city, stand up to this agenda, and offer in its place a clear alternative. I’m not running to extend my political career. Quite frankly, when I got involved in this race, very few people thought I would have a political career after this race was done. So, I know I’m running for the right reasons. I’m not running to be somebody, I’m running because I wanna come up here and work with some of the others that I hope will get elected this year to do something.
JB: Next to last question. On the 25th of February, the president is calling in a lot of Republican leaders to have a so-called summit on health care. It seems like another a political stunt for the television cameras. Do you think it is a wise thing or do you…would you insist on a direct, smaller team-oriented kind of negotiation, if there is gonna be one?
MR: Well the process is less relevant than the ground rules. If in essence they are going in there to have a summit on how much of the health care system the government is gonna take over, I think it will be unproductive. If, on the other hand, there is a genuine opportunity to have conversations about alternatives to having the government open up an insurance company… alternatives that how we can again empower consumers so that people own and control their health care dollars and health care plan, then it could be productive.
If on the other hand, if this is going to be nothing but an effort to … you know to negotiate how much of a government take over we are going to have health insurance, then not only it is non productive, it can be frankly counter-productive and amounts to nothing more than a stunt. We should always give the President of the United States the benefit of the doubt, but I think its important to know going in what the goals of the conference are.
JB: Perhaps the biggest applause line you got is that something I personally and HUMAN EVENTS is very heavily invested in. The idea of having GITMO inmates transferred to the United States for trials in civilian courts, particularly KSM and others. You say that they should not be, and that is something to be resolved by military tribunal. We wholeheartedly agree.
MR: First, that issue from a logistical standpoint makes sense. Housing terrorists in American jails to stand justice in American civilian courts, using American constitutional protections is not only logistically complicated and dangerous, but it’s absurd. But from the bigger prospective it says a lot when you say that, it says a lot about your view on the War on Terror. It says a lot about your view of this global struggle, against a real and dangerous enemy.
And that’s what it is. It’s a global enemy, as dangerous as anything this nation as ever faced. And in fact, more dangerous than anything this nation has faced because They don’t have a capital city, uniforms, they don’t have generals, they don’t abide by the rules of warfare. They are willing to kill women and children, and innocents, including many of their own people in their efforts to impose their worldview on as a many people as possible. And when… so when I think of the issue of how we treat terrorists with regard to bringing them justice, says as much about our view of the war on terror as it does… is as relevant, as much because of that than everything else.
JB: Many thanks. Let’s talk again soon.