With Sen. Marco Rubio surging in the polls closing the gap on Donald Trump and easily besting Hillary Clinton in some general-election match-ups the neocons have found their favorite candidate, a fresh face who would put them firmly back in the driver’s seat of U.S. foreign policy, as JP Sottile explains.
By JP Sottile
“We’ll be fine.” That’s what neoconservative scion William Kristol told Beltway insiders on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked about the prospect of Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination.
Although he was initially warm to Trump’s candidacy, Kristol quickly cooled during the “Summer of Trump” as the GOP’s surprise frontrunner began piling up insults and, more importantly, as he began piling-on the disastrous foreign policy legacy of President George W. Bush. Trump’s barrages against the Iraq War on the stump, on Sunday shows and, most entertainingly, on Twitter transformed the main foreign policy “achievement” of the neoconservative movement into a toxic campaign issue for the GOP’s Establishment-friendly candidates.
To wit, Trump’s relentless critique of the neocon-driven Iraq debacle wounded, perhaps mortally, the presidential prospects of “The Next Bush in Line” and, in so doing, jeopardized the most obvious governmental re-entry point for the restive cadre of neocon men and women currently languishing at the American Enterprise Institute. Many are also among Jeb Bush’s closest foreign policy advisers.
With the Bush brand in jeopardy and Trump unwilling to either parrot long-standing GOP talking points or regurgitate their partially-digested tropes on foreign policy, things looked bleak for the Republican Party’s bellicose backbenchers.
And its big-money benefactors have been left wanting ever since Wisconsin wunderkind Scott Walker ignominiously left the race with a whimper. Unlike the rest of the field, Troublesome Trump is not running for a big payday in the Sheldon Adelson primary. And Trump is not beholden to big-dollar bundlers nor is he quietly coordinating with a well-funded Super PAC.
The prospect of a Republican nominee who is, whether for good or for ill, entirely free from traditional levers of influence led Kristol to go so far as to declare he’d support a third-party candidate if Trump became the standard bearer of a party the neoconservatives have dominated for three decades.
But the big GOP Establishment freak-out over the possibility of a string-less presidential nominee may be coming to an end. And Kristol, who is a notoriously flat-footed prognosticator, anticipated it a week before the punditocracy crowned Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, the winner of the now-notorious CNBC “dumpster fire” debate and long before the Paris Attack refocused both the GOP race and the tragedy-obsessed media on national security.
This is Sen. Marco Rubio’s best chance yet to turn his national security candidacy into the Establishment’s main alternative to both Trump and to the Evangelical-fueled anomaly of Dr. Ben Carson. Rubio’s recent move to the Establishment’s pole position, complete with the public backing of billionaire Paul Singer and the Weekly’s Standard’s recent pronouncement that Jeb’s flaccid candidacy was “dead”, also presents the best opportunity for neoconservatives eager to retake control of U.S. foreign policy.
Ironically, Trump may have done them a favor. By burning Bush on his well-funded ties to SuperPAC puppet-masters and by relentlessly linking him with the worst memories of his brother’s tenure, Trump cleared the way for the ultimate neoconservative dreamboat, Marco Rubio.
Which may be why, after reassuring everyone that “We’ll be fine,” the Conservative Cassandra told the “Morning Joe” scrum that a “Rubio-Fiorina or a Fiorina-Rubio ticket’s going to win in November” and that “everyone should calm down.”
Who Is ‘We’?
When Bill Kristol says “we’ll be fine,” who is the “we” he’s talking about? The country? The Republican Party?
Or is he talking specifically about the neoconservative brand and the much-maligned “shoot first, spend copiously and don’t bother to ask questions later” approach to foreign policy that turned the “neocon” name into pejorative term while also tarnishing the Republican Party and, in many ways, opening it up to outsiders and insurgents.
