Rubio’s debate speech is a broken record — with a broken message

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Sen. Marco Rubio speaking during Saturday night's debate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

It’s not how many times Rubio said it, it’s what he said.

By now, if you’ve paid any attention at all to Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, you know that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s usually nimble instincts for how to present himself seriously slipped a cog. He kept giving the same speech over and over, even after Chris Christie, his chief tormentor of the evening, had described him as someone whose response on any issue is to deliver “the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.”

It’s true that over the course of the evening, Rubio launched into a particular pitch four, five or six times, depending on how you count them. Two or three of the renditions were so close to identical — even to the repetition of a particular grammatical error — that it almost seemed like one of those scenes from a sci-fi movie where you find out that one of the characters that you thought was a human is actually an android and that one of its wires has come loose. Here are the two iterations that illustrate that best:

Iteration 1:

“And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.

“That’s why he passed Obamacare and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank and the deal with Iran. It is a systematic effort to change America. When I’m president of the United States, we are going to re-embrace all the things that made America the greatest nation in the world and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

Iteration 2:

“But I would add this. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be the United States of America. And when I’m elected president, this will become once again, the single greatest nation in the history of the world, not the disaster Barack Obama has imposed upon us.”

The grammatical error to which I alluded above is this: You can “dispense with” a fiction, but you don’t “dispel with” a fiction. You just “dispel” it. The identical nature of both the solecism and the whole passage seems to make clear that we are dealing with someone who is able to memorize a paragraph, but not to remember that he has already said it.

This is what passes for, and will be remembered as, a classic “gaffe” in debate history. Kind of like when Gov. Rick Perry couldn’t remember the cabinet departments he proposed to abolish or when Gerald Ford “freed Poland.” Personally, I think gaffes are highly overrated. (Especially the one that unfairly turned Admiral James Stockdale into a laughingstock for saying into the camera: “Who am I? Why am I here?”)

I think the gaffe watch is usually stupid, and usually cruel. But it will hurt Rubio, especially, in this case because it will plant a seed in the public’s mind that whenever he delivers a sound bite, he is reciting a 25-second speech that his advisers gave him.

I think Rubio is smart and a gifted politician. What I hated was not the repetition but the substance of his sound bite. Try taking it seriously. Another of the iterations went like this (emphasis added at the end):

“We are not facing a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he is doing. That’s why he’s done the things he’s done. That’s why we have a president that passed Obamacare and the stimulus. All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate.”

Wow. It’s not enough to disagree with the wisdom of every major law Obama has signed (Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, the stimulus). Rubio’s entitled to that, although I’m unaware of the alternative programs Rubio favored at the time to deal with the same problems or crises.

It’s not enough to accuse Obama of the hideous crime of wanting to “change this country.” (Rubio, presumably wants to change it too, or does he propose to repeal everything that’s happened since 2009, when the nation was perfect, and then declare all change ended?)

It’s not enough to disagree with Obama’s view that the changes he implemented did more good than harm. It’s not enough to disregard the reasonably well-known fact that when Obama was inaugurated the country was in various versions of free-fall — economically and in our project to make the Mideast a happier, more peaceful and democratic place — that occurred under the watch of our last Republican president.

In the iteration just above, Rubio accuses Obama being the agent of a “deliberate” campaign to “damage” America.

He needs to retract that and apologize, not for making himself look dotty, daft and deranged by how many times he said it, but for saying it at all. If we take it seriously, it is an accusation of treason.

OK, maybe that’s a little over the top. I know it’s rude to hold someone to the plain meaning of their words, although Rubio seems to be, in general, pretty good with words. Let’s take a step back and try to understand what Rubio hoped to accomplish.

American exceptionalism

It seems clear to me that he was trying to tap into the concept of American exceptionalism, a concept that I consider arrogant and a meaningless self-congratulation wedded to self-deception.

Of course America is exceptional, in the sense that some of its characteristics are unique, but the same could be said of any nation, no two of which are identical. Of course America is not just any nation. It’s big, powerful, rich and its emergence surely deserves significant mention in the history of democracy.

