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Senator Marco Rubio On All Things 2016

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Senator Marco Rubio joined me today:




HH: I begin today with an hour with Marco Rubio, the Senator from Florida who seeks to become the next president of the United States. I hope you got out of Washington, D.C, Senator, before Snowmageddon got there.

MR: Yeah, we’re in New Hampshire, so it was, it’s going to be cold, but it won’t snow, well, at least a lot. So that’s good.

HH: Let me begin by asking you, you know, I think I have an Ohio strategy for you, which is you go to Steven Ross, owner of the Dolphins, and you get him to take Johnny Manziel for a second or a third rounder as a backup to Ryan Tannehill. What do you think?

MR: (laughing) You know, maybe it’ll help me in Ohio, but it’ll hurt me in Florida.

HH: (laughing) Johnny would do well in South Beach, wouldn’t he?

MR: I think he and Jerry Jones are a marriage made in Heaven. That’s what needs to happen.

HH: All right. I also heard you’ve got Adam Hasner, who’s a good friend of my friend, Hank Adler, up there campaigning for you in New Hampshire. How many surrogates do you have, Senator Rubio? And I talked to Jason Chaffetz. He was working for you in Nevada yesterday. How many do you have?

MR: Well, we’ve got some good people. Adam, of course, and I served in the Florida legislature, but you know, we have Jason Chaffetz, and we have Trey Gowdy that’s done some work for us, and Kristi Noem, and Cory Gardner. And so we’ve got some good people. I’m leaving, we have Steve Daines. We’ve got some really good people out there. Darrell Issa was in New Hampshire for me a couple of weeks ago, so we’re proud to have a lot of kind of reformist conservatives, people that really want to get this country moving in the right direction, and who have shown a consistent pattern of holding the Obama administration accountable. We’re really proud of their helping us and helping to amplify our message.

HH: A pop culture question before we get into serious stuff. Are you a Game Of Thrones watcher?

MR: No, I’m not. I don’t even, I mean, I’ve seen like, I’ve never watched it. No, why?

HH: Or House of Cards? I’m just curious. I’ve been asking on behalf of Tevi Troy.

MR: I’ve seen the House of Cards stuff. It’s just so over the top, you know. I mean, some of it is just so over the top. But I’ve seen a few episodes of it. It’s, I mean, it’s well-produced. It’s just, I hope that’s not what people think really happens.

HH: Well, that’s what I think’s going on. I think popular culture has turned big business in Washington, D.C. into a cartoon for people, and that they really have…

MR: Well, you know, the Chinese loved the first season of House of Cards, and then the second season had like a corrupt Chinese businessman, so then they banned it. So it’s like, you know, it’s interesting. But no, I’ve seen a few of the episodes. It’s well-produced. You know, they’ve obviously put a lot of time into it, but no. They don’t usually murder people on Capitol Hill.

HH: Well, they try and kill you politically. Today, for example, or late last night, the Washington Post ran a story on you, and I laughed out loud. It reported the big news that you had an open container citation when you were 18. And I said 12 campaigns doing oppo research on Senator Rubio, and that’s all they found over 35 years?

MR: Yeah, I didn’t even read it, but I mean obviously, I think there’s one reporter there that has lost his mind. And anyway, it doesn’t really matter. It is, it really is not relevant to anything. We thought it was a joke when they asked about it, but the bottom line is you know, this country, we’ve got to defeat ISIS. They’re beheading people. I mean, that’s a lot more important than me being in a park after hours four days shy of my 19th birthday.

HH: I agree. Let’s get to that. First, let’s do the primary. I have divided the Republican field into the American League and the National League. In the National League, there’s Trump and there’s Cruz. And in the American League, there’s you, and there is Governor Kasich, Governor Christie, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. And I call you the American League, because you’ve got the designated hitter. And you guys are all walking around banging on each other. Is this what you expected when you started out?

