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A Wide Ranging Conversation With Marco Rubio –From LeBron To 2016 With Stops In Asia, Israel, And The Border

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Lebron’s homecoming was the backdrop for my hour-long sit down with Senator Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida tonight.  Since I know what it feels like to a fan to lose the best player in the game, I tried not to be ungracious while still letting my happiness shine.  The senator was not only gracious of “King James,” the vast portion of our chat was revealing and full of purpose and clarity.  As I noted in the course of the interview, he did not have a note in front of him.

The column I reference by Terry Pluto about LeBron is here.

The audio:


The transcript:

HH: And a very special day it is, at least in Northeastern Ohio, King James is coming home. LeBron James is back in Ohio, just with the GOP Convention, and I am not one to gloat, except over the whole country. I am not going to gloat over Miami, because I know what it’s like to lose LeBron James. So even though my guest sitting across from me, Senator Marco Rubio, is a Heat fan, I’m actually going to offer you my condolences.

MR: No, no.

HH: Because this has happened to us before.

MR: No, hey, no listen, first of all, I read the article that he wrote, the essay that he wrote in Sports Illustrated. It’s actually very compelling, and I have a lot of respect. But the way I view it is we, he gave us four extraordinary years in Miami, a very special experience. I’m grateful for it. On a personal note, I’ve got to tell you, he allowed me, along with his teammates, to share with my sons memories they’ll treasure for the rest of their life. We had him, we rented him for four years…

HH: Yeah.

MR: And he gave us four straight finals and two championships. And now on a personal level, he has a challenge. He grew into a man in Miami, and that’s the part about LeBron that I don’t think has been covered enough. He came to the NBA as an 18 year old boy, came to Miami and really became a man, became a husband, became a father. He’s expecting a third child, was a great member of the community, really grew in multiple different ways as a businessman, as a member of the community, and certainly as a basketball player, won us two championships, took us to four finals. And now he wants to go home to a community that he desperately wants to bring back a championship to after years of not having it. I respect that a lot, and that’s good. I think that’s, it’s a very compelling story, and I think in hindsight, probably the right decision.

HH: I knew you were going to say that, because I’ve read An American Son, your autobiography, and when you were born in Miami, I think you left at the age of 8, and then you moved to Las Vegas.

MR: Yeah.

HH: And as I recall, you were real glad to go back home to Miami when your family went back.

MR: Yeah, yeah, it was home, you know, and I’m very grateful for the years we spent in Nevada. I didn’t win any championships, but now I will tell you this. I don’t want to rain on your parade. I know it’s a great day. I don’t think the Cavs are nearly as good. I mean, LeBron is great, but I think they’re still missing some pieces. They’re a very young team. But I don’t think that’s why he’s going back. I think he’s, he wants to be, he wants to help bring a championship to a city that hasn’t had one in quite a while.

HH: Okay, now write this down. I know the GOP convention is going to be there, and you may be making a pretty big speech that night. We’ll talk about that in a little bit. But it’ll be on the back to back to back World Series, Super Bowl and NBA championships. What a great setup for the convention.

MR: Well, let me tell you, it might actually screw up the convention, because if the Cavs by 2016 are in the championship, it would be in June. And it could very well conflict with the GOP convention.

HH: Yeah.

MR: So you could have an NBA finals on the same night as the GOP convention in Cleveland.

HH: There are two alternate, I talked to Reince Priebus about this on Monday. He said one, the Cavs might play somewhere else like Columbus, where there’s a great arena, or, and then it makes it a big Ohio deal, or they could do it in July. So they’re negotiating that. It’s a great thing to be in this…

MR: Well, how do you know two years ahead whether they’re going to be in the finals?

HH: Oh, it’s just because Kevin Love’s going to come, and then we’re going to have Love and…we’ll see.

MR: We’ll see.

HH: Now Senator, before I talk…

MR: I don’t want to get into that. There’s no way, listen, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James, those, that three is not better than LeBron and Wade and Bosh. It’s just not a better three. Now they do have a better center, so we’ll see.

HH: Andrew Wiggins. Now all right, we’ll focus on foreign affairs for most of this hour, as I told your staff.

MR: I thought this was a basketball show. I didn’t know.

HH: (laughing) It would actually be a lot of fun. And I won’t bring up the Dolphins vis-à-vis Johnny Football coming to Cleveland, either.

