HH: Pleased to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show United States Senator Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, welcome, it’s great to have you back.
MR: Thanks for having me back. I’ll see you next week, right?
HH: Hey, I’m looking forward to it. I have to begin, though, as I usually do, with a sports question. I’m looking over the Miami Dolphins schedule here, and the Browns aren’t on it, so you’re lucky. We’ll take the Jets out for you this weekend, but…
HH: Are you an optimist?
MR: Who do you guys open with?
HH: We’ve got the Jets, and we’re favored by three, and you start with the Redskins.
MR: Oh, I want you to beat the Jets. They’re in our division. I want you to beat them.
HH: If you can’t beat the Redskins, though, are you an optimist?
MR: Yeah, I know, I know. Look, I think I’m optimistic about the season. I agree we’ve got to be able to beat the Redskins, or we’ve got a problem.
HH: All right, let’s get to the serious stuff. Has President Obama complied with Corker-Cardin, in your view?
MR: No, no. He hasn’t. The side deals are a key part of this agreement, and they directly impact the viability of the deal, and the ability of Iran to comply with them or their willingness to comply. And I think their language of the deal is very specific. Now look, I know enough about this deal to vote against it. I don’t need to learn anymore. There’s nothing in those side deals that’s going to make me feel any better. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t comply. In fact, I think of if the side deals are revealed, there will probably be additional Democrats that won’t be able to justify their position, although they’ve already surprised me once. So I don’t believe they’ve complied with it, and I think that should be our position.
HH: Do you regret having voted for Corker-Cardin?
MR: No, because if we hadn’t voted for that, they would have never submitted any part of the deal. And in essence, you would, might not even ever had a vote on it, or even the prospect of a vote. At least now, we have forced many of these people in the Senate to be on record. At least we can hold them accountable for it. Understand that in the absence of this, the President would have never submitted the deal. He would have just sort of entered this arrangement with Iran, and he would have waived the sanctions pursuant to the existing waiver that now exists in the current sanctions law that’s on the books. We wouldn’t have even had any of this debate about it.
HH: Senator Cotton has said that the side deals exist, and so does Congressman Pompeo. They went to Vienna. Do you have proof that the side deals exist?
MR: Absolutely. I don’t think anyone denies it. And what they’re saying is that the side deals are private and confidential between Iran and the IAEA, and they’re not subject to Congressional review and disclosure. And that’s fine. They don’t want to disclose it, that’s fine. But then we shouldn’t be lifting sanctions. They are coming to us. We’re the ones that are making the change here. We’re the ones that are lifting sanctions that we, the Congress, imposed. And if they want us to lift the sanctions we imposed, then they should reveal to us the information we need to give us peace of mind. Of course, they’ve refused to do that, and there’s obvious reasons for it.
HH: Now Senator Cruz has sent a letter, and Congressman Pompeo was on this show yesterday making the same legal argument that those who hold the Iranian funds are acting at their own legal peril if they release them. Do you believe that to be true, Senator Rubio?
MR: That could potentially be true. Who knows what the courts will decide in America, but I think the thought process is that we can pass legislation to pursue these companies that are helping them to fund themselves, and obviously, some argue that the courts will throw it out. To me, there’s a broader point, and that is this. People need to know this. The majority of Congress, including Democrats, many Democrats, do not support this arrangement. There is a very high probability that the next president of the United States is going to be someone who will cancel this deal on its first day. And if you’re doing business with Iran, and you start making investments in Iran, it is very likely that in about 18-20 months, you’re going to have to lose all those investments and walk away. I think it’s very important for people to understand that. But if you start to do business with Iran, you could very easily find yourself in a bad spot in about 18-20 months, because this agreement is not binding, it’s not a treaty, it’s not the law. It is a political agreement that this president instituted, and the next president can take away.
HH: And because of the way Corker-Cardin was worded, it does not necessarily lift the sanctions which are prohibiting transactions administered by the Department of Treasury’s Sanctions Division. I think that is what the position is.