I assume that in the mind or the words of someone like Rubio, the term includes the foggy notion that the United States is exceptionally unselfish and runs around the world toppling dictators, freeing the oppressed, bestowing democracy, etc., etc. — a much more arguable generalization.

The other thing I get from the word “exceptionalism” is that, because its motives are so pure and universally understood to be so, America is an exception to the rules and norms that govern the behavior of less exceptional nations.

To take it the next level, especially in context of Rubio’s rant, I take “exceptionalism” to refer to the idea that the United States has a moral right to go anywhere, bomb, invade and overthrow because the right-thinking people of the world understand that we do it for the benefit of those we bomb, to liberate those of them that we don’t (“collaterally”) kill and bring them the blessings of democracy and capitalism.

If any other country behaved that way (without U.S. backing) we would denounce them. Yes, there are rules against that. But those rules don’t apply to us because of our exceptionalism.

I can’t quite believe I actually wrote the paragraphs just above, but I believe them strongly, and I believe that Obama has tried to dial the American imperialism — excuse me, I meant “exceptionalism” — down a couple of notches. And that is what Rubio means when he accuses Obama of “trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be the United States of America.”

Here’s the Washington Post’s annotated transcript of the debate.

Comments (48)

  1. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/08/2016 - 08:37 am.

    “Rubio is smart and a gifted politician.”

    I beg to differ. It is apparent that Senator Rubio is way out of his depth here. It seems as if he has a rare gift for making a goat of himself every time he tries to step onto the national stage. Basing his pitch entirely on “I hate Obama” shows how unsuited he is to a campaign in which he ought to be expected to put forth real policy goals. Perhaps he should just stay in the Senate, even though he doesn’t like it anymore.

    Incidentally, Mr. Black, the confusion between “dispel” and “dispense” is an error of usage, not grammar.

    • Submitted by Tim Walker on 02/08/2016 - 09:58 am.

      The real grammar errors are when, twice, Rubio said “president that” when correct usage is “president who” in this passage:

      “We are not facing a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he is doing. That’s why he’s done the things he’s done. That’s why we have a president that passed Obamacare and the stimulus. All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate.”

      But what is absolutely vile is Rubio’s assertion that President Obama is deliberately trying to ruin America.

      That is a vile right-wing meme that needs to stop, in the name of decency.

      But it won’t of course, because it’s red meat to the base, which thrives on racism.

      Don’t believe it’s racist?

      Why else would a president whose policies have led to the unemployment rate dipping below 5% be accused of deliberately damaging america?

      • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/08/2016 - 02:06 pm.

        The unemployment rate is meaningless

        Look at underemployment and labor force participation (38 year low) and you will see how much trouble the nation is in. But I’m sure those numbers are Bush’s fault while Obama gets credit for the low unemployment number.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/08/2016 - 02:46 pm.

          About that Labor Force Participation . . .

          The biggest reason that labor force participation is down is that more people are retiring. I suppose it’s Obama’s fault he’s letting people leave their jobs to retire. I’m not sure how–can he really stop the aging process?

          The other main reasons are disability and returning to school (you know, like everyone says unemployed workers should do). Again–let’s figure out how to blame Obama.

          Although before you spend too much time figuring out why it’s all Obama’s fault, you might first explain what this has to do with Senator Rubio’s incredibly maladroit campaign against an opponent who isn’t even running (You would think that he would at least figure out how to make pancakes before advertising a pancake breakfast)

          • Submitted by cory johnson on 02/08/2016 - 05:20 pm.

            Obviously….

            It’s racism. That’s the answer for every criticism of Obama. We hate minorities, women and poor people.

            • Submitted by Donald Larsson on 02/08/2016 - 11:03 pm.

              Not every criticism . . .

              and I’ll grant that a significant number of Obama’s critics (on the left, as well as the right) are not motivated by racism. But you certainly don’t have to dig very deep in that field of defamations to see some very ugly things slithering there.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/09/2016 - 09:03 am.

