It is no secret that the Hispanic vote is going to be very important in the 2012 elections. In 2008, Hispanics broke heavily in favor of Barack Obama. Given the strong sentiments in the Republican Party against accommodating illegal immigrants, many of whom are Hispanics, it was expected that the Hispanics would remain strongly in the Democratic fold.
This is where Florida Senator Marco Rubio can make a difference.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, apparently wants the vice presidential spot on a ticket headed by Mitt Romney. He has campaigned with Romney in Pennsylvania and one can consider this an audition for the job.
If Rubio could peel away enough Hispanic voters from the Democrats, this could prove decisive in states such as Florida, (where Rubio's presence on the ticket would obviously be an asset) Nevada, Colorado and Arizona that are shaping up to be battleground states between Obama and Romney.
As Vice President Joe Biden was originally tapped because of his foreign policy expertise, it is important for Rubio to show that he has a feel for foreign and defense policy and would not be a potential embarrassment on these issues a la Herman Cain.
To do so, Rubio gave an address at the Brookings Institute, a think tank that is aligned with the Democratic Party - as opposed to the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institute that are more closely aligned with the Republican Party.
Although he was originally elected with the support of the Tea Party, in terms of foreign policy Rubio attempted to show that he was an advocate of a bipartisan foreign policy.
He chose retiring Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman to introduce him. After many years in the Democratic Party, Lieberman in 2006 became an independent after he had been defeated in the Democratic primary. Lieberman represents both centrism as well as a bipartisan approach and Rubio lavished his respects to Lieberman:
In my brief time in the Senate, I’ve had the chance to get to know Joe, and learn from him. He represents a view of America’s role in the world in the tradition of Democratic leaders from Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman through John F. Kennedy and Scoop Jackson.
Note that all the people whom Rubio mentioned were Democrats and if anybody was thinking that Rubio was speaking of ancient history, he corrected that impression with the following paragraph:
I found liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and staying out of Libya. On the other hand I found myself partnering with Democrats like Bob Menendez and Bob Casey on a more forceful foreign policy. In fact, resolutions that I co-authored with Senator Casey condemning Assad and with Senator Menendez condemning fraudulent elections in Nicaragua were held up by Republicans
Rubio calls for continued American involvement on the world stage simply because American policy, with all its faults, is more benevolent than any other alternative. Nobody would want to see China as a replacement, although Rubio holds out hope for the eventual evolution in Chinese policy.
"But for now we must deal with the China of today, a China which enjoys its closest relationships with countries such as North Korea and Iran. So, at least for now, it would be foolish to be confident in the idea that China can be counted on to defend and support global economic and political freedom or take up the cause of human rights."
Indirectly attacking the Obama strategy of "leading from behind", Rubio rejoined:
"Effective international coalitions don’t form themselves. They need to be instigated and led, and more often than not, they can only be instigated and led by us. And that is what this administration doesn’t understand."
The same applied to the naïve hope that international organizations constitute an effective substitute "in those instances, where the veto power of either China or Russia impede the world’s ability to deal with a significant threat, the U.S. will have to organize and lead coalitions with or without a Security Council resolution. And this concept is neither novel nor partisan. President Clinton acted exactly in this way in Kosovo with the support of congressional leaders like Senator Lieberman."
Rubio joins Mitt Romney in attacking the Obama administration's "reset" policy towards Russia. "I know some here might disagree, and certainly the President would, but I feel like we have gotten precious little from Russia in exchange for concessions on nuclear weapons."
If Vladimir Putin bashed America for electoral purposes, the Republicans look set to return the compliment in this year's presidential election by bashing Putin:
Putin might talk tough, but he knows he is weak. Everywhere he looks, he sees threats to his rule, real and imagined. And so he uses state-owned media to preach paranoia and anti-Western sentiments to Russians. He faces a rising China to the east and hostile Islamic forces to the South, but he tells his people the biggest threat they face is from NATO.
A re-energized U.S.-European coalition can help empower those forces within Russia working to end corruption and open their political system. And if that happens, we will be closer than we have ever been to the bipartisan American vision, endorsed by the Clinton administration and both Bush administrations, of a Europe “whole and free.”
Here again Rubio trots out bipartisanship with a complimentary nod to the Clinton administration. Is it possible that Rubio is beginning to drive a wedge between the Obama wing and the more centrist Clinton wing in the Democratic Party?
Rubio came across as a person who, at least on foreign policy issues, will work both sides of the aisle. His speech got good reviews in both the neoconservative Weekly Standard as well as the liberal New Yorker - not a bad haul for major foreign policy address.