MR: By the way, LeBron is managed, or his agency is managing Manziel, so that’s, maybe he didn’t mention that in the…

HH: He didn’t, but he did put out a big tweet with Johnny Football. You’re talking now to, we call the show Johnny Radio now. It’s just natural. I’m going to focus on foreign affairs, but before that, something very serious. The leader of your body, Harry Reid, Democrat Harry Reid, said he wants to repeal the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed in 1993. And that year, Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, President Clinton signed it, it passed nearly unanimously. And now you have the leader of the Democrats in the legislative side trying to repeal a bill that protects religious freedom of every American.

MR: Yeah.

HH: What do you think about that?

MR: So that’s the new, unfortunately, that is the new battleground in American cultural debate. It’s no longer about whether people have the freedom to live life as they choose. It’s now become about defining certain cultural values as unacceptable, traditional cultural values. And that’s what we’ve gotten to with what’s happening here. Okay, no matter how you may feel about any given issue, the one Constitutional principle that we have had in this country, among others, is not just the ability to attend a church, but the ability to live out in your life, in every aspect of your life, the teachings of your faith. And that’s what’s being protected here, and that’s what he seeks to undermine, is the ability of, if you go back to the Hobby Lobby case, it involves the owners of a family business, a large one, but a family business nonetheless, who personally, on a spiritual and moral principle, objected to paying for, they don’t, they cannot prohibit their employees from buying something. They’re not trying to prohibit or outlaw contraception. They simply don’t want to be forced to pay for something that their faith teaches violates a moral principle. That’s it. And what Harry Reid and his party is arguing is that the government should have the power to force individual Americans to pay for things that they find objectionable because of their religion. If this was a case about Hobby Lobby being able to fire people that work for them who use contraception, that would be a different story. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’ve got to be very clear. And if you start to think about, and you extend this forward a number of years, you could reach a point in this country where what you teach from the pulpit could be sanctioned, could be condemned, could be criticized. The tenets of a faith could be attacked and so forth, even in a church and so forth, because I don’t think your faith ends at the end of the worship service. If you truly want to live your faith, especially the Christian faith, it impacts every aspect of your life where you work, how you raise your family, and certainly how you worship as well. And there are protections for that in this country and our Constitution that he seeks to ignore. And I think they think they have a political winner. I disagree.

HH: The United States Senator, Marco Rubio, is the one you hear talking here, in case you just joined us, America. Senator Rubio, if in fact that comes to the floor, do you expect all Democrats to vote it? It will never pass the House.

MR: That would be quite interesting. I think there are a number of Democrats in key states, I would imagine in Arkansas and Louisiana, North Carolina and in places like that who would have to be very uncomfortable with having to vote for this politically, but you know, we’re going to, it’ll be, I don’t think it has any chance of passage in the House, and therefore, this is all a political messaging point. I mean, suffice it to say the world is on fire, literally. You are on the verge of all-out warfare between Israel and Hamas. You have an Islamic caliphate being established in Iraq. You have a nuclear negotiation with Iran that is either going to collapse or lead to a horrifying deal. You have an economy that shrank in the first quarter of this year. You have millions of Americans that are as insecure as they’ve been in our lifetime about their economic future. And in the midst of all these challenges, we have veterans that are dying waiting for care. In the midst of all of these challenges, this is what they want to spend the next two out of the three weeks we have left in July in session debating. I mean, that just tells you how unserious Harry Reid and the Democrats are about confronting the challenges of our country. It’s all politics, all the time.

HH: I don’t think they want to talk about anything other than this, because then, the border crisis and Israel comes up…

MR: I left that one out.

HH: Well, we will get to the border crisis. I know that we’ll get to that, and we’ll get to Israel. But I want to start with something that happened yesterday. Last night, the Senate finally passed something that was bipartisan, a resolution you co-authored on maritime security involving what the People’s Republic of China is doing in the Asia Pacific region. And I would like to know if you think your colleagues on the Democratic side will follow that up by helping you get the U.S. Navy built that is necessary to assure the stability that you call for in this resolution.