When pundits refer to Trump as an “outsider” who is running afoul of the “Establishment,” in many ways the Establishment they are talking about is the neoconservativeneoliberal alliance that has dominated the GOP since neoconservatives began exerting control over Ronald Reagan’s often-brutal and occasionally-illegal policies in Central America and their neoliberal soul-mates ushered-in the era of low taxes, high spending and wholesale deregulation most people refer to as “Reaganomics.”
Over time, this has opened up a schism in the Republican Party between this dominant force and so-called paleo-conservatives, assorted libertarians and lingering “country-club” moderates who’ve failed to regain traction in a party dominated by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and the ghost of Milton Friedman.
At the end of the grand neocon experiment, also known as “Bush-43,” a potent combination of runaway spending, painful skepticism about the grinding Iraq War and, most directly, the hastily-engineered bailout of Wall Street blew that rift wide open. That’s when the Tea Party rushed in and wrested control of the GOP agenda away from the Establishment.
And, like him or not, Donald Trump has, like the Tea Party before him, exploited that rift in the GOP to great effect, particularly on the issue of interventionism. Unlike most of the other candidates, Trump’s evisceration of the Iran Nuke Deal stops short of “ripping it up” on “day one” of his presidency. Rather, he proclaims he’ll be all over the Iranians like a cheap suit, pressing the enforcement of the deal like no other leader could.
And he’s one of the few major political figures of either party to state bluntly that both Iraq and Libya would both be better off if the United States hadn’t taken it upon itself to replace Saddam Hussein and Col. Gaddafi with swirling maelstroms of chaos. But even worse in the neocon universe is Trump’s position on Syria and his approach to Vladimir Putin.
In a direct challenge to the neoconservative policy of relentless Middle Eastern fight-picking and their decades-long obsession with crippling Russia, a President Trump would, according to his repeated statements, prefer to let Russia and Iran have at it in the fight against the Islamic State. Trump is also willing to let Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stay in power if that would keep a lid on the beheading badguys.
And, in what has become one of the ultimate neocon “no-nos”, Trump said he’d work to “get along” with Putin. To coin a phrase, “That’s huge.”
Trump’s transgression of neoconservative orthodoxy set off warning bells at Commentary and its sirens have been ringing like a shrill car alarm ever since. Noah Rothman warned that if elected, Trump would start cutting some of his famous deals directly with “the devil.” The devil is, of course, not in the details. The devil is, according to neoconservatives, Vladimir Putin.
And Max “Don’t Call Me Jack” Boot summarily labeled Trump an “apologist for dictators,” while Rothman tarred Trump’s demonstrable claim that America was not, in fact, “safe” on 9/11 as tantamount to a dreaded “conspiracy theory.”
Meanwhile, The Weekly Standard has subtlety jabbed Trump with petty guilt-by-association blurbs about Mike Tyson and Barack Obama even as the folks at Commentary have accused Trump of going “full Democrat.” But the irony is that Trump is not pulling Democratic ideas into the GOP race. Rather, Trump is leveraging a long-simmering feud between GOP insurgents, one that dates back to Pat Buchanan’s challenge to then-President George H.W. Bush in 1992, and the GOP Establishment.
The “outsiders” are now a hodge-podge of Tea Party activists, Dr. Ben Carson’s disgruntled Evangelicals and the traditional, cautious conservatism expressed by The American Conservative. It is also found in the lingering, almost rock-star appeal of longtime Libertarian representative and former presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Trump’s support, which often overlaps with the Tea Party, exemplifies its split on foreign policy. Like Trump, Tea Partiers are vociferous hawks, but also not necessarily interventionist. Rather, the Tea Party harbors a range of views from the knee-jerk militarism of Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, to the surprisingly less enthusiastic stance of another presidential hopeful, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
On “Meet the Press,” Cruz told Chuck Todd, “I don’t believe we should be engaged in nation building. I don’t believe we should be trying to transform foreign countries into democratic utopias, trying to turn Iraq into Switzerland. But I do think it is the job of our military to protect this country, to hunt down and kill jihadists who would murder us.”
