Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) used his father’s cancer diagnosis to stress his belief in an active American foreign policy agenda during the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday.
He recalled for those in attendance how on the day of his U.S. Senate primary victory back in 2010, his father was fully dressed in his wheelchair and ready to go celebrate at the victory party that night.
“Why was that so important for him? The normal answer is, ‘That’s your dad, he was proud of what you achieved,’” Rubio said. “But I realized it was so much more. You see my dad at 9 years of age, his mother died and had to go to work and worked for 70 years. He struggled, he never made a lot of money, he was never rich, he was never famous, and I’m sure in his most darkest and most discouraging days, he wondered what his life was all about. You know what gave his life purpose and meaning? Seeing us do all the things he never could.”
Rubio has been working on cementing his foreign policy credentials in recent months in advance of a possible 2016 presidential bid. He presented the crowd with two possible paths America can take: one with dangerous tyrants and one where America reestablishes its position as an international leader.
He also spoke cautiously about a number of different problem spots abroad, including China’s recent territorial claims, North Korea’s missile developments, the Venezuelan protests, Cuba, Iran’s nuclear program, the growth of al-Qaeda and the recent Ukraine-Russia crisis. Rubio pointed out how all of these countries share one commonality – that they’re all run by totalitarian governments.
“Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace. But he never accepted the Soviet Union. He called them what they were. An Evil Empire. He never relinquished the moral arguments,” Rubio said, stressing the need for an active – not passive – foreign policy agenda.
The Florida senator also blamed the Obama administration’s moral relativism in foreign policy for the lack of progress and recent turbulence in the international community. He was cautious about being labeled as a war hawk or an interventionist, stressing instead the difference between America having a leading role in international affairs and the criticized nation building policies of the Bush administration.
“What I advocate to you on both of these fronts is that America must be involved in leading the world,” he said. “Not in dictating, we don’t want that role. Americans have never wanted the role of telling other people what to do.”
The potential 2016 presidential candidate also remained confident that America had all of the natural resources and the strong labor force to maintain being a global economic power and make the world a better place. He made it clear, however, that with these blessings came international threats that could hinder future economic security.
“If you think high taxes and regulations are bad for our economy, so is global instability and the spread of totalitarianism,” he said. “If you think Obamacare is hurting our economy. It is. So is China controlling the South China Sea if in fact they ever get the ability to do that.”