              Excellent Reply

              I appreciate your insightful analysis and willingness to engage in constructive debate.

          • Submitted by Mike martin on 02/10/2016 - 09:06 pm.

            People over 65 aren’t counted in the labor force

            What information do you have that more people are voluntarily retiring today in their fifties and early 60s than in prior decades? Many older workers are being forced into retirement because they cannot find jobs.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/11/2016 - 11:43 am.

              Umm . . . no

              The Bureau of Labor Statistics places no upper age limit on who is counted as a part of the labor force: http://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm#older.

              It is not so much that people are retiring early as it is that more people are aging and reaching retirement age. The decline in workforce participation is mostly structural.

        • Submitted by Tim Walker on 02/12/2016 - 11:51 am.

          Okay, here’s some context: The imperfect measurement of unemployment of 5% that you dismiss now was just as imperfect a measurement when Bush was president. But you know, it was nearly 10% back then.

          So, please whine some more about “how much trouble the nation is in” now but never, ever mention that it was much worse under Bush, because that would give some credit to the dude in the White House now, and we can’t have that, can we?

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/08/2016 - 03:14 pm.

      Somewhat Agree Here, RB

      Of all the Red Brigade, Marco Rubio has seemed to me to be quite well-spoken. He seems calm and collected, even thoughtful when compared with many of his competitors. “Goat” might be a bit harsh, here. He certainly has handled quite well the relentless attacks of JEB via Right to Rise commercials.

      I’ve read that the HRC campaign managers supposedly fear him most. If that’s true, the Republican candidates likely should, as well. It seems several of their managers got together and decided to go after him this time. Christie did seem the most aggressively agile in that way, and most entertaining for it.

      I suppose they could have targeted John Kasich for much the same reason: repeating his tired list of Ohio talking points. He is no threat, however, so they didn’t.

      It will be interesting to see how Marco Rubio grows (if at all) from this demolition derby dinging. Granted, he does sometimes come off as a Student Council President. For all the past Republican grousing about lack of youth, well, here he is: for better, mediocre, or worse.

      No matter one’s personal view, we should give the Red team credit for offering more blood letting than only Type A or B, as we get from the Blue veins.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/09/2016 - 11:23 am.

        As the Kids Would Say: Yeah, No

        I’ve never thought Senator Rubio was notably well-spoken, except in comparison to some of his competition. When you consider that the competition includes Donald Trump, that isn’t saying much. He certainly is more polished than some of them, but he always struck me as a bit too tentative, as if he was waiting for an attack that he would have to deflect. On rhetorical style, I would have to give points to Ted Cruz.

        Your actual mileage on this subject may vary, of course. There can be little doubt that his debate performance was cringe-worthy. Repeating the exact same line when you are being criticized for repeating the exact same line isn’t even good performance art (I see a couple of conservative bloggers have tried to pass it off as anaphora. Not even close, boys). It isn’t even that he repeated talking points, which all candidates do, to some extent. It’s the repetition of the exact same words in response to being told you’re repeating the exact same words.

        “It will be interesting to see how Marco Rubio grows (if at all) from this demolition derby dinging.” That will be interesting. Will he respond by losing the polish, and turning into another political brawler? I suppose it all depends on how well he does in today’s primary.

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 02/08/2016 - 08:40 am.

    It’s too bad that Harry Potter isn’t running against Voldemort–we’d see who would kick whose butt.

    All we have is a callow fool running against a soon-to-be former president.

  3. Submitted by William Lindeke on 02/08/2016 - 09:18 am.

    Rubio is weak sauce

    I’m struck by the phrase “We don’t want to be like the rest of the world.”

    How ridiculous! Like it or not, our country is located on planet Earth, surrounded by billions of other people.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 02/08/2016 - 03:23 pm.