MR: Well, let me be clear. I mean, no one has been hit with more negatives than I have by everyone. So Ted Cruz and his superPAC has spent almost $5 million dollars attacking me, and Jeb Bush’s superPAC has spent a third of all their money attacking me, over $20 million dollars. We’re, I mean, it’s fine. It hasn’t impacted us. I mean, you know, our numbers remain good. Growth remains good. But in the end, look, I’ve always, when I ran for the Senate, I had to take on the Washington establishment. They didn’t want me to run now, either. They thought I should wait my turn, and so I knew that this would be the consequence of that. And you know, you don’t spend, you don’t get $20 million dollars from, those aren’t grassroots dollars. Those are big checks written by big donors. And that’s fine. It’s worth it, because this country needs a president that’s going to undo the damage Barack Obama has done to America and the world, and our economy, and our society, and to our Constitution. And you know, I’m willing to go through to ultimately succeed. I’ll tell you this. The one person who doesn’t want me to win is Hillary Clinton, because she knows I will beat her. The polls show that. They’ve admitted that in more than one way, and so I want to be the nominee, because I know I will beat Hillary Clinton, and that’s got to be our number one objective here, is ensuring that neither she nor Bernie Sanders are the next president of the United States.

HH: I had Robert Gates on yesterday. He’s a fine public servant. I’m sure he testified in front of you when he was SecDef. And I asked him about Hillary’s server, and he said it is a matter of concern to him, and that a high probability the Russians or others compromised that server. Do you agree with that assessment?

MR: I do. I think it’s more likely than not. I would remind everyone that when this story first came out, and everybody was focused on her hiding things, my point was, almost right out of the bat, the first thing I said is if she had that on a private server, even if it wasn’t classified, just sensitive information, she is now left vulnerable to foreign intelligence agencies sensitive American information. Now, we’ve learned from the Inspector General that it’s very classified information, stuff that not even my intelligence staff apparently can see, and other things of this nature. So you know, this is a very serious thing. At a minimum, this disqualifies her from being commander-in-chief. And in fact, I think it potentially leads to some sort of criminal charges against someone. I mean, you cannot remove intelligence information from a secure setting and place it on an unsecure server, which is what she did.

HH: Today, Fox News is reporting that human source intel, which is again, sensitive compartmented information, because it gets people killed, right? If it leaks, and it says Joe Bag O’Donuts over here is a spy, and the Russians got access to your server, that guy is dead. That’s a Fox News report. Does America understand this point, Senator Rubio?

MR: Well, let me just say the intelligence information is important for two reasons. One, it’s not the information you know. Sometimes, when they see what you know, they find out how you found out. And that’s the other point, is it can compromise our ability to collect information in the future. So it’s not just giving them insight into what we know. It potentially gives insight to enemies of the United States about processes and so forth. So look, I think we should all be very cautious about how we discuss all this, other than to say that I do believe that this disqualifies her from being commander-in-chief, and I think someone, someone is going to be charged, because if somebody, you know, just anybody else would have done this, they would be fired and prosecuted. And I don’t think anyone should be above the law.

HH: Let me go back to the politics for a moment. Yesterday, Governor Christie was on the show, and he had this to say about you, Senator.

CC: I think that some folks have made some very bad decisions in the last few weeks. I mean, Marco Rubio can’t find anybody he won’t attack. I mean, he’s attacked me with millions of dollars of ads in New Hampshire. He’s attacked Jeb Bush. He’s attacked Ted Cruz. He’s attacked Donald Trump. I mean, you know, there’s not a person who’s relevant in this race that Marco Rubio hasn’t attacked. And I think it has caused the beginning of a circular firing squad, with Marco shooting at everybody. And you know, he’s a hypocrite, because he says I don’t want to say anything negative about any candidate, and then he goes about to do a broadside on whoever he’s hitting that day.

HH: Your reaction, Senator Rubio?

MR: Well, a couple of points. Number one, no one’s been attacked more than I have, and that’s just fine. I mean, people have a free 1st Amendment right to do that. It’s like I told you already, that $25 million dollars spent attacking me. Most of it from Jeb, but some of it from Ted, too, and Christie’s been attacking me, you know, as well. The second point is the only thing I pointed out was Chris Christie’s record. His record’s not an attack. it’s his record. I mean, he supported Common Core. He supports gun control. He personally contributed to Planned Parenthood, and he supported the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor. I mean, we have the press release with his letterhead on it. Those are not attacks. That’s his record. And I just think it’s important for the next president of the United States to not be someone that supports judges like Sotomayor, defends the 2nd Amendment, does not support Common Core, and is in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, not writing them a personal check. These are not attacks. This is his record. And I think your record is fair game.

HH: A second candidate was on this week, and this is John Kasich talking to me.

