Marco Rubio's Foreign Policy Vision

A Conversation With Marco Rubio

Speaker:
Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator from Florida (R);
Candidate, 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination

Presider:
Charlie Rose

Host and Executive Editor, Charlie Rose; Coanchor, CBS This Morning, CBS News

Description

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, joins CBS News' Charlie Rose to outline his foreign policy views. Rubio offers a vision of U.S. foreign policy resting on "three pillars": preserving U.S. strength, protecting the U.S. economy, and maintaining clarity on U.S. values. Over the course of the conversation, Rubio discusses ongoing areas of interest for U.S. foreign policy, including the Islamic State group's rise in the Middle East, the crisis in Ukraine, the Syrian Civil War, the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, China's assertiveness in the South China Sea, and the threat of global terrorism. Rubio additionally offers an assessment of U.S.-Cuba relations, criticizing the Obama administration's initiative to normalize relations with the Castro government.

Audio
Transcript

HAASS: Well good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. I'm Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. And I and we are pleased to have with us today the Presidential Candidate and Senator from the state of Florida, Marco Rubio, and a conversation with Charlie Rose.

The Council on Foreign Relations has welcomed presidential candidates in previous cycles, but as the senator is the first candidate the CFR has hosted this political season, I wanted to take just a moment to talk about how we will approach the 2016 election.

As this group knows as well, or better than anyone, this election comes at a critical moment for both the country, and the world. This summer, we will mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and it is clear that the world order, that many hope would emerge in the aftermath of the unprecedented international effort led by the United States has not materialized.

It is also clear that there's little consensus in this country about the lessons of subsequent U.S. interventions in the greater region, and about the U.S. role in the world more generally. This then is the context in which foreign policy choices will be debated in the run up to November 2016. What I want to underscore is that the Council on Foreign Relations is dedicated to being a fair, and responsible resource for candidates and voters alike this election season.

We take our independent, non-partisan tradition seriously. We hope the candidates for president, and other offices will consider the Council as a both a speaking venue, and as a source of analysis on the full range of foreign policy issues. The declared candidates, Democratic, and Republican alike, have been invited to speak here, as will those who declare in the future.

Between our scholars and members, the Council has a deep bunch of experts focusing on the most pressing international security issues of the day. And voters too should think of the council in seeking a better understanding of the world and this countries roll in it. Later this fall our website, CFR.org will launch its special coverage of the presidential campaign, as we have done for campaigns in the past. And this special coverage will feature videos, written analysis, and regular updates so that visitors can better understand the most consequential issues, as well as review the candidates—as well as review and compare the candidates positions.

And the political discourse will, as always, be documented in the pages of our magazine, Foreign Affairs, and on ForeignAffairs.com, which looks forward to running articles by, and interviews with, the major candidates.

With that, I will turn it over to Charlie Rose who will introduce Senator Rubio. The Senator will then make opening remarks, after which he will take questions, first from Charlie, and then from you, our members.

ROSE: Thank you. First of all, it's an honor to be back at the Council, and see the members here. Senator Rubio has had an extraordinary political career, as all of you know, and I'll make that brief. After serving in the Florida state legislature, and Speaker, he was, at that time, closely identified with Governor Bush, and has been a great friend of Governor Bush, and now they are competitors.

I take note of the fact that the Senator has been in a number of instances reaching out to share his views on a variety of issues, especially on foreign policy, not just in the United States, but in Europe and in other places. So, it's—I'm honored to be here to introduce you him—introduce you to him, and do have him introduce the views that he holds because many people believe that this election, in 2016, will be to a large part about foreign policy.

Always, elections are about economics, and how people feel about their well being, and whether the country's on the right track or note, but foreign policy seems to be one more relevant in this election. So, with that, Senator Mark Rubio—Marco Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you.