      Bill, do you mean

      “weak sauce” for the goose, the turkey or the eagle? We don’t have to be like the rest of the world to be leaders of the world, nor do we have to even be leaders of the world. But, by repeated defaults of others, we got the job. Shall we retire?

  4. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 02/08/2016 - 09:21 am.

    Rubio

    There is a certain “CGI” aspect to Rubio, as if he was artificially created to fill a role and his entire persona is a mask.

    And there’s something odd in the way we allow candidates to “interview” for possibly the most unscripted job in the world (at least in it’s most critical decisions) by reading from a script – and most likely not a script they even created.

    And finally, on the topic of exceptionalism, I was taught that the truly exceptional never talk about being exceptional. That that being exceptional is a reflection of what you’ve done for others.

  5. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/08/2016 - 09:47 am.

    Who’s his target?

    He’s not trying to convince Christie (or anyone else on that stage).
    He’s campaigning against the other Republicans, and (assuming that he’s nominated) the Democrats.
    So right now he’s pitching his speeches towards the Republican hard core doing the nominating. I doubt that they mind (or even notice) the repetition as long as they like the message.
    In that case, redundancy works.

    • Submitted by Roy Everson on 02/08/2016 - 10:28 am.

      That’s right….

      — and note that the bad reviews of Rubio are from pundits who follow this stuff. There are many low info Homer Simpsons out there who need to hear the simplest message 3 or 4 times in quick succession before they comprehend. Obama…damaging… country.. on purpose…doh! The specifics of how Obama does this are easily lost, so if our Homer is worried by lots of darker skinned people with suspicious religions who won’t speak English or “assimilate” — then that’s the “change” of Obama, who happens to look the part. (Sorry Homie, no offense.)

      Or, if changing America into another Sweden is Obama’s intent, Rubio counts on the ignorance of his target audience to consider that a bad thing. Doh. Remember that undecided voters are the gold that’s being mined in New Hampshire today. I wouldn’t be surprised that they forgot that Obama’s changes were mandates twice supported by electoral majorities.

      Blowing a dog whistle 3 or 4 times might get some odd looks from the people around you, but the dogs are paying attention.

      Thanks, Eric, for a much needed take on what American Exceptionalism has become: an excuse for anything the ultra-nationalist right wing wants to do with no accountability. AE is the heir of Manifest Destiny, which in the 19th century was the Christian-based excuse for European-Americans to create an empire that didn’t belong to them.

  6. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/08/2016 - 09:55 am.

    Whipper-snapper

    In the sound bite era, it’s hard to remember that the United States is a young nation, still in it’s teen age years. And how do teenagers act? Impulsively, with little concern for others, and a strong streak of “You can’t tell me what to do!”

    We love to scoff at the Frenchman, who thinks France is the only country in the world and he is the only Frenchman.

    Maybe in a couple more centuries we’ll settle down a bit. Until then, American Exceptionalism is how our national selfishness manifests itself.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/08/2016 - 06:07 pm.

      On the other hand

      The United States is the world’s oldest constitutional democracy.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/08/2016 - 08:48 pm.

        On The 3rd Hand

        No one has copied our bizarre system of electing all of the lower chamber and 1/3 of the upper chamber and the President in one year then two years later again electing all of the lower chamber and a different 1/3 of the upper chamber while leaving the President for another twp years. Also, no one has come close to copying our presidential primary system or the convoluted electoral college.

        I guess using Democracy 1.0 has it’s drawbacks. But it does make us exceptional. (Since no one wants to copy us.)

      • Submitted by Donald Larsson on 02/08/2016 - 11:15 pm.

        And maybe the French have finally settled down . . .

        after a monarchy (with a postscript that included a sort-of constitutional monarchy), two empires, and four republics (before the current 5th)–not counting the Vichy regime during WWII.

  7. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 02/08/2016 - 10:33 am.

    All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate…

    ..as opposed to Bush who damaged America accidentally because he was stupid.

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 02/08/2016 - 12:35 pm.