Obviously, Americans have heard that one before and it’s entirely likely that the opportunistic Cruz is simply positioning himself to soak-up Trump’s base of support if and when he falters. But it’s notable that the astute political move to capture Trump’s support is to position yourself in opposition to knee-jerk interventionism and, therefore, to neoconservatism.
This lingering war-weariness and unease with empire is often derided by neoconservatives and, for that matter, by the foreign policy establishments of both parties, as “isolationism.” In many ways, the choice between “interventionism” and “isolationism” is Beltway Establishment’s ultimate litmus test. When politicians and pundits label a candidate as “isolationist” it’s usually the kiss of death. Nothing is more dangerous than someone who threatens to derail 75 years of hegemonic momentum.
And unlike Trump, it is this test that Sen. Marco Rubio has purposefully and methodically passed since he announced his candidacy last April. He quickly followed up with a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in May that hit all the interventionist sweet spots.
According to the Guardian, Rubio stopped short of appointing Uncle Sam as the “world’s policeman,” yet also wanted to “arm the Ukrainian military, pull back from negotiations with Iran, increase air strikes in Iraq, increase naval activity in the China Sea, [and] reverse the ‘normalization’ of relations with Cuba.”
Rubio further differentiated himself from Trump and “America Firsters” in a Weekly Standard feature article inauspiciously titled, “The Republican Obama.” In an interview for the story, Rubio stakes out a decidedly neoconservative position on the increasingly failed state of Libya. According to Rubio, the bloody chaos is not a result of the vacuum created by intervention, but because President Obama failed to “help quickly bring the civil war to a decisive conclusion.”
In other words, Obama’s intervention did not go far enough. And, as he told John McCormack, neither did the base of his own party: “When I called for us to be more aggressive in Libya, there were a lot of people in the base of my party who were against that,” he said in the interview. “I wouldn’t call it isolationism per se, but there was a growing movement in that direction in 2011, 2012, and 2013 that really didn’t end until ISIS beheaded two Americans.”
And if this stark contrast with Trump’s blistering critique of U.S. foreign policy and Cruz’s admonition against transforming other nations into “democratic utopias” doesn’t expose the fissure between the GOP’s insurgents and its increasingly discredited Establishment, Rubio’s stance on Russia and Vladimir Putin shows the extent to which Trump stands in direct contraposition to the neoconservative agenda and how qualified Rubio is to be its standard bearer.
In October, The Wall Street Journal detailed Rubio’s ever-hardening line on Putin which is, by subtle extension, an attack on Trump’s foreign policy bona fides. Rubio said, “We are barreling toward a second Cold War, and strong American leadership is the only force capable of ensuring that peace and security once again prevail,” and promised that “under my administration, there will be no pleading for meetings with Vladimir Putin. He will be treated as the gangster and thug that he is. And yes, I stand by that phrasing.”
The Standard Bearer
Remember the last time someone proposed a “New American Century”? That was The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which formed in the late 1990s, and its roster read like a who’s who of neoconservative busybodies, defense industry enthusiasts and future functionaries of President George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror.
In September of 2000, the now-defunct “Project” infamously outlined its principles in a document titled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” In it, PNAC lamented the lagging military power of the United States in absence of the Cold War. It also detailed an expensive plan to militarize every level of existence from microbes to space and, most notoriously, said this massive “rebuilding” of “defenses” would be impossible to sell to the American people without a catalyzing event like “a new Pearl Harbor.”
Sadly, that catalyzing event came on 9/11. But the subsequent “project” for a new American century quickly turned into a burning tire around the neck of neoconservatives. It also opened a financial sinkhole in the U.S. budget and it visited a multigenerational disaster on the inhabitants of the Middle East.
For critics, PNAC’s big plan looked a lot like a smoking gun that demonstrated the premeditated opportunism of Administration insiders who quickly and effectively turned the Saudi-dominated attack on 9/11 into the wholesale destruction of a sovereign, bystander nation, Iraq, under patently false pretenses.