JK: I have a message that, you know, look, we have a lot of candidates who are like the prince of darkness. You know, I consider myself the prince of light and hope. And I don’t spend all my time getting people riled up about how bad everything is. I acknowledge the challenges. But then I say look, come together, be Americans first. We can solve these problems. And people are hungry for that.

HH: Are you one of those who are like the prince of darkness, Senator Rubio?

MR: Well, I mean, the theme of my campaign is a new American century, which means we can be greater than we’ve ever been. To do that, we’ve got to acknowledge the things that are going wrong. I mean, let’s be very frank here. We are a nation, a great nation in decline because of Barack Obama. And if we stay on the road he has put us on, our kids are going to be the first Americans ever that are going to inherit a diminished country. That’s not inevitable. We can change this, but we’ve got to do it now. And that’s why I’m running so hard to be our nominee, because if I’m our nominee, we are going to beat Hillary Clinton, and we are going to be in a position to undo all of the damage Barack Obama has done to America. I’m going to repeal all of his unconstitutional executive orders. We’re going to rebuild the U.S. military. We’re going to have a real war on terror. We’re going to be respected in the world again. And we’re going to keep ISIS out of America. So if we fix these problems, yes, we can be greater than we’ve ever been. We have a lot of reason to be optimistic. But we cannot ignore the fact that people feel frustrated at the direction of our country. They’re angry at Washington and both political parties, and we need to acknowledge that and use it as a motivator to take action.

HH: Now Senator Rubio, the last political question, then I want to go to substance only, has to do with Governor Bush. And you noted, and many people have remarked, that the Mike Murphy-run superPAC, which is a Jeb Bush supporting superPAC, has dumped millions against you. Are you surprised or in any way shocked that the path by Murphy PAC is to just level you?

MR: Well, again, I mean, I don’t think anything surprises me anymore in politics. It obviously has a way of changing some people. And look, if someone decides we’re not going to win, so let’s just take everybody down with us, I mean, they have a right to make that decision. That’s not the campaign I’m running. There are policy differences between us. We can discuss those. And I think that’s something that the voters deserve to know about And I have continued to be willing to discuss those policy differences. But in the end, I think that what we need to remind ourselves is we’re all going to be on the same team here, and the goal is to keep Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders out of the White House. And if I’m our nominee, I will win. And the Democrats know that, and so I think they are enjoying seeing, you know, me taking on these millions of dollars in attacks. But we’re going to be fine. We’re going to get through it. I think voters have a pretty good radar for this sort of thing.

HH: Do you think that is Jeb Bush, Governor Bush’s theory, we are going down, let’s take everyone with us?

MR: Well, you’ll have to ask him whether that’s his theory. I can only tell you that you know, there appears to be an air of desperation in some of these attacks. And look, again, the 1st Amendment protects speech, and when you run for office, you know, this is part of it. That’s fine. We’ll work through it. And we feel very optimistic and really good about the support and the momentum that we’re gaining in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

HH: Now Senator Rubio, I want to talk about the Democratic debate, and not just the Republicans. They have their own problems, not just Hillary being indicted or close to it, but also the debate last week. They are close to going full Sweden. I watched that, and I’m amazed. They don’t seem to have an argument with a completely socialist state. Are you surprised they are that transparent?

MR: No, well, let me just say that I think the Democratic Party has been pulled far to the left now for a while. I mean, obviously, Bernie Sanders is a socialist, a Democratic socialist. He believes in democracy, but in a kinda European-style socialism, and he’s very open about that. And so if he’s their nominee, Americans are going to have a very clear choice. I think what’s telling is how far down that road Hillary Clinton has gone to match him. And you’re right. I mean, I just commented this week. I think Bernie would be an excellent candidate for president of Norway. And I just don’t want to be, I don’t have anything against Norway. They’re a nice country. They’re an ally. They’re good people. But I want to be America. And I think coming this election, we’re going to give people a very clear choice between free enterprise and limited government and strong national defense, and a kind of European-style policies the Democratic Party is now basically taking as their own. I mean, the Democratic Party has now been taken over by a radical left of center political movement.

HH: Now Senator Rubio, yesterday former Secretary of Defense Gates was on the show. I’ll refer to this a few times. And he said bureaucracy can be reformed. But if you look at Flint, Michigan, which has got poisoned water, or you look at the river in Colorado, which was turned yellow, and you have to wonder where our bureaucracy, why do people trust bureaucracies? Do you think the federal government bureaucracies can be reformed? Or do you need a wrecking ball?