    Polarization

    https://www.minnpost.com/eric-black-ink/2016/02/we-re-polarized-nation-it-could-be-worse

    For better or worse, the media reports on what keeps us tuning in to their station.

    And politicians keep saying what they think will encourage people to vote for them. Whether they believe there is any chance of them accomplishing their promises or not.

    And unfortunately one of the best ways to secure a vote and get your voter to the polls is to convince the voters that the other candidate will destroy the citizen’s life…

    It seems us voters demand in-fighting, doom & gloom, and unrealistic promises from the candidates. I am not sure we would listen or take action if some good positive speaking realistic politician ran for office. I mean look at Busch, Kasich and Clinton for that matter, 3 pretty solid and positive people who are being buried by the negative folks on either extreme.

  9. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 02/08/2016 - 01:17 pm.

    Not sure

    …I have anything of value to add to what’s already been said, by Eric and the commentariat. In general, the entire Republican field seems “out of its depth,” intellectually and politically, with the singular (and thus, little-reported upon) exception of Ohio’s John Kasich. I doubt that he and I would agree on much in the realm of policy, but he seems both genuine and thoughtful, words I can’t use in regard to the rest of the GOP field.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/08/2016 - 04:00 pm.

      Chicken Littles

      Personally I think Sanders, Cruz and all those far from Center are out of touch with reality, and doing their best to scare and make people feel bad unnecessarily. All that talk of how terrible America is today and how they are going to enact massive changes to solve the ills for all Americans… When the reality is that with our good healthy balance of powers in place, this ship will only turn in a slow stable fashion. (Thank Heavens !!! )

      Now what in the world would possess these fringe candidates to keep selling something that is very very unlikely to happen?

      Why do citizens keep defending them and giving them support?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/08/2016 - 06:08 pm.

        Because

        those citizens are exercising their constitutional right to be wrong.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/08/2016 - 08:56 pm.

          Well

          Sounds good, hopefully an even number from each fringe make off setting votes then. And hopefully the rest of us don’t start believing their stories of doom, gloom and pending disaster. 🙂

          We live in the most incredible country and we should remember that !!!

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/10/2016 - 01:36 pm.

        Back Up a Second

        Where is it written that “slow stable change” is always the way to go?

  10. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/08/2016 - 08:35 pm.

    All politicians have talking points they repeat. Just think of Sanders’ “1 percent” or Clinton’s emphasizing that she is a woman.

    America is exceptional – the only country in the world that is free, powerful, and wealthy so there is nothing arrogant about pointing this out; self-congratulatory – maybe, but we all like feeling good about ourselves and if we deserve it, there is nothing wrong with this. As for unselfishness – sometimes America behaves like that (Yugoslavia, Libya) but that is exactly what it should not do. On the other hand, in most cases when it tries to defend its own interests, in this case doing the same as all other countries are doing, it does help (unless those countries screw it up) and that is what America can do, again, the only country in the world. Chile is better off now than it would have been with Allende; Iran was better off with the Shah until Carter let Khameini come home, and Iraq would have been much better off if Iraqis used a chance given to them, just like Germany and Japan did.

    So when Obama tried to make America like the rest of the world, chaos ensured with more terrorism, more dead people, more violence, etc. Without a strong power for good, everyone fights for the power and nothing good comes out of that. And of course, Rubio’s going against Obama is exactly the same what Clinton is doing mentioning evil Republicans every other sentence.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/09/2016 - 08:05 am.

      Excellent summary. It seems many commenters here believe the USA has used it’s political and military force for evil. This is something I just don’t understand since we have not conquered anyone in a very long time.

      It seems to me that the USA has mostly only intervened where people needed help AND where our national security/interests were at stake. It seems these folks would rather do nothing, which reminds me of 2 great quotes.

      “The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing”

      “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

      • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/09/2016 - 04:26 pm.

        Huh?

        “This is something I just don’t understand since we have not conquered anyone in a very long time.”