Yet, as if on cue, PNAC pulled their plug in 2006. That was just about the same time their much-ballyhooed “transformative” War on Iraq was devolving into a much-maligned quagmire. Thus, PNAC quietly disbanded just as public opinion finally turned on President Bush and after the neocons had engineered a global, full-spectrum war against an age-old asymmetrical tactic called terrorism.
Since then, and since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the neoconservatives have been relegated mostly to the pundit peanut gallery. William Kristol, Bush functionary Dan Senor and PNAC signatory Robert Kagan rebooted PNAC as the much-less confrontationally named Foreign Policy Initiative.
Kagan’s wife, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, lorded over Ukraine’s chaotic shift away from neocon nemesis Vladimir Putin, but Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel failed to derail President Obama’s nuclear deal with another favorite target, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
And although Kristol seems to have found an acolyte in Tea Party-propelled Sen. Tom Cotton, neocon pundit Max Boot recently lamented the failure of Congress to force through the kind of bloated defense budget that has long animated his fellow travelers.
The rub is that although the GOP is still reflexively pro-military, there is also a strong strain of budgetary squeamishness built into the anti-government appeal of the Tea Party. In part, that led to the infamous “budget sequester” deal with the President in 2011 that put caps on everything, including defense spending.
Since then, according to Boot, the defense budget hasn’t been “serious”, and by “serious” he means that an annual budget of nearly a trillion dollars (a total including ALL defense-related spending) simply isn’t enough if America plans on seriously dealing with a panoply of “threats” from China, ISIS, Iran and Russia, among others.
Not coincidentally, all those “threats” also appear on Sen. Marco Rubio’s laundry list of doom. Also not coincidentally, the boyish charmer with a Hispanic name, Cuban roots and a compelling immigrant back story is pitching his transformative candidacy with a catchy campaign slogan that sounds vaguely, perhaps even ominously familiar: “Marco Rubio: A New American Century.”
Yes, Rubio has gone “Full-Neocon” and the echoes of grand designs past don’t stop with his blatant campaign slogan. On Nov. 5, Rubio gave a sweeping speech in New Hampshire outlining his defense policies that could, according to an expert at the Cato Institute, add upwards of $1 trillion dollars on top of current budget projections over the next decade.
It was that extra trillion dollars that GOP hopeful Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, attacked as “not conservative” in the FOX Business Debate. Rubio responded predictably by labeling Paul as an “isolationist.”
But Sen. Paul highlighted the key difference between the Tea Party and Rubio, who is not a real conservative in the fiscal sense. Rather, Rubio is a neoconservative armed with global aspirations and a staggering military-industrial wish-list to boot. No doubt, it certainly is the type of “serious” defense budget that makes Max Boot dance. Rubio calls it his plan to “Restore Military Strength,” which sounds an awful lot like PNAC’s “Rebuilding America’s Defenses.”
Among the pricy “restorations” on Rubio’s To-Do List:
–Reverse the current cuts and maintain the Marine Corps and the Army at their pre-9/11 end-strengths of 182,000 and 490,000 respectively.
–Immediately begin to increase the size of the Navy to a minimum of 323 ships by 2024.
–Build at least two attack submarines every year to preserve America’s undersea dominance amid intensifying naval competition.
–Develop and field the Long Range Strike Bomber capable of both conventional and nuclear missions to replace our current aging fleet of B-52, B-1, and B-2 bombers.
–Expand missile defense by speeding up deployment of interceptors in Europe, deploying a third site in the United States, and ensuring that advanced programs are adequately funded.
–Increase the Missile Defense Agency’s Research & Development budget and create a rapid-fielding office to focus on fielding directed energy weapons, railguns, UAV-enabled defenses, and other means to defeat a threat missile across its entire flight trajectory.
–Modernize the nuclear arsenal and stop the Obama administration’s proposed cuts to the nuclear arsenal.
