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In Defense of Marco Rubio

By Christa Castrignano

Much has been made of Senator Marco Rubio’s recent vote in favor of confirming Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. His grave concerns were evident in his questioning of Tillerson during his confirmation hearings. Those concerns were echoed by fellow Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Ultimately, after extensive questioning and additional closed-door meetings, the three men decided to vote in favor of confirming Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Although Rubio was the most vocal in his concerns regarding Tillerson, he was seemingly the sole focus of the public’s ire that erupted upon Tillerson’s official confirmation.

McCain and Graham may have experienced some criticism, but neither had to endure the humiliating spectacle of having an actual, physical spine dangled in their face amid a mob of reporters who had assembled to question him about their newly cast vote. Greenpeace presented the spine to the wrong person. In regard to Tillerson’s confirmation, arguably numerous people deserve that spine. Senator Marco Rubio is not one of them.

“Why?” You may ask. “He was so openly critical of Tillerson in numerous rounds of questioning. Then, at the last minute, he buckled to party pressure and fell in line.” That is superficial and frankly lazy deduction. Here are the facts: it is the job of the Senate to provide advice and consent to the President. Bob Corker, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, stated that regardless of the committee’s vote, he would bring Tillerson’s confirmation to the floor of the Senate, where it was certain to pass. Would it have been a statement for Rubio to have voted against him anyway? Perhaps. But the reality is, his vote was inconsequential, no matter which way it was cast. The direction of his vote is not important, but the manner in which he did so is. If Rubio was truly a spineless sellout, the statement he issued in the announcement of his vote would have either consist of a glowing assessment of Tillerson, or just the announcement itself (and no additional comments).

To the contrary, Rubio’s lengthy statement concisely explained aspects of Tillerson’s testimony he found favor with, and those that he did not. He clearly explained that although his concerns regarding Tillerson’s view of America and its role in foreign policy persist, he also acknowledged that Tillerson had “…extensive experience and success in international commerce…” and respectfully deferred to the President’s choice – a long-held Senate tradition. In essence, Rubio did exactly what he was supposed to do: advised the president. In the face of vitriol, most of which came from his own party, Rubio stated his truthful evaluation. Doing so also entered his concerns into the public record, so Tillerson knows Rubio will be closely monitoring his actions. In a town where politics is a blood sport, Rubio stepped up and was transparent about his views.

The recipients of the spine should go to those who did not engage in such transparency. It should go to those who took the path of least resistance and recited the party line dictated to them by the heavy-handed Trump administration. To those who issued glowing endorsements of Tillerson, while claiming to personally espouse foreign policy views that were contrary to his. There are 10 other Republican Senators on that committee, none of whom questioned him with a fraction of the intensity of Rubio. Senator Ted Cruz personally introduced Tillerson, and enthusiastically endorsed his nomination. In a group of 11, only one stood up for conservative foreign policy principles. For that matter, in the aggregate, of 100 Senators, Rubio was still the only one to honestly and clearly state his advice to President Trump. In conclusion, Rubio was the only one who showed up to work.

And for that matter, if organizations like Greenpeace, were so concerned with Tillerson, it was incumbent upon them to speak up and advocate in that regard. I closely observed both the Tillerson hearings and surrounding coverage, and do not recall hearing or reading about Greenpeace’s thoughtful objections. With all due respect, waving a spine in someone’s face does not accomplish anything. Not to mention it was done after the fact. It seems as though Greenpeace was the one phoning it in. It is easy to point fingers, and talk the talk. It is much more difficult to walk the walk. In essence: the giver of the spine should be its rightful recipient. For those unfamiliar with Rubio, his leadership and courage are nothing new and is often why he is the target of criticism. He puts country over party and has worked tirelessly in that regard, and his Congressional resume reflects it. He is mocked by those who refuse to do the same. Winston Churchill was right.

It is easy to point fingers, and talk the talk. It is much more difficult to walk the walk. In essence: the giver of the spine should be its rightful recipient. For those unfamiliar with Rubio, his leadership and courage are nothing new and is often why he is the target of criticism. He puts country over party and has worked tirelessly in that regard, and his Congressional resume reflects it. He is mocked by those who refuse to do the same. Winston Churchill was right.

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
? Winston S. Churchill

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3 Comments on In Defense of Marco Rubio

  1. Senator Rubio was not singled out because of his vote. He and many others were critical of Mr. Tillerson for good reasons. He was one of the few that had the opportunity to actually vote. Being critical on one day in front of the crowd and then voting contrary to this expressed opinion is all to common. Senator Rubio did what he does best, play the crowd. Any defense of such action only continues to serve his agenda. It’s not just him, there are others. The question I have is why are there any. Conscience seems to play 2nd fiddle to Party and not just his.

    • You make a fair point. However, you said, “He was one of the few that had the opportunity to actually vote.”

      True, but as stated in the article, his “no” vote would not have done anything to stop Tillerson’s confirmation because Corker would have moved Tillerson to a vote on the Senate floor regardless of the outcome in committee. Rubio could have said no to make a statement, but chose not to, and that to me is unfortunate. However, if Rubio had voted no to make a statement, then his influence on foreign policy would have been diminished to zero, or almost zero. There is a good Buzzfeed article that explains this. I’ll link it here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/tariniparti/why-marco-rubio-will-vote-to-confirm-trumps-secretary-of-sta?utm_term=.hiAMExePZ#.ww9AYXveP

      Quotes from the article:

      “Sources close to Rubio insist it wasn’t a ploy for attention, as some Rubio critics suggest. They say he made up his mind after a ‘full court press’ from the Trump team. The senator had a 90-minute meeting with Tillerson, Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus last week. The meeting was described as a ‘blunt conversation’ about Tillerson’s answers at the hearing and his relationship with Russia.”

      and

      “‘In the end, I think Marco decided that it was better to be inside the tent than outside,’ a source close to Rubio said. ‘A vote against Tillerson would have reduced his influence on foreign policy matters with the Trump Administration to zero.'”

      The rest of the article is informative and you should read it, but these parts were particularly important for context. I think if we really want to understand why Rubio voted yes when it looked like he would vote no out of principle, simply accusing him of playing the crowd doesn’t fit the bill. He is not afraid to be the lone wolf if it might actually get something done.

      Take funding to combat the Zika virus in Miami and Puerto Rico. He stood on the Senate floor at least a dozen times and spoke often during committee about anti-Zika funding. He opposed his own party, and eventually brought people to his side and the Senate passed a bi-partisan bill to fund Zika. Things got complicated when the House added a provision about not funding Puerto Rico’s branch of Planned Parenthood and the Democrats then opposed Zika funding. Rubio claimed that both parties were to blame for the holdup to pass anti-Zika funding, and he worked to eventually pass funding through the continual resolution at the end of September.

      Politics is a game. You have to play it if you are going to stay in it. Am I happy with Rubio’s support? No. But I understand it. I hope it benefits the country in the long run by keeping him as an important voice in dealing with foreign affairs.

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