Safety, above everything else.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Marco Rubio's Scary New Future

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
Read More.
a | A

Marco Rubio's presidential campaign slogan is now “NOTHING MATTERS IF WE'RE NOT SAFE,” with “safe” in giant-size letters. For Rubio, “The world has never been more dangerous than it is today.”

A couple of good retorts:

Rubio is trying to run as the foreign-policy candidate. Yet he claims “the world has never been more dangerous than it is today,” which isn't remotely close to being true. Granted, the Florida senator’s other big campaign theme (intended, presumably, as a slap at Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and all other candidates older than him) is that the 20th century is over. But presumably that doesn’t mean everyone should forget the Nazis and Communists. Does it?

Besides, "safe" as a foreign-policy goal -- one so important that "nothing matters" without it -- is bizarre. Taken seriously, it suggests that other U.S. values and interests should always be sacrificed if they are even slightly in conflict with safety. 

Perhaps this is nothing more than Rubio's pitch to the people he needs to win the Republican nomination, and their standards for what counts as “serious” on foreign policy are even less demanding then they used to be.   

Back in the not-to-be-spoken-of 20th century, politicians would prove their bona fides on national security by talking about “throw-weights” and other technical arcana. By 2000, candidate George W. Bush showed he was ready for the presidency by trying to pronounce as many obscure foreign names as possible. 

To be fair, we can't ask for much in a campaign slogan, and Rubio included more detail in a foreign-policy address last week. Still, it would be more reassuring if a candidate who wants to be considered especially capable and level-headed on these issues hadn't resorted to simple and simplistic fear-mongering.    

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net