–Improve anti-submarine capabilities; procure advanced air warfare capabilities; sustain our advantage in precision strike from land, air, and sea; and invest in electronic warfare capabilities.
–Reposture the tactical Air Force for increased presence in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia.
–Build a “full spectrum” force able to maintain security simultaneously in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
–Maintain the Army’s proficiency across the full spectrum of war in order to combat state actors, defeat non-state threats, and shape the security environment to America’s advantage.
This emphasis on “full-spectrum dominance” was exactly the thrust of the neoconservative agenda outlined in “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” and is, in essence, a de facto program for complete military dominance of the entire planet on the land, the sea, in space and, for the tech-enthusiastic Rubio, in cyberspace.
And it also puts him in good company with the neoconservative agenda outlined by the Executive branch backbenchers at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
In what cannot be written off as a mere coincidence, PNAC’s former executive director Gary J. Schmitt is now at AEI and his name tops the header of AEI’s new, daunting 87-page plan “To rebuild America’s military.” In addition to wanting to expand U.S. capabilities to be able to fight wars in three theaters simultaneously, the neoconservative’s latest assessment details these “key points” of concern about America’s military power:
–The current U.S. military force is too small, its equipment is too old, and it is not trained or ready for a large or long fight.
–The decline of U.S. military power has severe implications for security and prosperity not just in America but also in Europe, in East Asia, and especially across the greater Middle East.
–Defense planning for the next administration must take a long-term perspective, adopting a three-theater force construct, increasing military capacity, introducing new capabilities urgently, and increasing and sustaining defense budgets.
Not surprisingly, the issues highlighted in this latest neocon manifesto would all be resolved by Rubio’s suspiciously simpatico wish list. Perhaps more troubling is that Rubio is also being supported by a secretive non-profit that is, for all intents and purposes, running a shadow campaign to get Rubio elected.
The Shadow Campaign
Amidst a dizzying array of heavily-funded SuperPACs, billionaire benefactors and the troubling news that nearly half of the cash poured into presidential campaign came from just 158 families, The Conservative Solutions Project (CSP) is quietly reshaping the already skewed campaign finance system.
“The Project” is a non-profit “social welfare” organization that has thus far raised $15 million. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, their novel idea of social welfare centers on a single-minded “project” to elect Sen. Marco Rubio as America’s first truly neoconservative president.
Unlike Jeb Bush’s much-discussed $100+ million Right to Rise PAC, the Conservative Solutions Project is not a “SuperPAC.” In post-Citizens United America, SuperPACs can raise and spend unlimited amount of cash, but also have to disclose the names of donors and the amounts of their donations. But, because CSP is officially registered as a “501(c)(4) social welfare organizations,” it is able to keep the names and amounts of its financially unfettered donors completely secret.
Like SuperPACs, social welfare organizations cannot coordinate directly with a candidate. But unlike SuperPACs, that shouldn’t even be an issue because social welfare organizations are not supposed to advocate directly for political campaigns at all. Period.
The IRS states bluntly, “The promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” They can “engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.”
Yet, the Conservative Solutions Project has been the primary source of an “ad blitz” starring none other than Marco Rubio. And, according to the National Journal, that’s quite literally “none other.” S.V. DÃ¡te reported in late October that “every single one of the group’s thousands of television ads, in fact, has featured Rubio” and it shouldn’t come as a surprise since “its leader co-founded a political consulting firm with the manager of Rubio’s presidential campaign.”
Even more glaring is that “there have been no TV ads touting Rubio thus far other than those by Conservative Solutions Project.”
Apparently, the impressive roster of GOP insiders at CSP believe there is no conflict in running $3 million worth of ads touting Rubio’s anti-Iran Nuke Deal stance. Nor is there any problem with the $3 million ad-buy showing Rubio at the Iowa State Fair. Nor is there any problem with the $2 million they’ve allocated to run even more Rubio-centric ads through this coming February, according to Associated Press.
