RUBIO: No, it shouldn't. Look, the North Koreans, it's not even a government. It's a criminal syndicate that controls territory and need to be treated as such. Now, unfortunately, they possess nuclear weapons and are led by an irrational leader. North Korea is going to be a growing problem for the foreseeable future. You have a person running that country that is mentally unstable, but also someone that is fully capable of overestimating his own strength and ends up miscalculating and creating a real catastrophe, not just vis-a-vis South Korea, but also Japan and the United States. This is a very serious threat. It's not just a cyber-threat. I think North Korea has the potential to become a source of huge instability.
RUBIO: It's important to understand why I oppose it. I am not opposed to changes in Cuba policy. I think we constantly need to examine our foreign policy. I'm opposed to changes like this that have no chance of leading to the result that we want, which is more freedom and more liberty for the Cuban people. This change is entirely predicated upon with false notion that engagement alone automatically leads to freedom. And I think we have evidence that that is not the case. Look at Vietnam and look at China, countries that we have engaged. They are no more politically free today than they were when that engagement started.
RUBIO: Now, our job is twofold. There is existing law that has codified the US embargo. And whatever regulations are now written to implement the president's new policy have to live up to that law. And beyond it, I think we need to examine, as Cuban the government doesn't make any changes to their human rights record--they're going to arrest people today. They arrested people yesterday. They're going to continue to crack down on opposition in the island. We need to hold this administration accountable for these policies changes and if in fact that Cubans do nothing reciprocal to live up to or to open up political space, constantly challenge and reexamine these policy changes the president has made.
RUBIO: Well, obviously, I disagree. And he has the right to become a supporter of President Obama's foreign policy. But I think it's premised on the same false notion that engagement alone leads to freedom. It doesn't. We have engagement with Vietnam and China. And while their economies have grown, their political freedoms have not. Look what China is today 30 years after that engagement. China steals our military and commercial secrets, obviously actively conducts cyber-operations against the United States. And, internally, their people have no religious, no freedoms, no freedom of speech, no unfettered access to the Internet.
Q: Should we break relations with China?
RUBIO: From a geopolitical perspective, our approach to China by necessity has to be different from Cuba
RUBIO (ON TAPE): This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie.
Q: What was working with the old policy?
RUBIO: Well, I think that's not the question. The question is what new policy can actually achieve our goal of freedom and liberty for the Cuban people. On the contrary, Raul Castro made very clear that there will be no political changes on the island. Nor did the president ask for any.
Q: But you acknowledge the old policy wasn't working?
RUBIO: I keep hearing about how the old policy was designed to overthrow the Castro regime. That's false. The embargo's original purpose was to protect American companies because those properties had been expropriated. American companies in Cuba had their assets seized. And so, in order to prevent that, that was the reason why the embargo was put in place. The new purpose of the embargo in the 21st century was to serve as leverage towards democracy.
RUBIO: First of all, the president in his end-of-year press conference alluded to the fact that there will be response and a strong one and a measured one, but one that's reciprocal. And I will support that. But, second, it's important that that movie be played, that that movie be seen. I don't even know if it's a good movie, but I think it's now important that that happen, that we figure out way to get that out there so Americans can watch it. It's unacceptable that this attack not just on our country, not just on a business located in America, but on our constitutional freedoms, if it's unresponded to, if it stays the way it is now, it is going to be an incentive for others to try and do the exact same thing in the future.
Like Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio weighed in with one of the strongest responses, in a joint statement with Idaho's Sen. Jim Risch, calling the release of the report "reckless and irresponsible" and demanding a more current detention and interrogation policy: "As a nation at war, we need a coherent detention and interrogation policy in order to extract valuable intelligence about terrorist networks from captured operatives. The Obama Administration has no detention policy, and it has hindered U.S. efforts to fight terrorism globally," they said. Rubio later told reporters he didn't support brutal interrogation methods, however.