MR: Well look, the verbal commitment and the written commitment is important, but it doesn’t mean anything if you won’t have the wherewithal to enforce it. now let me explain why this matters. People may say why do we care. Here’s why we care. 50% of global commerce goes through the South China Sea and the East China Sea in the Pacific. Our economy is deeply dependent, we’re 6% of the world’s population. So the way we grow our economy is being able to sell more things to people all over the world. And we take for granted that throughout our lifetime, and especially since the end of the Second World War, there has been freedom of navigation in the international waters because of the U.S. Navy. And traditionally, you didn’t have freedom of navigation on Earth. You had to either elude pirates, or you had countries that would torpedo your merchant ships if you didn’t pay tribute to them. That’s all changed in the last 70 years, and it’s allowed the economy to grow and free enterprise to prosper. What China’s now saying is they own large swathes of the most important shipping lanes on Earth, and they’re beginning to act on it. They have installed, for example, an oil rig in Vietnamese waters. They continue to threaten to invade an island, a rock formation that the Philippines claim. They have an issue regarding the Senkaku Islands in Japan. And so the U.S. Navy doesn’t have the wherewithal to continue to provide the security necessary to allow global navigation in the high seas. Then these words are hollow. So it is interesting in terms of how this administration has continued to hollow out our military capability, because it has dramatic long term impact on our economy.

HH: Now you have Mayport Naval Station in your state, and of course, you know the Navy pretty doggone well as a result. They’re now throwing doubt on whether or not they’re going to replace the Ohio class nuclear submarine.

MR: Yeah.

HH: I mean, that came out this week. And so do you think that when, if the Senate is retaken by Republicans, Defense spending will rise in the next budget?

MR: Yeah, but I think the key to being able to have the money to spend on Defense is twofold. One, you have to have an economy that’s generating growth, and the growth leads to revenue without having to raise tax rates, which would depress revenue. And the other thing that it has to do is you’ve got to bring your spending under control, the drivers of your debt, and that means a serious effort to reform the long term stability of Medicare and Social Security. Those programs, if we want to save them, we need to reform them. And if we don’t, then we won’t have the funds available to spend on our primary obligation of the federal government, our national defense.

HH: I’ll be right back with United States Senator Marco Rubio on LeBron Day.

— – – – –

HH: Senator Rubio, I forgot to mention in the first segment when we were talking about LeBron that you ought not, that you were very gracious, but you should know that your Miami Dolphins took from Warren, Ohio, Paul Warfield.

MR: Yeah.

HH: He was born, raised, played for Warren G. Harding football. And so actually, everything that’s been achieved in Miami sports, every championship, depends upon Akron, Warren or Northeastern Ohio.

MR: Well, I thought Don Shula was from Ohio.

HH: He is, and so…

MR: But it’s interesting they only find success when they come to Florida, so…

HH: Okay, let’s go back to the serious stuff, back to Asia, in fact. Robert Kaplan, who wrote Asia’s Cauldron, talked a lot about these issues you raised. This week, Japan, last week, Japan reinterpreted its constitution to allow for more aggressive military actions. It caused great consternation among the Chinese. I’ve debated it with a number of foreign policy intellectuals this week. I’m happy about it, because I want someone to pick up the slack. What do you think about it, though?

MR: Yeah, it’s a positive step. First of all, what they did is at the end of World War II, with the experience they had there, the [Japanese] made a decision that they didn’t want to have an armed forces capable of offensive capabilities. And so they have a very capable armed forces. The don’t call it that. They call it defense forces. But in essence, it is an armed forces, and a very good one, especially their naval capabilities. So let me pain a scenario for you so you understand what’s at play here. Imagine for a moment if a U.S. aircraft carrier is out in the Pacific Ocean and comes under attack. And nearby, there is a Japanese vessel capable of rendering assistance. Under the current Japanese law, as traditionally interpreted, the Japanese could not come to our defense. They can only react if they are directly attacked themselves. And so what Prime Minister Abe has asked is for that to be redefined to allow them to provide collective self-defense, allowing the Japanese security forces to come to the defense of a partner or an ally like the United States. And that is critically important, and given the increased challenges that we are facing with China’s assertiveness in the region, and even with a North Korean potential contingency. So it’s the right step. I think we are supportive of it. The Japanese have proven to be a reliable and important security partner in the region, capable, and so certainly it’s something I’m supportive of.

HH: Now last week, Sam Tanenhaus was my guest. He wrote a long piece on the reformicons in Washington, D.C., in which you figured prominently. He wrote in there, and then he said on this show, that when he asked to talk to your staff about where you got your ideas from, they said oh, no, you’ll have to go talk to the Senator, and then he sat down and you talked to him. Now you don’t have a single note with you right now. So how long did you talk to Tanenhaus for?