But the campaign finance watchdogs at The Campaign Legal Center and Democracy 21 disagree. According to The Hill, both sent letters to the Justice Department requesting an investigation of CSP’s specious interpretation of IRS code. And those requests come on the heels of an earlier complaint filed directly with the IRS by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Noah Bookbinder, director of CREW, bluntly told the Associated Press that CSP’s Rubio-centric media blitz “is an abuse of the nonprofit status.”
Those allegations are simply not true, according to Conservative Solutions Project spokesperson Jeff Sadosky. He claims that CSP meets the IRS requirement of “promoting greater social welfare” by using its website to tout the accomplishments of a few other Republicans besides Marco Rubio.
Still, it’s a strange interpretation of social welfare. But, then again, this is the sort of shameless spin you might expect from a person who is doing double-duty as spokesperson for both a faux non-profit and for a pro-Rubio super-PAC that is named, and this is not a joke, Conservative Solutions PAC.
So, Rubio’s candidacy is not only being propelled by a SuperPAC that cannot officially coordinate with his campaign, his SuperPAC is working hand-in-glove with a secretly-funded social welfare organization that cannot legally be engaged in wholesale political activities.
The kicker is that their idea of “social welfare”, beyond touting the “accomplishments” of various and sundry politicians, is an “Agenda for American Exceptionalism” that includes “reforming the tax code” (meaning tax cuts) and “shrinking and restructuring the federal government” while also “restoring our military and America’s standing in the world to promote peace, freedom, and prosperity”, all of which Rubio dutifully and robotically regurgitates in every speech and during each debate.
As noted previously, Rubio’s PNAC-echoing national security plan is called “Restore Military Strength” which, of course, is reflected in CSP’s “Agenda for American Exceptionalism.”
While it is true that this could all be mere coincidence, what is not coincidental is, as Scott Bland reported in the National Journal last April, the incestuous relationships behind Rubio’s bid for the White House. Bland revealed that CSP “commissioned a minutely detailed, 270-page political research book on early-state primary voters last year, and the report was prepared by a firm on Rubio’s own political payroll.”
That firm is 0ptimus Consulting and it has a remunerative relationship with Rubio’s leadership PAC dating back to 2013. According to the National Journal, Rubio’s leadership PAC, Reclaim America PAC, paid 0ptimus “$200,000 in 2013 and 2014 for data and analytics consulting, according to federal campaign-finance disclosures.”
Although Rubio’s campaign cannot coordinate with Conservative Solutions PAC and neither his campaign nor the SuperPAC is allowed to sync-up activities with the Conservative Solutions Project because it is forbidden to do so by the IRS, the 270-page research book is not only available on Conservative Solutions Project’s website, but Bland reported that it is “also on the Optimus website, where a description says it was produced ‘in conjunction with the Conservative Solutions PAC,’ though the report itself is branded with the nonprofit’s name.”
Thus far, the Conservative Solutions Project has raised somewhere around $15 million dollars and spent about $8 million on the Rubio ad blitz. Conservative Solutions PAC has, as of the last report in June, raised $16 million and spent almost none of it.
That two-headed beast allows Rubio’s federally regulated campaign to conserve cash while it engages in a pitched battle on the airwaves with the SuperPAC and the campaign of the other Establishment option, Jeb Bush. Jeb’s SuperPAC,which is not “officially” coordinating with his campaign,spent over $17 million in ads to keep his flagging campaign afloat.
Of course, The Next Bush in Line also has a non-profit “social welfare” organization lingering in the shadows of the campaign. But Right to Rise Policy Solutions doesn’t have the money nor is it poised to capture the biggest fish in the muddy waters of modern moneyed electioneering. That’s what Rubio’s supposedly uncoordinated “social welfare” group is about to do.