A high-stakes vote over the future of the NSA further tested Republicans' relationships in the Valley. Paul and others had supported a major overhaul of the agency's authorities to collect Americans' communications in bulk--but the senator shocked tech giants and civil-liberties groups when he pulled support at the last minute, as the USA Freedom Act reached the Senate floor for a key procedural vote. Rubio long had stated his opposition, citing emerging terrorist threats and the need for more intelligence.
Paul defended his vote on surveillance reform, stressing in an interview he "couldn't vote for it because it reauthorized the PATRIOT Act"--a law he described as "heinous."
Companies like Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Yelp--through their Washington trade group, the Internet Association--are public backers of net neutrality. They together have praised Obama for endorsing an approach that might subject the Internet to utility-like regulation. All three Republicans, however, rejected the president's suggestion. Rubio hammered it as "government regulation of the Internet" that "threatens to restrict Internet growth and increase costs on Internet users." And Cruz lambasted net neutrality as "ObamaCare for the Internet" in a tweet that went viral--and drew plenty of criticism.
"Intervention is a mistake. Intervention when both sides are evil is a mistake. Intervention that destabilizes the Middle East is a mistake. And yet, here we are again, wading into a civil war," Paul said.
His doubts ran contrary to the thinking of Rubio, who advocated an aggressive response, saying the threat should have been addressed earlier. "If we do not confront and defeat ISIL now we will have to do so later, and it will take a lot longer, be a lot costlier, and be more painful," Rubio said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "If we fail to approve this, the nations of that region will say America is not truly engaged."
RUBIO: I want to hear what he should have said months ago: clearly explain to the American people what our national security interests are in the region, especially in what is happening in Syria and Iraq; accurately describe to the American people the risk that ISIL poses for us short-term and long-term and why they matter. This is a group that has made very clear they want to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East and the only way they're going to be able to do that is to drive us from the region. Second, he needs to clearly outline what we're going to do about it, and I hope that will include a sustained air campaign.
RUBIO: I do. I believe they do. And I'll tell you why I believe that. First and foremost because they are replete with both European and American fighters who have passports that allow them immediate access into the United States. Second, because I think it's important not to overestimate the amount of intelligence that we have on these groups. They have become increasingly capable at evading detection. So for us to simply sit back and say we don't think they pose a threat because we haven't seen one I think would be shortsighted. The fact of the matter is this group has, among their ranks, hundreds if not thousands of people with the capability of entering the United States quickly and easily and we should not take that lightly.
RUBIO: I think that we have to deal with immigration. We have a broken enforcement system on immigration. We have a legal immigration system that's outdated and needs to be modernized so we can win the global competition for talent. We have millions of people living in this country illegally, many of whom have been here for a decade or longer. We need to find a reasonable but responsible way of incorporating them into American life. Last year we tried to do that through a one-size-fits-all comprehensive approach; it didn't work. We don't have the support for that. The only way we're going to be able to address it--and I believe we should--is through a sequence of bills that begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control, modernizing our legal immigration system and then dealing with those who are here illegally.
RUBIO: Absolutely. I think it's critical that we do that. If you're serious about defeating ISIL, you have to go after where they're headquartered. What is important to understand about their presence in Syria is that they are generating revenue in Syria, with former Assad refineries that they now control and they're generating revenue from. But all of their supplies, their command and control structure, is being operated from there. You cannot defeat ISIL unless you hit them in those parts of Syria that they now control, where the Syrian government is not even present. ISIL is a group that poses an immediate danger to the United States. And if we are serious about defeating them, then we must strike them both in Syria and in Iraq.
RUBIO: Well, if you recall, at that time, what the president characterized basically as a symbolic military action against the Assad government, which I thought would be counterproductive. I thought the best way to topple Assad was to arm, equip, train and capacitate moderate rebel elements within Syria. I thought that was a better approach. This is different. We're talking about targeting ISIL, which is a group that poses an immediate danger to the United States. And if we are serious about defeating them, then we must strike them both in Syria and in Iraq. The previous debate was about what to do with Assad, and I thought the best way to topple Assad was not through airstrikes, but through equipping the moderate rebel elements.