It is an honor to be back at the Council on Foreign Relations, and I—appreciate very much the opportunity to address you here today. So, I wanted to begin my remarks here today by quoting from the closing of another set of remarks—from a speech that I believe echoes across history due to its proximity to tragedy, but that stands more importantly, more powerfully, as a testament to the bi-partisan tradition of strong American leadership.

On the morning of November 22nd, on 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke at a Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce event, and he spoke on the need for a strong and active America. Here's what he said, he ended with this, quote, "I am confident, as I look to the future, that our chances for security, our chances for peace, are better than they have been in the past, and the reason is because we are stronger, and with that strength is a determination to not only maintain the peace, but also, the vital peace of the United States. To that great cause, Texas and the United States are committed." End Quote.

Those were the final words of the final speech that President Kennedy ever delivered, but the commitment to American strength he spoke lived on long after he—across decades, across parties. Eventually bringing about the conclusion of the Cold War, and the emergence of America as the world's sole super power.

President Kennedy, like most presidents before, and since, understood what I believe our current President does not. That American strength as a means of preventing war, not promoting it, and that weakness on the other hand, is the friend of danger, and the enemy of peace.

Since the end of the Cold War, the threats facing America have changed, but the need for American strength has not. It's only grown more pressing as the world's grown more interconnected. In recent decades, technology has demolished the barriers to travel and to trade—transforming our national economy into a global one. The prosperity of our people now depends on their ability to interact freely, and safely, on the international market place. Turmoil across the world can impact American families almost as much as turmoil across town. It can cause the cost of living to rise, or entire industries to shed jobs, and crumble, and so today, as never before, foreign policy is domestic policy.

Sadly, I believe President Obama often disagrees with that simple truth. He entered office believing America was too hard on our adversaries, too engaged in too many places, but if we only took a step back and did more nation building at home—he enacted hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts that left our Army on track to be at pre-World War Two levels, our Navy at pre-World War One levels, and our Air Force with the smallest and oldest combat force in it's history.

He demonstrated a disregard for our moral purpose that at times flirted with disdain. He criticized America for having arrogance and the audacity to dictate our terms to other nations. From his reset with Russia, to his open hand to Iran, to his unreciprocated opening to Cuba.

He has embraced regimes that systematically oppose every principle our nation has long championed.

The deterioration of our physical and ideological strength has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office. In just the last two years, we've seen an emboldened Russia invade and annex—invade Ukraine and annex Crimea. We've seen ISIS sweep across multiple states, commit brutal atrocities, and attempt to establish a caliphate.

We've seen one of the most devastating humanitarian catastrophes in decades as hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been slaughtered at the whim of a tyrant. We've seen the largest migration of refugees since World War II, bringing instability to an entire region and putting whole generations at risk of radicalization.

We've seen China rapidly expand its military capabilities and take aggressive action in the South and East China Seas. And we've seen North Korea expand its nuclear arsenal and continue its brutal human rights violations. We've seen cyber attacks against our allies and against our people. We've seen peaceful protesters met with violence from their government.

And most threatening of all, we have seen Iran expand its influence throughout the Middle East and threaten to annihilate Israel as it moves closer to a nuclear weapons capability. The president's proposed deal with Iran will likely lead to a cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. And it could force Israel to take bold action to defend itself, making war with Iran even more likely. President Obama's desperation to sign a deal, any deal, has caused him to elevate politics over policy, legacy over leadership, and adversaries over allies.

The likely impact of this deal, along with the broader unraveling of global order, underscore a truth we must never again forget. America plays a part on the world stage for which there is no understudy. When we fail to lead with strength and principle, there is no other country, friend or foe, who is willing or able to take our place.

And the result is chaos. I believe the onus of maintaining American strength lies where the buck stops. It is up to our next president to right the wrongs done by our current one. It is up to our next president to properly fund and modernize our military. It is up to our next president to restore our people's faith in the promise and the power of the American ideal.