        Well, we did fail to conquer Iraq; but not for lack of trying. What else do you call a unilateral invasion of another country? A bunch of Saudi’s fly planes into our buildings; but, the Saudi’s are our petro buddies so let’s find some other Arab we all can hate and we will invade their country.

        The single biggest lesson lost on GWB and now on many of the GOP candidates is:

        “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”

        Making the sand glow, banning all Muslims (or just the card carrying ones?), making Paul Wolfowitz an advisor on anything begs:

        “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

        • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/09/2016 - 08:34 pm.

          An invasion of Iraq was a defensive move with no intent to conquer anything. Nor would it make sense to attack Saudi Arabia just because the hijackers were Saudis (after all Jihadi John was a British citizen).

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/10/2016 - 09:18 am.

          Unilateral

          Please remember that though the ruling Dictator did not invite us in, the Kurdish and Shiite majorities did. Also, we came in when asked, we spent a lot of money trying to help them stabilize their country and left when asked. I don’t think that counts as conquering by any definition.

          Also, please remember the starting point. The allies were required to maintain “No Fly Zones” to protect the citizens of Iraq from their Dictator. There were only 3 choices, all bad:
          – Walk away and let Saddam take vengeance.
          – Maintain “No Fly Zone” indefinitely.
          – Topple Saddam and give the citizens of Iraq a chance at self rule.

          Too bad the Iraqi citizens didn’t better advantage of the chance we gave them…

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/10/2016 - 09:24 am.

          What

          Not sure what this meant? “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

          Since everything before this moment is not able to be changed. (ie sunk costs)

          What would you have the USA do regarding ISIS, Syria, Iraq, etc starting this moment based on what you have learned from the past?

          Remember: Everything in the past is off limits, since it can not be changed…

          • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/10/2016 - 12:52 pm.

            “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

            A direct quote from the very quotable GWB.

            The invasion of Iraq is the single, biggest foreign policy blunder the US has made in the last 100 years. It reflected a complete and utter lack of insight into the facts and a burning desire to do something, anything after 911. That you two are still trying to rationalize it as the prudent (a GHWB favorite term) option leaves me with:

            “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?”

            If we refuse to learn from history when history conflicts with ideology things like President Trump will fall out of the other end.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/10/2016 - 02:05 pm.

              Learn from the Past

              So tell me what you learned.

              What would you have the USA do regarding ISIS, Syria, Iraq, etc starting this moment based on what you have learned from the past? The options are pretty much the same as GWB had 14 years ago:

              – Walk away and let the Middle East fight like they have for many millenia
              – Continue the status quo and hope for improvement
              – Escalate for better or worse

              At least with our fracking industry in place we will not be hurting as bad if the Middle Eastern wars disrupt the flow of oil. Unlike 14 years ago when fracking was really starting.

              • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/11/2016 - 08:25 am.

                You got it:

                “- Walk away and let the Middle East fight like they have for many millennia”

                AND

                “At least with our fracking industry in place we will not be hurting as bad if the Middle Eastern wars disrupt the flow of oil.”

                On number one above, that is exactly the problem. For us to believe that we can some how change a behavior that is inbred through thousands of years is hubris in the extreme. And I mean change through any means conceivable: war, negotiation, concession, bribes, drugs, sex and rock and roll: THEY AIN’T CHANGING NO MATTER WHAT and the more we think we can make them change the deeper we get. THEY AIN’T CHANGING NO MATTER WHAT.

                For the past 50 years all we have heard is the need for energy independence. As soon as we get there what do our politicians do? Lift the ban on the export of crude oil. I suggest the opposite: a Cuban trade embargo like ban on all Mid East petroleum or at least a tariff on oil imports that more than levels the playing field for US oil production. Use the tariff to fund infrastructure until it dries up because we become energy independent. And while many will change the debate to fracking pros and cons, the simple fact is that alternative energy is in its’ first stages and we can not fully comprehend what the end will look like at this time. Imagine two 20 year olds on the ground in Kitty Hawk in 1903 and one says to the other: “within our lifetimes, we are going to take one of these things and fly to the moon, land and fly back to Earth”. Or two young engineers looking at a 1940’s computer, the size of large room, devouring energy like a locomotive train and one says to the other: “See that penny on the table? In our lifetimes a computer thousands of time more powerful than this thing will be the size of Lincoln’s nose and that includes the energy source”. Petroleum based transportation in the future will be regularly seen in parades and antique boat and airplane shows. And the Koch brothers know this and they really should not worry about it because they will be long dead by the time it happens. But, it will happen.