RUBIO: Well, I don't think that's an accurate assessment. We have an unsustainable situation on the border. The only way to address that is to address the root causes: a combination of violence, instability & poverty in Central America. But it's also, according to the president of Honduras, ambiguities in our laws--beginning in 2008 with a very well-intentioned law to prevent human trafficking--and then it continued in 2012 with the president's deferred action program. Those two things have allowed trafficking groups to go into Central America and tell people that America has some special law that's going to allow them to come here and stay, and that's serving as a lure that's driving this crisis.
RUBIO: ISIS wants to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next. This calls for us to continue to empower those moderate rebel forces in Syria who are engaged in conflict against ISIS, not just Assad. And I think we need to provide more assistance for Jordan, both in security and in their border, because I think this poses a risk to Jordan down the road, and one that we should take very seriously. The urgent action is to draw up plans that allow us to begin to degrade their supply lines and their ability to continue to move forward.
Q: With airstrikes?
RUBIO: Yes, that border between Iraq and Syria is quite porous. We have got to figure out a way to isolate ISIS from Syria and Iraq, isolate them from each other. And, then, look, I would leave the rest to military tacticians.
RUBIO: Well, I don't agree with that statement. I think that's quite an exaggeration. The truth of the matter is that, if we do nothing, Iran is still going to be involved. And imagine if Iran becomes involved, and somehow helps the Iraqis turn back ISIS. You can rest assured that a future Iraqi government will be completely, 100% under the influence and in the pocket of Iran. They will have expanded their strategic reach to include practical control not just over Syria if Assad survives, but also over Iraq, increasingly positioning themselves as a hegemonic power. The United States has different hope for Iraq's future. Our hope is a country that includes Kurds and Sunni and Shia and even Christians, an inclusive country for its future. That is not Iran's goal here.
RUBIO: Certainly potentially more dangerous today than al Qaeda. They are an extremely radical group with increasing capabilities, and a very clear design. They want to establish an Islamic caliphate in sections of both Syria and Iraq, and other places. Potentially, Jordan is next. And then they want to launch attacks in the exterior, external operations, including targeting our homeland. This is an extremely serious national security risk for the country if they were to establish that safe haven of operation. The reason why al Qaeda was able to carry out the 9/11 attacks is because they had a safe operating space in Afghanistan that the Taliban had given them. And now history is trying to repeat itself here. ISIS is trying to establish the exact same thing in the Iraq-Syria region. And from this caliphate that they're setting up, they will continue to recruit and train and plot and plan and eventually carry out external operations.
RUBIO: Without a doubt. I think this is an urgent counterterrorism matter. I know a lot has been talked about the future of Iraq as a country, and that is a very legitimate issue that needs to be looked at. But, for me, this is not about nation-building or imposing democracy. This is a counterterrorism risk that we need to nip in the bud. It is my view that we will either deal with ISIS now or we will deal with them later. And, later, they're going to be stronger and harder to reach.
Q: Given that this is a direct throat to U.S. national security, what should this administration be doing?
RUBIO: I certainly hope that the 300 additional special forces and trainers going in is not simply a symbolic measure. I hope it's the first step in a multistep process.
"Imagine for a moment, if the U.S. government had shut down POLITICO the day it launched in 2007--or any conservative, liberal or mainstream online news outlet for that matter," he said. "As Americans, we would be outraged. Press freedom is a universal human right, and we should be outraged that yet another blatant instance of repression has taken place in Cuba," Rubio said.
"If you say that you did, then suddenly there are people out there saying, 'Well, it's not a big deal,'" Rubio said. "On the other side of it is if you tell people that you didn't, they won't believe you." Rubio explained that his decision not to answer the question goes back to an encounter he had after publishing his memoir, "American Son." In the book, Rubio reveals that he was not a disciplined student in his youth and had a 2.1 GPA in high school. "Someone came up to me and said, 'You My son said he doesn't have to get good grades in high school, because look at Marco Rubio, he didn't do well in high school,'" Rubio recalled, "and that impacted me."
