Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul scored points with their respective supporters during their brief but spirited exchange over military spending in Tuesday evening’s debate.
Paul scolded Rubio for his profligate ways. “How is it conservative,” Paul asked, “to add a trillion dollars in military expenditures? You cannot be a conservative if you’re going to keep promoting new programs that you’re not going to pay for.”
Paul’s approach appealed to Katherine Timpf at National Review Online, who called it “refreshingly logical and level-headed.” The American Conservative’s Dan McCarthy praised Paul’s brand of “conservative realism.”
Rubio, for his part, called Paul “a committed isolationist.” “The world is a safer place,” Rubio explained, “when America is the strongest military power in the world.” As sound bites go, Rubio scored. But the statement conflates the safety of the entire world with the safety of the American people. And his claim that vast increases in military spending are needed to make the U.S. military the strongest in the world imply, falsely, that it is not already.
As I and others have noted elsewhere on numerous occasions, Rubio’s name-calling reveals the shallowness of his understanding of history and world politics. Defenders of the status quo can be counted on to shout the “isolationist” epithet whenever they want to discredit any challenges to it. Despite his relative youth, Rubio has adopted the foreign policy of men nearly twice his age. He seems blissfully unaware even of recent history. His campaign slogan calls for “A New American Century.” Sound familiar?