MR: Well, there’s some debate about that, but the bottom line is this, and that is these sanctions are still on the books. They don’t lift the sanctions. The sanctions are on the books. What the President is doing is using the waiver authority on the sanctions. The next president can remove that on day one. If I’m president, I will.
HH: Now I talked to Senators McCain and Graham last hour, and I was shocked when Senator McCain said he is open to invoking the Reid rule to break the filibuster in order to bring this one of a kind deal to the floor. He hasn’t decided that, and he said if he does it, he knows he’s open to the charge of hypocrisy because he condemned the Reid rule when they broke the filibuster. But he’s thinking about it, because it’s so important. What do you think about breaking the filibuster in order to send this deal to the President’s desk?
MR: Yeah, I mean, the filibuster’s not constitutional. It’s a rule. It’s not, I’m not saying it’s unconstitutional, but it’s a rule. It’s not something that’s better than the republic. It’s a rule that the Senate established, and it largely serves to protect the minority. And in the past, it’s been useful. It’s kept Harry Reid from doing something that they would have rammed down the throat of the American people at one point if they didn’t need the 60 votes. If you recall, that’s why the Scott Brown election was so important back then. But here’s my point. if ever you were going to say this rule isn’t working anymore, it would be on issues like this. I mean, we’re not debating a transportation bill here.
MR: We are debating an issue that’s existential to allies of our, that ultimately imperils the security of the world. And if ever there was a time where you would consider something like that, it would be this. Now you still have the veto power problem, and that is Constitutional. You still have to be able to overcome a presidential veto. But that remains an impediment to ultimately stopping this. But look, I’m open to all those options, but I think the best way to bring this deal to an end is to, in about 14-15 months, elect a president that will end this deal on their first day in office.
HH: In 14 or 15 months, Marco Rubio, Russian troops will be dug into Syria. This is an alarming, this is back to the 70s, actually.
HH: You’re not old enough, I am, to go in the way back machine when the old Communist commissars would send troops to Syria. What implication does this have for the, your policy if you are president going forward with Putin’s troops in Damascus?
MR: First, it’s the direct result of this President not understanding the powers of the presidency. What is happening is that he’s bragged about how he’s going to disengage us from the region, how he’s going to pull us out of there. And our allies don’t trust us any longer, and our adversaries no longer fear us, and Putin’s pouncing. I mean, he is pouncing. He sees, all right, they’re pulling out of the region, he’s not truly committed, he’s doing the bare minimum, it’s just cosmetic. Now is our chance to establish a forward operating base. They already have a naval presence in Syria. This is a chance to embed a physical presence on the ground in Syria. And it makes Russia even more influential in the Middle East. And it sends a message to these other countries in the region. Why are you under the American security umbrella? Why are you in an alliance with them? We are more reliable. We’re the ones that have troops here that can assist you if Jordan gets in trouble, or Saudi Arabia gets in trouble. This is all part of a calculated effort by Putin to weaken America, and further aggrandize Russia’s role in the world. And this President has created the landscape for this to be possible.
HH: Have you thought about the consequences of al Qaeda engaging, or the al-Nusra Front, or ISIS engaging Russian troops, and what will happen as a consequence of that? What do you expect their rules of engagement are, Senator Rubio?
MR: I have no idea. As I said, I don’t know what rules they’ve given them. I would imagine they would allow them to have more flexibility than we’ve given our own troops in that regard. And so, but look, that’s possible. I doubt they’re going to position them in places where they’re in danger. I think they’re largely going to be in place for purposes of protecting their naval base, and potentially to protect a rump state, if in fact Assad is forced to retreat into an Alawite rump state near and around Damascus. They would be serving as kind of a, you know, a force that’s in place on the ground to protect Assad in that regard. But I think it’s also sending a message to other countries in the region, for example, the Egyptians. You know, you’re relying on America far too much, you should be closer to us. That makes them more influential in the region.