MR: I think we spoke once on the phone and once in person for about 45 minutes, if I recall that interview. Look, conservatism has always been about reform. It’s always been about applying…what is conservatism? Conservatism is about conserving what we know works by applying the principles that we believe in of limited government and free enterprise to the unique and evolving challenges of our time. So when you applied those principles in the 1980s, the world looked a they have a very capable armed forces. The don’t call it that. They call it defense forces. But in essence, it is an armed forces, and a very good one, especially their naval capabilities. So let me pain a scenario for you so you understand what’s at play here. Imagine for a moment if a U.S. aircraft carrier is out in the Pacific Ocean and comes under attack. And nearby, there is a Japanese vessel capable of rendering assistance. Under the current Japanese law, as traditionally interpreted, the Japanese could not come to our defense. They can only react if they are directly attacked themselves. And so what Prime Minister Abe has asked is for that to be redefined to allow them to provide collective self-defense, allowing the Japanese security forces to come to the defense of a partner or an ally like the United States. And that is critically important, and given the increased challenges that we are facing with China’s assertiveness in the region, and even with a North Korean potential contingency. So it’s the right step. I think we are supportive of it. The Japanese have proven to be a reliable and important security partner in the region, capable, and so certainly it’s something I’m supportive of.

HH: Now last week, Sam Tanenhaus was my guest. He wrote a long piece on the reformicons in Washington, D.C., in which you figured prominently. He wrote in there, and then he said on this show, that when he asked to talk to your staff about where you got your ideas from, they said oh, no, you’ll have to go talk to the Senator, and then he sat down and you talked to him. Now you don’t have a single note with you right now. So how long did you talk to Tanenhaus for?

MR: I think we spoke once on the phone and once in person for about 45 minutes, if I recall that interview. Look, conservatism has always been about reform. It’s always been about applying…what is conservatism? Conservatism is about conserving what we know works by applying the principles that we believe in of limited government and free enterprise to the unique and evolving challenges of our time. So when you applied those principles in the 1980s, the world looked a certain way. Inflation was rampant, we had very little economic growth, we had tax rates that were exorbitant with the high rates in the 70s, and maybe even higher. And that’s how, that’s what conservatism meant. In the 21st Century, it’s my opinion that reform conservatism, which is a term that’s being thrown around, it simply means applying the same principles with the 21st Century challenges. What are 21st Century challenges? The economy has rapidly changed. America is no longer the only, it’s no longer one of a handful of developed economies on the planet. We are in intense competition for investment. We have to have a tax code, especially on the business side, that does not place us at a competitive disadvantage. And right now, if you talk to American businesses, they will tell you they are disadvantaged being American-based companies.

HH: Sure, they can’t bring their money home.

MR: Well, not only that, our corporate tax rate is the highest, when you combine it…

HH: Right.

MR: …of all the industrialized countries. So that’s why you’re seeing, for example, pharmaceuticals leaving the U.S. And many companies will tell you the only, it is a disadvantage for us to be an American company in America because of the tax code. The other thing is innovation. We still lead the world in innovation, but our edge is slipping. And that’s in interesting one. That’s because runaway regulations are very difficult for innovators to comply with. But here’s the part that isn’t talked about enough. Often times, big business, established corporations, they love big regulations, because they use it to prevent a competitor from entering the marketplace. So if I’m a big business with a bunch of lawyers and lobbyists, I may not necessarily philosophically agree with a lot of regs, but I like them, because I know that the guy trying to compete with me out of the spare bedroom of his home can’t do it, because he can’t comply with all those things. So reform conservatism, first and foremost, is about economic growth driven by having a competitive economic climate. The second part of it is we are not, we don’t have enough people accessing the better paying jobs of the 21st Century. You know, there used to be a time in this country where you could make it to the middle class like my parents did as a bartender and a maid. That’s getting harder and harder to do. You need higher education of some form. It doesn’t have to be, but the only form we have right now is a stale, broken, outdated model, that you graduate high school, you sit in classrooms for four years, you borrow a bunch of money to pay a university. They have no competition. They are a cartel. They control who gets accredited, and who doesn’t. And meanwhile, you’ve got people borrowing money for degrees that don’t lead to jobs. You’ve got 35 year old single moms who have to work full time and raise a family who have no way of going back to school.

HH: And you’re not confident…

MR: And those programs…

HH: …Common Core will fix all this?

MR: (laughing) Well, Common Core is actually even at the K-12 level, and that’s basically saying that we’re going to create these standards for the country, and you’re going to have to comply with it without, and now we’ve lost what I think is one of the competitive edges that our states have, and that is the ability to create curriculum at the state and local level. And by the way, the competition that that insinuates, because now, states, you know, when it’s state driven, now states have a reason to have a better curriculum than the other states, because it’s one of the things that attracts people there. By the other thing, the other thing about K-12 education is we need to stop stigmatizing vocational training.