The Center for Responsive Politics tracked past giving and found that Sheldon Adelson and his wife “combined to be the biggest campaign donors of the 2012 cycle.” Now, The Guardian reports that insiders believe the billionaire casino mogul is leaning toward spilling million of dollars of largesse into the Conservative Solutions Project. It stands to reason because Rubio reportedly calls upon Adelson regularly and CSP’s pet project over the summer was a multimillion ad campaign trumpeting Sen. Rubio’s hardline opposition to dealing with the dreaded mullahs of Iran.
And Adelson, who is closely connected to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has in the decidedly anti-Iranian and reflexively pro-Israel Rubio a perfect recipient for his lavish financial attention. But Adelson is not alone. Florida billionaire and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman is a long-time supporter willing to dip deep into his pocket for Rubio, and for his wife, who, the Washington Post reported, works part-time for the Braman family foundation. Like Adelson, U.S. policy toward Israel is one of Braman’s primary concerns.
The same is true for billionaire Paul Singer, who previously teamed up with Adelson, billionaire hedge funder Seth Klarman and Home Depot founder Bernard Marcus to pump “a combined $11.5 million to some of the biggest opponents of the Iran negotiations from 2011 through 2013, and pumped $115 million into Republican Party super PACs in the 2012 and 2014 elections,” according to Huffington Post.
A noted Wall Street wizard, Singer’s recent endorsement burnishes Rubio’s establishment credentials. But Singer has a long history of supporting the junior Senator from Florida. The Center for Responsive Politics lists Singer’s hedge fund Elliott Management as the second most prolific giver to Rubio between 2009 and 2014 (right between Club for Growth and Goldman Sachs) and there’s little doubt he will give copiously to Rubio’s shadowy social welfare-SuperPAC hybrid.
Although Rubio is well-positioned to be the “rational” alternative to Trump and Carson, it also puts him squarely on the other side of the rift that has half of GOP voters supporting the two outsiders. And, like he did with Jeb Bush, Trump characterized Rubio ties to billionaires as puppet strings, calling him a “perfect little puppet” of Sheldon Adelson in one particularly lively tweet.
This is Marco’s moment. Like the neoconservative brand he has franchised, Rubio has been waiting for the catalyzing event he can leverage into to transformative program to “rebuild” the world’s largest military and extend its already global-spanning reach.
Within hours of the Islamic State’s stunning attack on Paris, the ever-vigilant Rubio turned it into a profligate fundraising pitch and an anti-refugee addendum to his artful dodge on the one issue that Trump and newly-rising Ted Cruz can use against him, immigration.
But that’s the double-edged sword of Rubio’s Establishment bid, he’s a perfectly-crafted neoconservative Ken Doll who hits all their marks, but, at the same time, he’s an animatronic Establishment robot who reliably recites a well-worn message at least half of all GOP voters are currently rejecting out of hand.
This isn’t the 2000 election, when George W. Bush touted humility and a discomfort with nation building in the campaign before flipping the switch to a messianic mission after the “new Pearl Harbor” changed everything.
The GOP’s America Firster and Tea Party elements are distrustful of the Establishment and the nation as a whole is not keen on the neoconservative legacy. In perhaps the ultimate insult, noted lefty commentator Peter Beinart hilariously labeled neocon nemesis Vladimir Putin as the Russian equivalent of a neocon.
But the danger is that neoconservatives know that they are not popular and that’s why they’ve re-booted themselves into the Foreign Policy Initiative, into the recently launched John Hay Initiative (purposefully named after Secretary of State John Hay, the man behind America’s neo-colonial “Open Door” policy in China) and, by every indication, into the not-so-stealthy candidacy of Marco Rubio.
If there is such a thing as “truth” in political advertising, perhaps Rubio’s catchy campaign refrain says it all. His election looks like it’s their latest “project” for a “new American century.”
JP Sottile is a freelance journalist, radio co-host, documentary filmmaker and former broadcast news producer in Washington, D.C. He blogs at Newsvandal.com or you can follow him on Twitter, http://twitter/newsvandal.