The debate, however, isn't nearly as clear-cut as Rubio claims. So-called personhood bills have sparked debate on when a fetus should be considered an individual with full legal rights.
After receiving backlash for his remarks, Rubio sought in another interview to clarify his position: "I've never disputed that the climate is changing, and I've pointed out that climate to some extent is always changing, it's never static," Rubio said. "There are things that we can do to become more efficient in our use of energies, there are things we can do to develop alternative sources of energy."
Rubio defended those remarks during a third interview: "I think the scientific certainty that some claimed isn't necessarily there," he said.
RUBIO: I don't agree with the notion that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what's happening in our climate. Our climate is always changing. And what they have chosen to do is take a handful of decades of research and say that this is now evidence of a longer-term trend that's directly and almost solely attributable to manmade activity, I do not agree with that.
Q: You don't buy it?
RUBIO: I don't know of any era in world history where the climate has been stable. Climate is always evolving, & natural disasters have always existed.
Q: You do not think that human activity, its production of CO2, has caused warming to our planet?
RUBIO: I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it. And I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.
RUBIO: Yes. No one has been accountable. I mean, who has been accountable for what happened in Benghazi? This administration has a tendency on foreign policy issues in particular, not to worry nearly as much about what to do, and to worry more about what to say. And they decided not just to mislead the American public, but to mislead the families of these victims as to exactly what had happened.
Q: But you have the Republican Party raising money off this investigation. Is that appropriate?
RUBIO: I would prefer that we would focus not on the fundraising elements or the political elements of it, because I think it takes away from the reality of how serious a situation this is.
Q: How big a problem is this going to be for Hillary Clinton?
RUBIO: She's going to have to be held accountable for the State Department's failures.
Rubio, however, has previously left the door open on medical pot, which will come up for a vote in his home state this November. "You hear compelling stories of people who say the use of medical marijuana provides relief for the thing they are suffering," Rubio said in a January interview. "So I'd like to learn more about that aspect of it, the science of it."
The bill would also increase natural gas exports to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy, Rubio said, and it would urge the president to expedite the deployment of missile defense installations in Eastern Europe.
Obama unveiled a new raft of sanctions against Russia, but the expanded penalties stopped short of sanctioning entire sectors of the Russian economy--a step that would constitute a significant escalation.
RUBIO: On the one hand, I think Americans, myself included, are against discrimination. A notion that someone, because they are gay, would be denied service at a restaurant or so forth is something conservatives don't support. The other side of the equation is, imagine how if you are a Catholic or Evangelical photographer, who does not believe because of your faith in gay marriage, and because of that, you don't want to provide photo services for a gay marriage. Should you be sanctioned by the state for refusing to do so?
Q: So what about the recent Arizona case?
RUBIO: I don't believe that gay Americans should be denied services at a restaurant or a hotel or anything of that nature. I also don't believe however that a caterer or a photographer should be punished by the state for refusing to provide services for a gay wedding because of their religious-held beliefs. We've got to figure out a way to protect that as well.
RUBIO: Well, I think our policy towards Russia under this administration deserves a heavy amount of criticism. I usually shy away from that in moments of crisis, when it's important for the nation to speak with one voice. But I do think in hindsight as we look forward to our future relationship with Russia, it's important to learn from the errors of the last few years where I think we have not accurately, or through this administration, assessed clearly what it is Russia's goals are under Vladimir Putin. They're not interested in building an international norm that nations conduct themselves under. They're interested in reconstituting Russian power and Russian prestige, and often at the expense of U.S. national interests. We know that the Russians have basically violated every major treated they've ever entered into
RUBIO: I think previous administrations deserve criticism as well [as Obama] with regards to clearly viewing what Vladimir Putin's goals are here. We know that the Russians have basically violated every major treaty they've ever entered into. I mean, let's call it what it is. They are lying and this government is a government of liars, the Russian government. And you see it, what's happening now in Crimea. They're claiming they're not there. But clearly, they're Russian troops, even though they refused to acknowledge it. So you're dealing with a government that lies as a matter of course, and it's very difficult to enter an understanding with them on anything when they are willing to lie and cover things up in this way.
