Senator Marco Rubio joined me on today’s program to discuss the looming deal on nukes between the U.S. and the Islamic Republic of Iran:
HH: Joined now by United States Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, always a pleasure to talk to you.
MR: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me back.
HH: Yesterday on Meet The Press, Secretary of State Kerry was engaged by Chuck Todd, and spoke about Iran, and gave this brief, but very firm, timetable.
JK: But if we’re not able to make the fundamental decisions that have to be made over the course of the next weeks, literally, I think it would be impossible to extend. I don’t think we would want to extend at that point.
HH: Now Senator Rubio, John Bolton was just on saying look, they’re telegraphing a deal, the deal’s all but done. What do you make of Secretary of State Kerry’s appearance and this deal that is in the offing?
MR: Well, we’d like to know the details of it. I think that’s important. It’s one of the reasons why I think Congressional approval is so important. So that’s the first thing I’d like to focus in on. But look, I don’t know what kind of deal they keep talking about. The only deal that I believe that is acceptable with Iran is that they abandon their nuclear enrichment program. If they want to have nuclear energy, which by the way, an oil-rich country doesn’t need, but if they want it, then they can have it the way South Korea gets it, the way most of the world gets it, and that is they enrich and reprocess abroad, and then it’s shipped in, and they put it in their fuel rods. And they use that to power their country. there’s no need to have an enrichment capability unless you intend to one day weaponized the program. And meanwhile, here’s the other thing, if you don’t believe that. Why would they continue to develop long-range rockets? The only reason why you develop long-range rockets, inter-continental missiles, which is what they’re trying to get to, is in order to put a nuclear warhead on it. You don’t use that for conventional purposes. So again, I just don’t know why they don’t see that. Maybe they think they’re trying to buy themselves some time. But to me, it’s an unacceptable risk to have a radical Shiia cleric, the supreme leader of Iran, someone who has openly said and believes that his faith compels him to trigger an apocalyptic showdown with a non-Islamic world, why we would ever want him to have access to nuclear technology.
HH: So do you read this as an inevitability on the part of the Obama administration, that they’re trying to get a deal done before the Kirk sanctions bill can get through the Senate?
MR: Well, I think they’re desperate for a deal. I think they’re desperate to check the box of another achievement they think they can brag about. They certainly have a timetable that they have to meet, set by their own negotiations. And I think they’ve given away too much. If you think about where Iran began in 2003 with international sanctions that said no enrichment capability, nothing, to where they are today, where they now get to enrich up to 20% in a research reactor, you know, the longer Iran can keep these negotiations open, the more favorable the terms seem to become for them.
HH: Does this issue resonate with people? I saw your Politico.com, the piece on you and your class today. I am curious if your students and other people who are under the age of 40 who don’t recall the Iranian regime’s 35 year of hostility towards us, if this issue resonated with this, if they understand its significance?
MR: You know, I think people view it as a long term problem. It is not on the frontlines every single day. I wish more people understood the risk that it poses. And by the way, that’s part of the Iranian government’s strategy, is they know that the Americans and the West are preoccupied with Ukraine and with other issues going on around the world, and that’s what they’re banking on. They’re banking on that we’ll get distracted the way we did when North Korea was in play, and that one day they can just cook up whatever excuse they want for why they need a weapon and then move forward on it.
HH: Have you had a chance, yet, to read David Axelrod’s Believer, Marco Rubio?
MR: I have not.
HH: On Page, it’s amazing. In fact, I would recommend Pages 188-250 to anyone thinking about running for president, even if they’re not going to run. But on Page 194, he reproduces the memo he sent to President Obama when he was Senator Obama, and it begins with, “Few exceptions, the history of presidential politics shows that public opinion and attitudes about who should next occupy the Oval Office are largely shaped by the perceptions of the retiring incumbent. And rarely do voters look for a replica. Instead, they generally choose a course correction, selecting a candidate who will address the deficiencies of the outgoing president.” Does that, if he’s right, if David Axelrod was right in 2007, Marco Rubio, does that mean, Senator, that 2016, they’ll look for someone who’s serious about American strength in the world?