HH: Will you draw closer to President al-Sisi if you’re the president?
MR: Yeah, look, the relationship between the U.S. and the Egyptian military, which he’s the head, is a very important one. A lot of those Egyptian generals were trained in the United States, and understand our systems. They feel betrayed by what happened with Mubarak and some other things, and if it wasn’t for them intervening, the Muslim Brotherhood would still be in charge, and God knows what Egypt would look by now. Does Egypt need some political reform? Absolutely. The problem is if you move too quickly, if you move too slowly, it leads to Arab Spring-like uprising. But if you move too quickly, it leads to instability. So there’s a calculus there, but right now, Egypt is critical. It’s the most important country in the Arab world. And we will need their help in putting together an anti-ISIS Sunni coalition that can go in on the ground and defeat ISIS with our air support and our special operations forces alongside them.
HH: Now I have one more foreign affairs question, then I will turn to the news that Rick Perry has announced he’s dropping out of the presidential race. But one more question on this regard. Senator Graham wants to send 10,000 American troops to Syria to partner in a regional coalition. Is that too many? Is that too few, Senator Rubio?
MR: Well, I’m not committed to a specific number. I think we need to know what the mission is, first. The mission, I believe, should be to put together a coalition of Sunni fighters – Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudi troops alongside Sunnis on the ground in Iraq, arm and help equip them, although obviously, these regular forces already are, support them with logistical and intelligence support, increased air strikes, and embed alongside them special operations forces. I honestly believe that the only way we’re going to ultimately defeat ISIS is they must be defeated by Sunnis themselves, because ISIS is a Sunni movement, a radical Sunni movement. They need to be defeated both ideologically and militarily, and only Sunnis can do both. Now they’ll need our help, and especially on the air strikes and the targeting and all that sort of thing. Whether that means 10,000 fighters, 5,000, 15, I don’t know the exact number. That’s something the military will have to draw up. But I do think it will require American leadership to put that coalition together.
HH: Now let’s talk about politics. Rick Perry announcing, unexpectedly this afternoon, that he is dropping out of the presidential race. What’s your reaction to that, Marco Rubio?
MR: Well, I’ve heard, this is the first I’ve heard of the news, and obviously, look, this is tough running for president. It’s difficult. It takes you far from home, it costs a lot of money. You make some significant personal sacrifices to do it, so I don’t know all what went into it and so forth, but, and it’s a tough thing, having going through it myself now. And I like Rick Perry. I don’t know him very well, but I know him well enough to know that he’s a patriot who loves the country, and I haven’t had a chance to speak to him or see him, obviously, since this is a new announcement. But I’m sure he’ll go on to be very successful at whatever his next endeavor is.
HH: Now on politics, I’ve read your autobiography, but for the benefit of the audience that haven’t, can you describe to the audience the economic circumstances of your youth, and whether those matter in a campaign which is going to try and reach out to people who don’t necessarily believe the Republican Party cares a lick about them?
MR: Well, I said my parents arrived here in 1956 as immigrants. My father was not well-educated, neither was my mother. He had to leave school when he was nine, because he needed to help support the family. But he went and achieved the American dream. They weren’t rich or famous, but my father was a bartender. My mother was a stock clerk at K-Mart. She was a cashier. She built aluminum chairs. She was a maid at a hotel in Las Vegas. And with those jobs, she achieved some pretty special things. They owned a home in a safe and stable neighborhood, they were able to retire with dignity, and they were able to leave all four of their children better off than themselves. And why it’s relevant to me is I want this to continue to be a country where people can do that, where they can achieve not just a better life, but leave their children better off. And today, it’s becoming harder to do that, not easier. We are on the verge of being the first generation to leave our children worse off than ourselves. And I think that’s because never in our history has either political party or Washington been more out of touch with the real lives of real people than what’s happening right now. And this election has to be about changing that.
