Marco Rubio’s Boldness: Why I’m Not Surprised

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol probably understated things when he called Marco Rubio’s letter to senate leaders “perhaps the boldest move any freshman senator has made” this year.

In fact, whether or not you agree with Rubio’s position in support of “allied military action in Libya” and the ouster of Gaddafi, going public with his views on Libya was one of the most courageous recent acts of anyone in the senate — much less a freshman.

Poised to have a bright future ahead of him, Rubio had to know this decision would be unpopular among many in his base (clearly, this issue divides not just the Republican Party — but even the Tea Party.)  Why not just keep quiet — or better yet — just criticize Obama if and when things go wrong?  That would have been the safe move for a young senator with ambitions.

Rubio’s bold move, though, is the mark of a man who isn’t afraid to take chances.  (What else would you expect from a guy who had the guts to challenge an incredibly popular incumbent governor of his state, who was endorsed by GOP leadership, for senate?)  But if Rubio’s boldness shouldn’t have surprised us, neither should his position on Libya.

When other Tea Party candidates were expressing reluctance about Afghanistan, Rubio put out a statement that “praised the decision but expressed concern that the troop increase was not robust enough.”

Rubio has been outspoken about his belief that the American military can be a force for good in the world. During the campaign, Rubio noted: “America by and large, sends its young men and women off to die on foreign battlefields almost always for other peoples’ freedom and for freedom around the world.”

And as recently as March 17, Rubio spoke out about our handling of the Libyan situation, saying: “The president has specifically said that Qaddafi must go but has done nothing since then except for having general debates about it for a week and a half or two.  Congressional leadership has strongly called for a no-fly zone and nothing has happened.”

Born to exiled Cuban parents, it is clear the American dream impacted Rubio’s point of view from an early age (see the closing ad from his campaign about “American Exceptionalism“) — and one can imagine that defining experience might have also greatly informed his foreign policy decisions.  Just as he aims to preserve the “American miracle” that is unique to such a free country, his ambitions may be easily translatable to the world stage.

His parents devoted their lives to making sure their children’s dreams were accessible and that they were given a chance to succeed rather than face the oppression they endured in Cuba.

They achieved their dream only after escaping a tyrant named Castro.  Isn’t it reasonable to conclude Rubio might want to help other dissidents escape a tyrant named Gaddafi?

Matt K. Lewis