MR: Well, I first think the federal government’s way too large. We’re asking it to do things that it was never designed to do. And we’re asking it to do things it was never supposed to do. It’s not Constitutionally able to do. Now in the case of what you described, those cases, you know, I would just say where federal government has proven time and again an inability to effectively provide service. Do I think they can be improved? Sure. The VA can be improved by getting rid of people that aren’t doing their job, and by empowering veterans to control their own benefits, for example, to go to any doctor that will see them. Other government agencies, like the Department of Education, have no reason to exist and should be closed. I think we can improve our procurement process in the Department of Defense. I think we probably have a civilian workforce there that’s too large. And ultimately, I think we need to return more power to the states to do things like spend the safety net programs, or most certainly ensure that the K-12, you know, our schools, are in the control of school boards, not the federal government.

HH: So Senator, looking clearly at EPA, obviously they have a huge role in Florida, as does the Army Corps of Engineers. Can those agencies be made to be responsive? Or are they simply so far gone now into the hands of career bureaucrats with agendas that you almost have to empty them out and start over again?

MR: Yeah, so a couple of points. I think the EPA in particular has a significant number of people with an agenda. That’s largely an anti-business agenda, and that’s why I call them the Employment Prevention Agency. And so I don’t think you can fix the existing EPA. I think you literally have to shrink it and take away some of its power. And none of us, by the way, my kids live in the United States of America. And I don’t want them to breathe dirty air or drink poison water. No one does. But these agencies have gone well beyond that now. I mean, they’re imposing all sorts of requirements and laws that are destroying jobs and economic growth in this country, and it’s reached a point now where these agencies need to be dramatically reduced in both their jurisdiction and their size and their scope, and the number of people working there.

HH: Now Senator, you just mentioned your kids. And you have kids in school, and I want to go back to Common Core. A year ago, I would have sworn the Republican primary would be fought over Common Core. It’s barely come up. I’ve been at two debates, I have two more debates at which I ask questions. Maybe I’ll get a Common Core question out. Are you surprised, or am I simply missing it, that it’s actually coming up in the town halls and I’m missing it?

MR: No, it comes up. Certainly, people are not in favor of it, because it’s not curriculum. I think we’re all in favor of improving curriculum. The question is where should the curriculum be improved? And I believe it should be at the local level – the school boards, and teachers and parents and principals, not the Department of Education. And if supporters of Common Core, you know, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, others, they swear up and down that you know, it’s just a standard, but it’s not a curriculum. Well, it is, because the federal government will use it like it’s always used it, as a stick, not as a carrot. They’re eventually going to use those standards as a requirement if you want to get federal money. It’s what they’ve always done. It’s what they’ll do again. We don’t need Common Core. I’m in favor of curriculum reform, and let it be done where it belongs, at the local level, not by the Department of Education, not by the president of the United States, not by a consortium of, you know, people from all over the country. Let each jurisdiction decide its own curriculum. That’s where it belongs.

HH: You were an early and forceful critic of Common Core. I am curious given the Trump phenomenon, do you think that Donald Trump is familiar with, conversant with Common Core? I haven’t talked to him about it, yet. I will ask him about it next week. But does he strike you as an education reform-driven candidate?

MR: Well, I’ve never hear him discuss this, so you’ll have to ask them, and then we’ll know for sure. I think, again, I mean, as I’ve said this repeatedly, you know, Donald, I think, has touched a nerve in this country, and legitimate anger that people have about the direction of our government. He hasn’t spent nearly enough time detailing policy, whether it’s foreign policy or this sort of thing. But you’ll have a chance to ask him, and we’ll find out.

HH: He’s laid off of you. He’s, I mean, it’s a Cruz-Trump knife fight right now. Is that benefiting you in Iowa?

MR: I’m not sure. I mean, I haven’t thought about it that way. I do think Donald and others are starting to point out things about Ted Cruz’ record that up to now have been kind of obscured. I mean, Ted Cruz has been, now I like Ted, and we’re friends, and we have a lot in common in terms of our background. But Ted has been very calculating in his positions, politically. And a lot of people will be surprised, for example, that he was one of the strongest supporters of TPA. And then when he calculated that he shouldn’t be, he changed on it. And he did the same on crop insurance. I saw him change his vote on the Senator floor on crop insurance in a 20 minute span, because somebody told him that it was bad in Iowa. We saw him, you know, he takes on ethanol and beats up on it in New Hampshire, but then he goes to Iowa and kind of goes silent on it, or in some instances, implies he’s changed his position. He did it on immigration. I know Donald is now pointing that out, but he was talking about, there’s a video of him in an interview with CBS saying that we needed a compromise on what to do with legalizing people that are here illegally. And now he claims that never happened, but it’s on the tape. So I think that’s all being exposed now for the first time, and people are starting to learn a little bit more about that sort of calculation.

