Fut the whuck? On Sunday’s edition of Fox News Sunday, Senator and Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubiocommitted the kind of gaffe that would ordinarily dominate a news cycle, but because he isn’t Donald Trump and didn’t go balls-out racist/Islamophobe, nobody seems to have noticed. In an interview with host Chris Wallace, Rubio intimated that while he’s obviously not happy about the terrorist attacks in Paris, they did carry with them a “positive development” that went beyond the inherent “political advantage” he believes they confer (emphasis mine):
WALLACE: Senator, do you think that your foreign policy credentials are giving you a boost with voters as they focus more on choosing a commander in chief with all of these terror attacks?
RUBIO: Well, on these polls, obviously, you want good news, not bad news. But we’ve not gotten too excited or too depressed about them. They’re going to fluctuate between now and Election Day, especially in early states where voters wait until the last week, the last day oftentimes to make their decision.
As far as national security, let me just say, I obviously am not happy about the events from last week in Paris, but I think it’s a positive development that it suddenly has cast — forced Americans to confront more carefully the issue of national security, because it is the most important thing a president will do and that is the most important function of the federal government.
And I hope we focus on that more, not just for political advantage, but because the world has become a very dangerous place.
Almost as amazing as Rubio’s blunt declarations is the fact that no one seems to have noticed them, at least not on television news. While the comments have gotten some play online, a transcript search conducted Tuesday found precisely zero references to Rubio’s remarks anywhere on TV. It’s amazing, but not surprising, since TV news can barely manage to cover two crazy-racist Donald Trump statements at the same time.
Rubio is correct that the Paris attacks have shifted the focus of the presidential race, but can you imagine if Hillary Clinton had called them a “political advantage?” The press would be so far up her ass, they’d be doing panel hits from her small intestines.
Where he’s wrong, though, is in to whom those political benefits accrue. It’s true that Americans often reflexively gravitate toward Republicans in times of national security crises, but they don’t gravitate toward just any Republican. Rubio got a nice bum in the polls after the last debate, but the most recent polls have shown that if anything, the Paris attacks have strengthened Donald “I’ll bomb the shit out of ISIS” Trump, and weakened Ben Carson, whose whispery, blinky brand of cray is tough to hold onto in the cold, dark night. In the polls taken since the attacks, Rubio has barely moved.
But the most likely long-term beneficiary of whatever “political advantage” there is to be had is Hillary Clinton, who delivered a convincingly hawkish national security address last week, while also retaining a credible resumé on the issue that none of the Republican candidates can match. In the short term, Hillary’s break with President Obama on Syria policy might hurt her a little with some primary voters, but in a general election, she’ll benefit from her combination of credibility and credentials.
The only question will be whether the Republican nominee, likely Trump, can benefit more from the focus on terrorism by sheer blunt force. One thing’s for sure, though, and that is that we sure won’t be talking about Marco Rubio’s national security bona fides in September.