MR: Absolutely. I hope so. And I think they’ll also hopefully look for someone who has more of a track record than just a handful of years as a backbencher in the state legislature followed by a handful of years in the Senate, not having, not really doing anything serious about any major issues. As I look at my own considerations, I’m reminded that I served nine years in the Florida legislature, the third-largest state in the country. I was its presiding officer for two years, and also ran the Florida House from and administrative point of view, served four years in the Senate where I have dedicated significant amount of time to both travel and study and actually involved in shaping the policies on everything from the Western Hemisphere to policies in Asia. And I think that obviously not just me, but there are others as well out there running who’ll bring to the table characteristics that are much different from the person who currently occupies the office. But look, the biggest problem with Barack Obama is you know, he was elected on the notion that here was this young candidate that was going to bring about generational change in our policies, and then got elected and basically pursued the same tired, big government ideas of the last 60 years.
HH: The other thing that Believer makes clear, David Axelrod’s account, is that the Iowa campaign began in January of 2007, announced formally in May of 2007, and that you need that much time. Do you feel like you’ve got to decide soon if you’re a go?
MR: Yeah. Yes, absolutely. I think that running for president, especially in states like Iowa and New Hampshire, those are states that expect to meet the candidates on multiple occasions and get the measure they take of the person. They take very seriously their role in being the semi-finals of a race like that, and they take that role very seriously as voters in terms of analyzing the candidates. And they take their time, and they listen, they hear everyone out before they make firm decisions. So I think it is important to have the time to dedicate, especially if you have a full-time job during the week. You need even more time to get over there and meet voters, and help them size you up. So I do believe that this is a decision that you can’t prolong into the fall, for sure.
HH: Jonathan Martin reported at the New York Times today that you’ve hired Jim Merrill, who was a coveted Romney aide to run your New Hampshire operation. Does that commit you to running?
MR: Well, Jim’s a very talented person, someone we’ve really admired in our time visiting there, and we value his strategic advice beyond simply New Hampshire, although that’s certainly a place he knows quite well. So we’re just glad to have him on our team. You know, in terms of our process, we’re getting closer to making a final decision, and that’s a decision that only I can make, about where the best place for me to serve this country is at this time in my life and in my career. And obviously, if we decide to run for president, having someone like Jim on board would be a tremendous asset.
HH: When President Obama decided to take on Hillary Clinton, it was quite the strategic choice, because he took on a big name and a big brand, similar to what you have to do to take on Governor Bush, who is clearly running. Does having your friend in the race in any way, and some people say your mentor, hold you back?
MR: No, that’s an interesting question. First of all, I think we’re going to have multiple candidates that are of high quality, and Governor Bush would be one of them. I wouldn’t be running against Jeb Bush. If I ran, I would run because I believe I’m the right person for the right time in our country’s history. And certainly, voters will make that decision, not me. My job is to go out and do the best I can if I decide to run for president to convince them that that’s me. But I have admiration for him, and continue to have personal affection for him as well. I think he’s going to be a very strong candidate. He’s going to raise a lot of money, has a lot of smart people around him on his team. He’ll be a very significant candidate. But I don’t, I wouldn’t view it as me running against Jeb Bush. I was considering, I would consider running whether he was in the race or not in the race. And so me, it really has nothing to do with him. It has to do about where I feel like I can best serve America at this time in America’s history, and at this time in my life and my career.
HH: Last question, how much will issues like the Iran deal have to do with your decision to run or not run?
MR: Well, that’s a great question. Look, I think it’s important. I think you do a lot in the Senate to further national security issues and foreign policy. But I really think that when it comes to foreign policy and the national security of this country, the election we’re going to have in November of 2016 will be the most important election we’ve had in probably half a century, if not longer. And it’s very difficult to set the tone simply from the Senate. You can be one of many voices, and influential voices in the Senate. But ultimately, only the presidency can set the true tenor and direction of our foreign policy and national security. And I don’t think anyone can argue that we are safer or more respected in the world today than we were five years ago.
HH: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you for joining me. Thanks for your clarity.
End of interview.