HH: Real lives of real people, that leads me to this question. With that in mind, can very, very, very wealthy people, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Donald Trump, or even just very wealthy people like some of the others on the stage who have millions banked ever persuade the working poor or blue collar Americans that the Republican Party is for them?
MR: I’m sure. Yeah, I don’t think necessarily how successful you’ve been determines whether or not you can identify with people that are struggling. I think what’s important is to understand what people are going through, talk about it. I think it helps a lot if you’ve lived it yourself and experienced it. But I think your policies have to reflect it, too. I mean, the challenge for those of us like me who believe in limited government and free enterprise is we must connect what we believe in to people’s aspirations. It’s a lot easier to sell a big government program. You’re struggling, we’re going to raise a bunch of taxes, and we’re going to use it to help you getting you money. That’s a lot easier sell, politically, in the short term, but it doesn’t work. Here’s what works – creating the most vibrant economy in the world so we have better paying jobs, making it easier, faster and cheaper for you to acquire the skills you need for those jobs, and of course, the most important thing the federal government does, keep us safe from threats both foreign and domestic.
HH: It is 9/11, and do you believe we are safer today than we were seven years ago? And are we safer today than we were on 9/12?
MR: We are not safer. In fact, the threats we face have evolved in ways that make them even harder to confront. We were once worried about someone from abroad coming into the U.S. and attacking us, as they did on September 11th of 2001, and that remains a threat. You know, al Qaeda in Yemen, for example, is a powerful group that continues to, with the Khorasan group and others have the ability to conduct external operations. But we have a new threat, and that is people here in the United States, perhaps who have never traveled abroad, who have become radicalized and inspired online or on social media who then take action. Today, we have this report of a young man in Central Florida sympathized with ISIS and was headed to Kansas City, Missouri to conduct a terrorist attack on this very date.
MR: This is a threat we didn’t face. It’s harder to deal with, and it’s real, and it’s growing.
HH: Last question, Marco Rubio, CBS News’ John Dickerson now hosts Face The Nation, once asked President Bush what had been President Bush’s biggest mistake. And then W. later said at the White House Press dinner that that had been an excellent question, that he’d been stumped by it, and that calling on Dickerson had been his biggest mistake. What is your biggest mistake?
MR: Well, I mean, in life or in politics?
HH: Yeah, in life.
MR: You know, I think I wish I had been better as a high school student, just personally, because I think I would have save myself a lot of money in college. I ended up borrowing some money in college, simply because in those early years, I had to pay for it myself, and my parents couldn’t afford to do it. I wish I had known that then, that there were consequences to the decisions you make when you’re 18, 17 years of age. I tell that to people all the time, because I think it’s more true today than ever before. At 16 or 17, you’re making decisions that really matter, and that will impact the direction of your life for years to come. And you know, I owed a bunch of money in student loans, over $100,000 dollars. And part of that, the consequence was that because those early years, I had to make up for what I didn’t do when I was in high school.
HH: Well then, that leads to a sort of a second addendum. Politics is sort of collapsing around our ears. I’m not sure that any young people are listening to this at all. Are you finding it’s different on the, are young people showing up to listen to people like you talk about politics and the crises that we face? Or are they just checked out because of this carnival?
MR: No, I do think, I mean, at least in our events, we’re finding a lot of college age students, people in their mid to late 20s, and I think part of that is because that generation is stuck. Many of them owe thousands of dollars in student loans for degrees that didn’t lead to jobs. Many of them voted for change in 2008, get it, or the change they got was not the change they wanted. And I think they’re listening to see if there’s an alternative out there after eight years of failure. And I believe our party and this movement can offer it.
HH: Marco Rubio, it’s great to talk to you, Senator. I’ll see you next week on the stage in Simi Valley.
MR: Yes, sir.
HH: And I appreciate it.
MR: Thank you.
End of interview.