                • Submitted by John Appelen on 02/11/2016 - 11:12 am.

                  A Big Fence

                  Thank you for your candid answer. So are you recommending we put a big fence around the Middle East to prevent their problem from flowing outward? And letting the strong in the “cage” take advantage of and kill the weak?

                  Please remember that Obama tried to do what you recommend when he pulled the troops from Iraq. The result was an ISIS Caliphate with a lot of oil money who liked to behead folks.

                  Thoughts?

                  • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/11/2016 - 02:01 pm.

                    No…

                    I like your option 1:

                    “- Walk away and let the Middle East fight like they have for many millennia”

                    No fence building, just take every opportunity to put distance between us and them.

                    Let’s imagine what President Gore would have done post 911: Given his green leanings he would have jumped on the energy side of Mid East relations: stressing our need for energy independence and the urgent need for freedom from dependence on Mid East oil. He also would have likely done the same as GWB with respect to Bin Laden and Afghanistan, except not been distracted by Iraq and persisted in the hunt for Bin Laden. And what about Iraq? Well, Saddam stays in power, does the same bad things as he had done in the previous 20 years. Fights with Iran, and as Henry Kissinger told us: we can’t lose in an Iran / Iraq War. Suppresses internal dissent, preventing ISIS from even being born and generally does what you describe: “fight like they have for many millennia”.

                    And that is a lot better scenario than the one we have now, that we created, by attacking Iraq for specious reasons because the oil men, Bush and Cheney, believed that we could go to war on the cheap, peace would come easy, oil would pay for everything (plus profits to US oil interests) and democracy break out all over.

                    The more we mess with them the more they mess with us. And we aren’t tolerant of much messing. The kill ratio of the war on terror is almost 200 of them to every one of us and many of us act like they are winning.

                    The disaster created by GWB will not be easily undone (just ask BHO); but the process needs to emphasize less involvement not more and our decisions and actions need to consistently reflect that. And if anyone thinks “making the sand glow” is progress they better due the math on that kill ratio: another 1 million dead Arabs yields another 4,000 dead Americans.

            • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/10/2016 - 08:27 pm.

              Clinging to hatred for Bush doesn’t really help – you still refuse to admit that starting (and winning) a war in Iraq is different from staying (and failing) there…

              • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/11/2016 - 09:03 am.

                Hubris

                “Clinging to hatred for Bush doesn’t really help – you still refuse to admit that starting (and winning) a war in Iraq is different from staying (and failing) there…”

                Hmmm. So you’re saying we can stay and win a war there?

                hu·bris

                /ˈ(h)yo͞obrəs/

                noun

                excessive pride or self-confidence.

                synonyms: arrogance, conceit, haughtiness, hauteur, pride, self-importance, egotism, pomposity, superciliousness, superiority; More

                informal: big-headedness, cockiness

                antonyms: humility

                (in Greek tragedy) excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis.

                And if we could include a picture in MINNPOST comments, I would eagerly paste in one William Krystol as the image for hubris.

                • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/11/2016 - 11:35 am.

                  I am saying that we had won the war and should not have stayed in Iraq thus using the benefits of the victory. And you mix war and reconstruction in a single unit which is illogical.

                  • Submitted by Edward Blaise on 02/11/2016 - 02:57 pm.

                    Please

                    Tell us the date and time of our victory in Iraq when we should have said “see you later, Saddam-a-gator”.

                    The “Mission Accomplished” moment on the aircraft carrier?

                    Do you recall Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn quote: “you break it, you bought it”?