HH: Right.

MR: We have a shortage in this country of all sorts of professions, and somehow, at some point in our culture, we’ve decided that if you’re a welder, that means you’re dumb or something, and that’s absurd. Those are important jobs, and there’s no reason why we aren’t graduating more kids from high school ready to go to work in good-paying professions such as those.

HH: Well, to go back to the reformicon article, all of those wonderful thinkers with whom you’re familiar, and about whom Sam Tanenhaus wrote, none of them were Defense intellectuals. In the rise of Reagan, from ’76-’80, the party and the conservative movement had a number of people who were writing about and serious about Defense. For example, in Burma, which Hillary Clinton has many pages devoted to in her memoir, there is a persecuted Muslim minority, and it requires a very complicated, sophisticated touch on what to do in Burma. Is the party, is the movement, does your staff have a commitment to Reagan-like Defense era strength?

MR: Yeah, well, first of all, we spend, just personally, given the role that I have on both Foreign Relations and the Intelligence Committee, spend a lot of time on those issues. And of course, Florida has a huge national security presence in Air Force, Navy and a little bit of Army. So we care a lot about these issues. Second, I think it’s the predominant obligation of the federal government is to keep us safe. The third point I would make is that our challenges in the 21st Century are different than the 20th in that realm as well. The 20th Century, particularly the second half of the 20th Century, was basically a Defense challenged vis-à-vis the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the Cold War. In the 21st Century, the challenges are much more diffuse. It is radical Islam that has, even in the last ten years, developed into something very different than it was. It’s no longer just al Qaeda. Now you’ve got this new ISIL group that’s actually trying to establish a state, a caliphate to challenge us from. It’s a Shi’a alternative to that in Iran that wants to become a nuclear weapon and a regional hegemon. It is China’s ambitions. It is Russia trying to reconstitute in some way the former Soviet Union, at least economically, and potentially militarily in the former Soviet republics. So multiple challenges.

HH: And after we come back from break, we’ll talk about whether or not conservatism cares about that anymore, because there is a strain that says time to retreat and pull in our heads, or perhaps put them in the sand.

— – – —

HH: I am getting to spend the day in Florida with one of the major voices in American foreign policy, Senator Marco Rubio, also potentially a candidate for president in 2016. If not, okay, he’ll be running for the Senate again in this state. I’m not going to ask him again. I asked him before. He said his decision won’t come until after November, so I won’t bore people with that. But I want to talk about…

MR: But I’ll announce it on Sports Illustrated like LeBron did.

HH: They’ll take it, actually. You’re such a Miami Dolphins nut, they might actually let you do that, if you do it with the Dolphins standing around you. We were talking before the break about the Republican Party and isolationism. And people in our party who are isolationists don’t like to be called that. And I actually don’t think your colleague, Senator Rand Paul, is an isolationist. But there are a lot of isolationists who are giving him advice, and who are at Cato, etc. what are we going to do about this?

MR: Well, first of all, what’s, so the notion most Americans have, in a perfect world, right, I share this view. I wish every country would handle their business, and we could focus on stuff here at home, and we would interact with other countries in economic trade that was fair to both sides, and we would all be, wow, that’s the perfect world, and that’s what we would all want. That’s not the world we have. The truth is that foreign policy has never mattered more. Foreign policy used to matter, because one country threatened to invade another. That’s still and issue, I suppose, in many parts of the world. Foreign policy now also matters economically. We no longer operate in a domestic economy. A lot of our economic activity is dependent on our ability to sell to people outside of the United States. As I said, we’re only 6% of the world’s population. We’re a third or more of its economy, but we’re only 6% of the world’s population. The only way we’re ever going to be able to sell more things and make more money is to sell to more people. And that involves there being stability and security in other marketplaces around the world, so there are people to sell to. You know, it’s tough to open a car dealership right now in Iraq, right, because it’s an unstable place. And that’s just one example. So my point is that that’s why foreign policy matters. The U.S. has a direct economic interest in there being stability around the world. And in the absence of American leadership, there is no other entity or organization or nation that is capable of sustaining global leadership. The result is chaos, and we’re seeing it play out all over the world. And the other aspect is our direct security. So that’s why what’s happening in Iraq matters. That group in Iraq wants to drive America out of the Middle East so they can dominate the Middle East. And the way they intend to drive us out of the Middle East is to terrorize us, not just by blowing up embassies, but by blowing up airplanes and buildings in America. And we either deal with them now when they are not as strong, or we’re going to deal with them in a few years when they’re going to be a lot harder to deal with.