HH: Let me turn to the Department of Defense, then, Senator Rubio. And remind me, I know you’re on Senate Intelligence. Were you on Foreign Affairs or Armed Services?

MR: Foreign Relations, yeah.

HH: So you have to follow closely this. If the Pentagon is to meet the challenges of the new century, they’ve got to learn how to procure things better. And Gates writes about this at length. Are there weapons systems that come to your mind that we don’t need that you need to be persuaded to keep, rather than be persuaded to cut?

MR: You know, I haven’t, I mean, obviously there are weapons programs that have been badly administered. I think for many years, the F-35 program wasn’t well administered. The F-22, of course, had some significant problems as well. But we’re at a stage now where we’re not just, not, we’re at a stage where we need to develop new weapons systems, additional threats like the asymmetrical threats posed to our ships, for example, from shore-fired anti-ship missiles by the Chinese. We need to have a way to defend our satellites, because the Chinese and the Russians are both investing in space warfare technology. So we not only need to maintain our current capacity and expand it, we need to be innovating new solutions to some of these problems. You know, we have a long range bomber problem, very significant. And while the B-52 has served this country very well, it’s time for a replacement aircraft, or at least a complementary aircraft. You know, our Ohio class submarine system, and the key part of our triad needs to be upgraded. Our nuclear weapons are not being modernized at the pace they need to be. So I think we face a number of challenges, and of course, any dollar that’s wasted in procurement is a dollar that’s not going towards our Defense. So we do need to reform the way we procure, and I think part of it is opening it up to more competition, allowing more providers to enter that space, as opposed to just having a handful of contractors that are the ones cleared to do it now.

HH: When I talked to Gates about this, the former Secretary of Defense says it’s very hard to find people who will put up with entering the federal government because of the ethics laws and the divestiture. And then they leave, and so you can’t bring procurement specialists with you. Who, what kind of a person would you look to run the Department of Defense? Would you look for a retired general like McChrystal or Mattis? Or would you look for a civilian from the Defense world? What would you look for?

MR: Well, first of all, obviously someone that shares my views about American strength, and the notion that we need to remain the most powerful military, and not just towards the threats we face today, but the threats that lie ahead. We are a country that needs to be able to engage in multiple fronts. We can’t be a country that pivots to Asia and abandons Europe, for example. We have to be able to do both. Second, it has to be someone with the sort of background and intensity of personality and leadership to harness a massive bureaucracy. This is true of the State Department as well. You cannot have someone that becomes captive, because what happens with many of these people in these agencies is they’ve been there for so long that their attitude is we’ve seen presidents come and go, and we’ve seen secretaries come and go. We were here before you, we’ll be here after you. And it is in the implementation that often times they undermine what they’re specifically being told to do. So I think you have to have a very strong leadership personality that can harness that, command a respect, but also has enough detail in their ability to really kind of command what’s happening to not be undermined by those underneath them who are refusing to implement things in the way it’s being ordered. So it’s got to be someone with a significant amount of credibility, but also leadership ability.

HH: All right, staying on DOD, Mayport is in Florida, where some of our carriers put in, and some are stationed there. John Kasich has said we need 15 carrier groups. Secretary Gates said yesterday his famous Gates budget called for 11. What’s Marco Rubio think?

MR: I think obviously, you know, 15 is a big number. Certainly, if it’s affordable, it’s something we would aim at, but I think at least 12. And you know, Gates called, and we’ll be down to 9 temporarily, up to 10, and then we really need to be at 12 at a minimum. 13 would be even better, just because it will allow us to keep two carrier groups in the Pacific, and also allow us to be in different parts of the world. But there are now three months out of the year where there is no carrier group active in the Asia Pacific region, and that’s simply unacceptable given some of the threats we now see there to the shipping lanes, and Chinese territorial claims.

HH: Let me go to the Asia Pacific region, because again, this is something that none of the debates get to. It’s on all of our question cards, and we never get there, these artificial islands.