RUBIO: Actually, I think programs like Head Start are geared in the right direction in the sense that they're trying to get children educational opportunities as young as possible. I think where those programs can be completed and improved is that we create flexibility in them at the local level. So, I'm not saying we should dismantle the efforts, I'm saying that these efforts need to be reformed and I believe the best way to reform them is to turn the money and the influence over to the state and local level where I think you'll find the kinds of innovations that allow us to confront an issue that is complex, and quite frankly diverse. For example, rural poverty looks different than urban poverty. And there are different approaches to it.
RUBIO: Well, here is the distinguishing factor. Under ObamaCare, when you turn Medicaid over to the states what you're saying to them is the money will be available up front for the expansion for a few years, then the money will go away but you get stuck with the unfunded liability. I'm not saying we should do that. I'm actually saying that what we should do is take the existing federal funding that we use for some of these programs, and we're still working through which ones those should be, collapse them in to one central federal agency that would then transfer that money to fund innovative state programs that address the same issues. But it would be funded, it wouldn't be something where states are told you get the money for a few years then we'll back away. And it should be revenue neutral.
RUBIO: There is a general consensus that these programs need to be extended, but they need to be paid for. And in addition to that, maybe not as part of this effort right away, but in the long term we need to figure out way to reform those programs so that we get more people back to work.
RUBIO: I have two thoughts. The first is my preference would be that people would refrain from writing these sorts of things until the president is out of office, because I it undermines the ability to conduct foreign policy. That being said, I don't think we can ignore what is in that book. The motivations in Afghanistan was primarily political: the president had that this is not his war. And you saw that reflected in the decision that he made at the same time that he announced the surge, he also announced an exit date and strategy, thereby emboldening Taliban to believe they can wait us out. And the result is now evident across the globe. Our allies see us as unreliable and our enemies feel emboldened. And I think that this is--confirms our worst fears that this is an administration that lacks a strategic foreign policy and in fact largely driven by politics and tactics.
RUBIO: Much of what has happened in Iraq lately has been the result of poor leadership within Iraq. Contributing to that is the fact that the US does not have long-term status in Iraq. As a result, air space [can be] used by Iranians and others to do all sorts of things. Ultimately whether it's Afghanistan or Iraq, future of those countries is in the hands of their own people. And the US can't rescue them from themselves. But I do think we have a strategic interest in what happens there. And it poses a real challenge, because if you start adding it up now, Bob, you have an ungoverned space in Iraq, ungoverned spaces in Syria, potentially ungoverned spaces if Afghanistan begins to fall back, ungoverned spaces in Africa. This is all fertile territory for al Qaeda and other radical elements to set up training camps and plot attacks against the homeland and our interests.
RUBIO: I'd be open-minded to providing assistance to the Iraqi government in terms of training and equipment to allow them to deal with the challenges. I would not underestimate the impact that these rebels al Qaeda-linked forces in in Syria are now having cross border in Iraq. I think's going to be a growing factor. Some have asked me this week if I would support another invasion of Iraq, of course not. I don't think that's a solution at this point. But I think we're going to be dealing with this for some time. But ultimately, the only way to solve this problem is for the Iraqi government to be able to solve it. They need the military and security resources in the short-term. But in the long-term, they need a stable political process, otherwise this is going to be an ongoing problem forever.
RUBIO: There are significant number of Americans that do not have equality of opportunity. We need to address the fact that we have 40-some odd million people who feel trapped in poverty and do not feel like they have an equal opportunity to get ahead. As far as the war on poverty is concerned, its programs have utility--they do help alleviate the consequences of poverty--but they don't help people to emerge from that poverty. And that's why I feel like the war on poverty has failed because it's incomplete. I think we have to take the next step, which is to help people trapped with inequality of opportunity to have the opportunity to build for themselves a better life.
The above quotations are from Sunday Political Talk Show interviews during 2014, interviewing presidential hopefuls for 2016.
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