HH: The response from some in the Republican Party is that had the Bush doctrine, which held that if you’re a terrorism-sponsoring state with weapons of mass destruction, we would do what we could, including invade to make sure that you didn’t injure America, that that doctrine, in fact, made the problem worse. Do you think it did?

MR: I don’t think that. It’s a simplistic criticism. There’s no perfect answers in foreign policy. Often times in foreign policy, you are left between two less than ideal choices. But if you want to speculate for a moment, and we don’t know, but if Saddam Hussein was still in Iraq, you may not have an ISIL. You might. We don’t know if Saddam Hussein would have gone the way of the Arab Spring. We don’t know what would have happened, because he didn’t, he wasn’t exactly a popular guy. I mean, he could very well have himself been vulnerable to what happened in Egypt or in Libya. But beyond it, you wouldn’t just have Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon now. You’d have Iran and Iraq, because there was no way there was going to be an Iranian bomb without an Iraqi bomb. So you could potentially have not one, but two countries chasing towards a nuclear weapon in the way it happened with Pakistan and India. So we don’t know, but I can just say that I think the world’s a better place without Saddam Hussein in power. Now the result in Iraq has been a mess, because they have deep divisions between Shi’a and Sunni and so forth.

HH: And we did not keep our status of forces agreement, either.

MR: Well, I mean, that contributed to it, there’s no doubt. But look, what we have learned, here’s a lesson we have learned. When there are vast, ungoverned spaces, terrorists step into that, whether it’s in Libya or Afghanistan before 9/11, or Iraq and Syria now. Terrorists and terrorist organizations with ambitions to strike the homeland of the United States need a place to operate from where they are safe. And if you provide them these havens, whether it’s Iraq or in Syria, you will get hit. It’s just a matter of time. And it’s not a question of if, but when. And the more, you know, I think that what ISIL is trying to set up in Iraq is even more dangerous than what al Qaeda had in Afghanistan before 9/11.

HH: Now if Senator Clinton goes through and runs, and either you or another Republican are challenging her, do you fear foreign policy? She is…

MR: No, I would ask her the question I would ask her now, and that is you were the secretary of State during the first four years of the Obama administration. Name one significant foreign policy achievement now or after you left.

HH: She’d say Burma…

MR: Well, that’s…

HH: Nicholas Kristof said there’s a genocide going on in Burma.

MR: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think Burma could be held up as a place where great progress has been made. And quite frankly, geopolitically speaking, it’s, I suppose if it works out, it’s a good news story, but how does that compare to some of the major challenges? The reset with Russia has been a disaster. The Middle East is more unstable today than it’s been in I don’t know when, but certainly, and that’s saying a lot. Our relationships in Latin America and democracy has deteriorated in Latin America. The Chinese are increasingly aggressive. Our partners around the world view us as less reliable. Where is there one thing they’ve done successfully?

HH: Agreed. Could you beat her, 10 seconds?

MR: I think, and multiple people could beat her. Hillary Clinton’s not unbeatable. On the contrary.

— – — –

HH: Even as we do this, in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, in Jerusalem, people have to worry about missiles falling from the sky launched from Gaza. Our President finally called Benjamin Netanyahu after everyone else in the world had, and he urged, of course, restraint, or so some press reports say. Senator, you’ve been to Israel, right?

MR: Two times in the last two years.

HH: Okay, you know how small it is.

MR: Yeah.

HH: So this war basically is involving them all. What do you think ought to be our response at this point?

MR: First, let’s not, first, we can’t view the Israeli situation in a vacuum. We’ve got to view it in its totality. If you are Israel, you’re looking around the region, and here’s what you see. Lebanon is, you know, ungoverned and difficult as it’s ever been. Syria is a country where, and not only does Assad hate you, but then Assad is also fighting against rebel groups, some of which also hate you. These rebel groups are also fighting against each other. Iraq, enough said. Jordan is threatened by what’s happening in Iraq. Egypt has just gone through great tumult. And on top of everything else, your most important ally on the planet is actively and openly negotiating a deal with Iran, who has said they want to eviscerate you. Your most important ally in the world is negotiating a deal with them to allow them to retain the ability to enrich uranium and reprocess plutonium. Within that backdrop, they now face this challenge. And here’s the challenge that’s happening with regards to this that I think is so important and hasn’t been pointed to enough. This is not just, so I think Hamas is always looking for ways to provoke instances with Israel, and certainly they did with this unity government announcement. And then you had this horrible case of the three teenagers that were murdered, and so forth. But this now has spiraled to a level where you know, it is now, I think, questionable how this all ends, because the Israelis have an obligation to their population to do anything they must to prevent this from continuing. And if in fact you see a ground operation in Gaza, if in fact you see a significant uptick in these attacks, again, to wipe out their missile capabilities, it could trigger an all-out war in a region that’s already very unstable. And we don’t know how that winds up. I can tell you this. The more it is viewed in that region that there is a space between the United States and Israel, the less secure Israel is, and the more Israel’s enemies are invited or tempted to be more aggressive in their response.