MR: Yeah.

HH: And what China is doing there, first of all, you were very kind and you saved my fly ball, you caught my fly ball on the last debate in explaining the triad to people. Explain this problem and why it matters.

MR: Well, it matters, because under international law, you have an air around your territory that you control as your territorial waters. And so what China’s doing in the South China Sea is they are basically building fake islands. And by building these artificial islands, they’re claiming the territorial waters around them. If you build enough of them, you start putting these circles on a map, before you know it, they control the shipping lanes. And that’s what they’re claiming now. That’s what they’re trying to do. And so we should never accept that. These are artificial reefs, and we should continue to challenge it by navigating through it openly, the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force, protecting the freedom of navigation. And we cannot live in a world where the most important shipping lane on the planet, the South China Sea, is controlled by a nation-state. It’s just an unacceptable outcome. And so we need to never accept that as a fact or as a de facto reality. We need to continue to challenge it with both our naval capabilities and our Air Force. And I think if we’re firm on that, you know, the Chinese may continue to claim it on paper, but they won’t enforce it. I think if they sense weakness, I think our allies potentially in the region could fold in and grow accepting of it for fear of retribution.

HH: Early in his presidency, George W. Bush was challenged by the Chinese. They forced down a plane onto Hainan Island, and a crisis, a testing period occurred. Kennedy met Khrushchev early in his presidency at Vienna, and Khrushchev concluded he was a weak person. Would you expect the same kind of testing, Marco Rubio, if you were early on in your presidency as a relatively young man from our geopolitical adversaries, not our crazy ones, but our very strategic ones?

MR: Yes, except that I think that’s true of anybody who runs, and I think it’s an ongoing issue. I think this president is now being tested. Look, we don’t know all the facts, but earlier this morning, there was a report, right, that a U.S. student was seized by North Korea. Well, that shouldn’t surprise us, because we have a president that’s been trading Americans for the better part of five years. And so you’ve created an incentive for that sort of activity. I think the Russians under Vladimir Putin have calculated that they can continue to be aggressive, because the repercussions aren’t significant. So I think what needs to be very important early on in a presidency is you need to be very clear about what any, what would the reaction be to any action. There shouldn’t be any ambiguity. If you do this, this is what’s going to happen. And we need to be very clear up front. If there’s any sort of ambiguity, you’re inviting this calculation, and you’re quite frankly inviting aggression.

HH: But you also have to have capabilities and proximity to respond or to threaten.

MR: Yeah.

HH: And we, aren’t we, isn’t the cupboard bare when it comes to that?

MR: Well, it’s growing that way. I mean, we’re going to have the smallest and the oldest Air Force we’ve had ever, the smallest Navy in 100 years. We’re certainly headed in that direction. I think we still, at least for the moment, have the assets necessary to respond to some of this. But you’re right. In some part of the world, it may take us ten days to get there, because we don’t have assets deployed quickly. And so that’s why it’s urgent that we rebuild our military. In many ways, our adversaries, or our potential adversaries, understand these limitations themselves, and they’ll know where to test us, and where to try to stretch us, too. So I think it’s important that the next president is someone who’s very clear that they’re going to rebuild the U.S. military, and that they’re doing to respond in a very clear way, and outline what that response will be, whether it’s a cyberattack or a physical intrusion, or any other sort of aggressive action.

HH: All right, last foreign affairs question. When a friend of mine recently told me ISIS or an affiliate had put up the flag in the Philippines allying with the old Moro insurgency, I hadn’t read anything about that. And so there are often places in the world that people don’t know about two years ago that become hot spots. What worries Marco Rubio that no one’s talking about?

MR: Well, I think the Philippines is an important one you just mentioned. There have been Muslim rebels there for a while. You always certainly worry about them pledging allegiance to ISIS. But I think what we’re seeing underreported is ISIS’ growing presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. I think ISIS, you’re going to see them become increasingly aggressive in Turkey as well. And that’s a NATO ally. And so they’re, even though their core in Syria and Iraq are facing some tests, their affiliates continue to grow. Their presence in Libya is a prime operating space for them to conduct operations against Egypt in the Sanai, and even to project across the Mediterranean and into Europe.