                    By the time of Bush’s landing we had “bought it” and implying we could have just left is pure revisionist history.

                  • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 02/11/2016 - 04:05 pm.

                    Reconstruction

                    To riff on Clausewitz for a moment, reconstruction is the continuation of war by other means. It is one thing to win a military victory on the battlefield. It is an additional thing to keep that victory in place, by ensuring a continued peace.

                    The best historical example is that of Europe after the world wars. The United States made an enormous investment in reconstructing Europe. The net result has been a largely peaceful Europe (save for the Balkans). It has been 70 years since the countries of Europe were fighting each other, which may be a record. The fascist powers were subdued, and have not returned to power. Contrast that with the period between the wars–a time not so much of peace, as of bellus interruptus.

                    There is certainly an argument to be made that a conquering power has a moral obligation to reconstruct a conquered nation. There is, I think, a stronger pragmatic argument to be made for doing so.

                    • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 02/11/2016 - 10:16 pm.

                      ownership

                      Mr. Blaise, the date is December 13, 2003, when Saddam was captured. The next day, Bush should have announced immediate withdrawal of all troops since the person America wanted by America was in custody. The only condition for staying should have been a national Iraqi referendum with 2/3rds majority asking America to stay and granting it full power. And I don’t care what Powell said – we had no obligation to stay; besides, by the end of 2003, we had not broken anything.

                      Mr. Holbrook, it may be true that reconstruction is a continuation of war but it is up to the victor to decide if it is worth to stay. It obviously was in Germany and Japan and was not in Iraq because clearly Iraq is no Germany.

  11. Submitted by Bill Willy on 02/09/2016 - 01:39 am.

    Marco the level headed moderate

    Like all good just-a-little-right-of-center conservative clones he describes his plan for dealing with “ISIL” this way:

    “Stop the flow of refugees into the U.S.; remove military budget cuts imposed under sequestration; make the U.S. armed forces mission ‘total destruction of ISIL’ including ground troops; and maintain support for a no-fly zone in Syria.”

    In addition, when it comes to stopping the hordes of (Muslim) terrorists that are, or soon will be, swarming us at home, when he was asked about “closing mosques to fight radicalism Rubio answered that ‘it’s not about closing down mosques, it’s about closing down any place, whether it’s a café, a diner, an internet site — any place where radicals are being inspired.’ ”

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/20/politics/marco-rubio-isis-plan-oped/

    That could be a LOT of places to close down. Not sure how you’d do that or how much it would cost, but I know from our recent experience in Iraq that the meat of his strategy — total destruction including boots on the ground and a no-fly zone (in conjunction with the Russians?) — would cost a LOT of money which leads us to the (unasked) question of, “Excuse me. . . But how much would that cost and how would it be paid for?”

    Fortunately, he’s ready (or would have been if someone had bothered to ask) with his young, fresh, new, creative and exciting plan:

    – Collapse the current seven tax brackets to just three — 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent — and set the top bracket’s rate lower than the current 39.6 percent top rate;

    – Exempt interest, dividends, and capital gains from income taxes;

    – Repeal the alternative minimum tax, the estate tax, and all taxes levied under the Affordable Care Act;

    – Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, down from 35 percent. . .

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/nov/04/marco-rubio/marco-rubio-says-biggest-percentage-gains-his-tax-/

    And there you have it: Increase defense spending (not to be confused with evil Democrat government spending); send in whoever and whatever it takes to blow apart the rest of that part of the Middle East to obliterate ISIL, get a no-fly zone going, close down any place in America where radicals might become inspired, and pay for it all by cutting taxes (because that will generate the hog wild growth we’ve almost all been waiting for since 1980) while making sure the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the wealthiest among us.

    In other words, the clone call for more death, destruction, hatred of the U.S., more “radicalized” people (joining ISIL or forming new and improved franchises), more deficit spending, more national debt, more wealth accumulation for the 3,300,000 Americans that possess 90% of it already.

    “. . . and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

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