HH: Do you think President Obama has created that space?

MR: There’s no doubt. There’s no doubt in my mind, and I think if they were being undiplomatic, Israelis would say that. And people who are honest about it as well would say that. And I think that’s important. You know, we have to understand that in that part of the world, especially, sometimes the language of Western diplomacy and appeasement is viewed as weakness and an invitation to further aggressiveness. There’s no doubt about it.

HH: And I think it’s worked that way in Ukraine as well with Putin. I think he believes this president is weak.

MR: Well, there’s no doubt that’s true there, but that’s even more pronounced in the Middle East times ten. And so when you have this unity government announced between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and our law says that that should immediately lead to a cut off of funding and it doesn’t happen, the message it sends back is you know, the U.S., really, we have a lot more space to work with here than we would have under another administration, or a traditional American leadership. And I do think that has impact on how the space that these groups think they have in terms of what they do against Israel.

HH: Now I want to switch to our southern neighbors. Mexico, our Central American friends, and even down to Venezuela where there is enormous instability, and this is presently manifesting itself in this horrific humanitarian crisis of children, the children’s crusade is what it is. They are marching to America by the thousands. They are being exploited, many have been murdered, some are missing, they’re all paying coyotes. Has the President’s response been adequate?

MR: No, and in fact, this has been building for years and they haven’t responded. Let me take you back to I believe it was 2012. It might have been earlier. He flies down to the border in El Paso. He holds a press conference where he announces the border is secure, and anyone who says it’s not is just playing politics. You know, these Republicans, the next thing you’re going to want, they’re going to want to build a moat, then they’re going to want to put alligators in the moat. And that’s how they basically mocked anyone who challenged them on the notion that the border was secure. Now you fast forward to where we are today. A combination of the poverty and the violence in that region combined with laws or the way the laws are applied in the United States have allowed these transnational trafficking groups to go particularly to rural areas of Honduras, but also El Salvador and Guatemala, and say to people there’s a law in America that if you get there by August of 2014, you’re going to get to stay. And that now has invited, and tempted people, to make that journey, or to send their children on that journey. In some instances, it’s parents sending their kids away from that desperation. In some instances, it’s kids looking to be reunited with their parents who are already here. The law is very clear, and that is that they are not allowed to stay. But in practice, if you look at the figures, if an unaccompanied minor makes it to the United States from these countries, their chances of being returned are virtually nil. So in fact, while the law in writing may not be that, in practice, it has been that. And that has created even a greater magnet. So my view of it is that no matter where you stand on immigration reform, and my record is understood on this, but wherever you stand on this issue, the first step in this process must be the securing of our border. And if we’re going to deal with this issue now, if you’re going to throw $3.7 billion dollars at this problem, let’s just not deal with this problem. Let’s go ahead and deal with the border. Otherwise you’re going to take care of, you know, and send back 90,000 kids or whatever. This is going to happen all over again.

HH: You told me before the immigration debate began, on air and off, that you supported fencing. And I believe fencing is the outward expression of an inward resolve to secure that border. And $3.7 billion could build a lot of fencing. But I don’t see this president wanting to do anything.

MR: And I do support particularly strategic fencing in current places that they don’t already have. And we know what works, because there are sectors of the border, there are areas of the border that are secure, because they’ve put these things in place. But it’s not just fencing. There’s all sorts of technologies we didn’t even have ten years ago that we could use for security. It’s also more agents and more resources on a human front. But it’s also interior enforcement. It’s having an e-verify system where you can verify the status of the people that are being hired, so you can shut off the work magnet. It’s the fact that 40% of our illegal immigrants entered legally. People don’t realize this. 40% of the people in this country illegally came here legally. They had a visa. They landed. And then they stayed. They never left. And we have no way of tracking them, because we don’t have a system that reliably does it. We have to do all of that. And that should be the first step. And if you do that, I honestly believe this. I just do. If you do that, I think then you will have the votes and the political space to modernize our system, and eventually, once that problem is under control, to responsibly deal with those who are already here. But you’re never going to get to that until you deal with that first.