HH: Okay, so I want to close with politics and winning. And that means appealing, we’ve got to get more votes than we got last time. Mitt Romney did well, but he fell short by states and by millions of votes, and that means underserved communities and underrepresented communities. Black Lives Matter has not come up on the Republican debate stage, because it, people don’t think Republicans need black votes. But if you get to 10%, the election’s over. Can you get to 10 or greater percent of the African-American vote, Marco Rubio?

MR: Well, to me, it’s not about politics. To me, there’s a significant percentage of the American families, particularly young African-American males, who feel like they’re being left behind by society and treated unfairly by local law enforcement and others, whether you agree with them or not. And I’ve actually seen instances in my own life with people that I know that really concern me. The vast majority of police officers in America are incredible people. And there are some instances of abuse, but you know, here’s the bottom line, if there is a significant percentage of the American family who feels the way that young African-American males do in particular, it’s a problem, whether you agree with it or not. It’s a problem, and we have to address it as a society. We cannot fulfill our destiny as a great nation if we leave a significant percentage of our population behind. We are depriving ourselves of their talents, of their abilities, of all sorts of things that are not good for them, but ultimately not good for the country, either. So this is an issue I care about personally, and I’ve worked on for years, and continue to believe. And here’s the point. Conservative policies empower people, including African-Americans, but also Hispanics and single mothers and others. We need to do a better job of convincing people that conservative principles and conservative ideas are better for their aspirations than what the left is offering with more government.

HH: I want to close with the earned income tax credit, because it’s likely to get people to click off the radio, but it’s important. I was asked at a conference today to explain various Republican tax proposals. And I don’t know anything about this. This is not what I care about. Other people do tax policy. I don’t do it, but I do like, I like Ted’s VAT tax. I know you don’t like it. And I like Senator Rubio’s earned income tax credit expansion for a variety of reasons. Would you explain to people what you’re proposing and why, since it’s earned the ire of some conservative?

MR: Well, basically, it actually, I think what they’ve criticized me on is the expansion of the child tax credit.

HH: That’s what I mean, yeah.

MR: And, yeah, and so the child tax credit, for one, you don’t get it if you don’t work. So it’s pro-work. If you’re not working, you don’t qualify. Number two, it’s not an entitlement. It is your own money. Basically, it says your working families are going to be allowed to keep more of their own money to help with the costs of raising children. We recognize that raising children in America has gotten more expensive. There’s an existing tax credit now, and we’re going to raise it to $2,500 dollars per child for working families, which means you’ll have more money in their pocket to send their kids to school, save for college, and to pay for the necessities. If you invest that sort of money in a machine, as a business, you can write if off. But if you invest it in our future taxpayers, you can. I want to have a tax code that’s pro-family. One of the biggest challenges to families in the 21st Century is the cost of living, and so that’s why Mike Lee and I partnered up and created the tax plan that includes the child tax credit for working families to empower parents to keep more of their own money, and to encourage people to work, because you don’t get the tax credit if you’re not working.

HH: And a tax credit is powerful. I mean, it’s real money. Why do conservatives oppose it? Just the cost?

MR: I think the idea that we should just have a flat rate for everyone, and everyone just pay less, and there not be any kind of exemptions and so forth. But the reality of it is that I do think if you want to be clear, I do think the tax code should be pro-family. I think the family is the most important institution in society. It’s the most important government, the most important school. It’s where people learn strong values. Anything we can do in government to strengthen family life in America, whether if it’s in the proper realm of government, we should do. And in the end, it’s not our money. It’s their money. They’re just going to be allowed to keep more of their own money.

HH: Last question, Senator. There may be as many as four Supreme Court appointments, four, for the next president. This is not over-excited Constitutional Law professor talk. This is actuarial reality. How do you reassure conservatives they will be originalists?

MR: Well, it’s been my record going back to my time now in the Senate. Obviously, it’ll be even a more stringent process when it comes to the Supreme Court. You know, the standard I’ve always applied is someone like Scalia, someone who understands that their role is not to substitute their judgment for the judgment of our people acting through their elected representatives. Their job is to apply the Constitution as originally intended to the case before them, not to reinterpret it, not to manipulate it, but to apply it, even if they don’t agree with the policy outcome. That’s not their job. They are not legislators. And we are going to appoint people to every level of the federal judiciary that understand that limited role.

HH: Senator Marco Rubio, I know we’ll talk again next week as we get in the final kick. Thanks for spending a half hour. Safe travel around New Hampshire and back to Iowa again, and talk to you next week.

MR: Thank you. Thanks, Hugh.

End of interview.


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