“Let me just say, I love the hospitality, but this is an exaggeration,” laughed Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as he lifted three full glasses of water from behind his podium at CPAC 2013. “One should suffice.”
Rubio sometimes talks a little too fast, or seems a bit nervous about the ticking clock on his speeches, problems the famous “water sip” during his State of the Union response have probably exacerbated in the near term. But then he laughs, or gets rolling with one solid, inspirational declaration after another, and he’s a force of nature.
And he didn’t shy away from declaring his position on issues ranging from the defense of traditional marriage and unborn life – “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot; just because we believe that all human life is worthy of protection at every stage in its development does not make you a chauvinist” – to school choice, the menace of the growing student loan bubble, unemployment, middle-class families struggling with the rising cost of living, and the debt crisis.
“We have a sixteen-and-a-half trillion dollar national debt, and it’s only scheduled to get bigger,” said Rubio on the latter topic. “That problem has to be solved, and you can only solve it – the only real approach that solves it – is the combination of fiscal discipline and rapid economic growth. There is no tax increase in the world that will solve our long-term debt problem.”
American politics has made a fetish of the chimerical “middle class,” which in the hands of some politicians sounds like a dodge to mean everyone who makes roughly the same amount of money, and places roughly the same demands upon government, as whoever happens to be listening. Rubio uses the term a lot, but with sincerity, and an appreciation for the combination of independence and industry – a “vast and vibrant economy” – that defines the meaningful “middle class” in any healthy society. Integral to middle-class independence is a vibrant business community protected by law and government, but that’s not what Rubio sees at present. “In America, business feels like government is an impediment, their competitor, their enemy,” he said. “That has to stop.”
“If you look at our government, you have a right to be pessimistic,” he added. “But here’s the good news. Our government has never been America. America has never been our government. America has never been our politicians. America has always been our people. And with all the bad news out there, you can still find the promise of tomorrow in the everyday stories of our people.”
It is a promise not just for the United States, but for the world. Rubio placed much emphasis on the connection between all things in the global economy, and he warned those who feel the burden of global leadership is too much for an exhausted America to carry any longer that they won’t like what waits in the wings to take center stage. He explained that the vision of the new leadership of China is driven by a book called The China Dream, the gist of which is that “China’s goal should be to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent military and economic power.” This would place a totalitarian government noted for mentally and physically coercive treatment of its citizens astride the world.
“Do we want that to be the leading country in the world?” Rubio asked. “We want that to be the leading voice on this planet? That’s the stakes. That’s what’s at stake in America’s greatness.” And in the true conservative spirit, he concluded that we don’t need a “new idea” to handle these foreign or domestic challenges, for “there is an idea, the idea is America, and it still works. You want proof that it still works? Look around the world today. Who are they copying? They’re not copying the former Soviet Union. They’re not copying Russia. They’re not even copying China. They are copying us. With every step towards free enterprise, millions of people all over the world are emerging from poverty. Millions of people all over the world are emerging from generational poverty, because they were inspired by the American idea. They may claim to hate us… but they sure would like to be us.”