HH: We only have a minute, and then we come back for our last short segment. But your parents fled Cuba, came here from Cuba, and obviously these kids have fled. And then we had the boat lift during the Carter years, the terrible thing. I don’t see us sending back these kids, but I don’t see us fixing the flow, either. Is the President going to do anything?

MR: Well, first of all, there are a couple of things. If you talk about the Cuban situation or even Mariel…

HH: Mariel, yeah.

MR: Some were returned. Some were returned, because they were mental patients, or they were common criminals out of their jails. Many were not. But the difference is the country that sent them was not a country we had a relationship with. These countries – El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras are supposedly allies of the United States that we have relationships with. Our ability to return people there is open, and I will tell you, if we don’t send them back, there’ll be another 90,000 more.

— – – – –

HH: You may not know it. It may have escaped your attention, but LeBron James is coming back to Cleveland, bringing with him four years of guaranteed rings, along with Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett and just an extraordinary, Andy V., all those guys. But they are going to be messing up a little bit the convention that’s coming there. I’m sitting here with Senator Marco Rubio in his home state of Florida. We got the convention in Cleveland. You’re going to love Pickwick and Frolic. Make your reservation right now on E. 4th Street. You’re going to love Cleveland Browns stadium. You’ve probably never seen a stadium that gorgeous. You’re going to love Progressive Field. You’re going to love everything. But the question is, are you going to be giving another great speech in support of a candidate, or are you going to be the nominee?

MR: First of all, why is it called Progressive Field?

HH: Because it’s owned by Progressive…naming rights, Progressive Insurance.

MR: (laughing) Oh, okay, I see. The second point, I just, I’m curious, how many games has your coach ever coached in the NBA?

HH: Well, he is a, he won at the Maccabees. He won all over Europe.

MR: Oh, I see.

HH: And David Blatt is an extraordinary, gifted, just a tremendous…

MR: I thought he was a magician, David Blaine.

HH: (laughing)

MR: All right, so anyway, just to go back, I don’t know what my role will be. We’ll see what the future holds. And look, I’ll tell you this. I honestly believe that this country has two very dramatic choices before it. It will either have another American century that will be even better than the 20th, or we will be responsible for a steady decline of our country, and we’ll be the first generation to leave our children worse off than ourselves. There’s no in between for me. It’s either one or the other. And the decision I will have to make here at the end of this year is how do I, where can I best propose and promote and implement the policies our country needs to make sure we have another American century.

HH: You’re awfully good at this, meaning communicating. Are you pleased with the Priebus reform that they’re going to hold 8-10 RNC-sponsored debated moderated by sometimes conservatives like me, and sometimes MSM, and sometimes public intellectuals like Ryan Anderson and others who speak to conservative ideals? Are you happy with those reforms, because they will limit the number of debates, but they will organize them in a way that they will be productive for the country.

MR: Right, I’m not overly concerned about limiting the number. I think that’s, you know, eight debates is a lot of debates, or ten debates is a lot of debates. I think what’s important is the quality. Do you get to, are your candidates being tested? That’s the first thing you want to see, because you do want candidates that are tested and proven, and the campaign helps you get there. Second, are they creating the opportunity for someone that maybe hasn’t raised a billion dollars or whatever to be able to get their message out? And I think you can in a setting of that nature. And the third, I would say, about it is I think they’ll actually be more heavily watched, because when there’s a debate every other night, people start tuning them out unless there’s a gaffe. But if the debates are only a handful, then they become much more meaningful. I think they’ll have higher audiences and higher ratings, and more people will see it. And these debates aren’t just an opportunity to win the primary. They begin to lay the groundwork for a general election success not just for the candidate, but for the party as a movement, so that people look at the Republican Party and say that is the movement that knows what people like me are going through, and have real answers that will actually work, not just this disaster that we’ve face for seven, eight years.

HH: That campaign’s going to begin in Cleveland, and I hope when you’re there, Senator, you’ll come down to Warren to the world famous Hot Dog Shoppe, where Paul Ryan began his campaign when he was named vice president. The second day, he went to Warren and went to the Hot Dog Shoppe. I’ll show you around there, and show you around all over Northeastern Ohio. You’re going to like it. You can even reunite and say hello to LeBron James again. Bring your kids to the convention and see him play and win the NBA championship there. Have a great visit, Senator, it’s great to talk to you on your home turf in your wonderful state of Florida.

MR: Thanks for having me.

End of interview.


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