We simply cannot afford to elect as our next president one of the leading agents of this administration's foreign policy, a leader from yesterday whose tenure as secretary of state was ineffective at best, and dangerously negligent at worst. The stakes of tomorrow are too high to look to the failed leadership of yesterday.

While America did not intend to become the world's indispensable power, that is exactly what our economic and political freedoms have made us. The free nations of the world still look to America to champion our shared ideals. Vulnerable nations still depend on us to deter aggression from their larger neighbors. And oppressed people still turn their eyes towards our shores wondering if we hear their cries, wondering if we notice their afflictions.

We cannot bring peace and stability on our own. But the world cannot do it without us. And the question before us is not should we lead, but rather, how should we lead in this new century. What principles should govern the exercise of our power in this new era?

The 21st century requires a president who will answer that question with clarity and consistency, one who will set forth a doctrine for the exercise of American influence in the world, and who will adhere to that doctrine with the principled devotion that has marked the bipartisan tradition of presidential leadership from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan.

And today, I intend to offer such a doctrine and in the coming years, I intend to be such a president. My foreign policy consists of three pillars. The first is American strength. This is an idea that stems from a simple truth that the world is at its safest when America is at its strongest. When America has the mightiest Army and Navy and Air Force and Marine Corps and Coast Guard and intelligence community in the world, the result is more peace, not more conflict.

To ensure our strength never falters, we must always plan ahead. It takes forethought to design and many years to build the capabilities we may need at a moment's notice. So to restore American strength, my first priorities will be to adequately fund our military. This would be a priority even in times of peace and stability, though the world is neither peaceful nor stable.

To begin, we need to undo the damage caused by the sequester, which is why I've endorsed the National Defense Panel's recommendation that we return as soon as possible to Secretary Gates's fiscal year 2012 budget baseline. Adequately funding the military will allow us not only to grow our forces, but also to modernize them, which in turn will allow us to remain on the cutting edge in every arena before us—land, sea and air—but also cyberspace and outer space, the battlefields of the 21st century.

By modernizing and innovating, we can ensure that we never send our troops into a fair fight, but rather always equip them with the upper hand. And when they come home, we should be as firmly committed to their well being as they have been to ours.

A strong military also means a strong intelligence community, equipped with all the tools it needs to defend the homeland from extremism both home-grown and foreign-trained. And key to this will be extending section 215 of the Patriot Act. We cannot let politics cloud the importance of this issue. We must never find ourselves looking back after a terrorist attack and saying: We could have done more to save American lives.

Some will argue that with all the fiscal challenges our nation faces, we simply cannot afford to invest in our military. But the truth is, we cannot afford not to invest in it. We must remember that the defense budget is not the primary driver of our debt. And every time we try to cut a dollar from it, it seems to cost us several more just to make up for it. This is because the successes of all of our initiatives depend on the safety of the American people and the stability of the global economy.

Which brings me to my second pillar, which is the protection of the American economy in a globalized world. When America was founded, it took more than 10 weeks to travel to Europe. In the 19th century, the steam engine cut that down to around 12 days. In the 20th century, the airplane cut it to around six hours. And now in the 21st century, you can access global markets in a single second with the tap of your Smart Phone.

Millions of the best jobs in this new century will depend on international trade. It is more important than ever that Congress give the president trade promotion authority so that he can finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. These agreements will (inaudible) in South America and in Europe.

Those such as Secretary Clinton who preach a message of international engagement and smart power, yet are not willing to stand up to special interests and support free trade are either hypocritical or they fail to grasp trade's role as a tool of statecraft that can bolster our relationship with partners and in the process create millions of better-paying American jobs.

As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space. This includes the economic disruptions caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in choke points such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz. Russia, China, Iran or any nation that attempts to block global commerce will know to expect a response from my administration. Gone will be the days of debating where a ship is flagged or whether it's our place to criticize territorial expansionism. In this century, business must have the freedom to operate around the world with confidence.

The third pillar of this doctrine is more clarity regarding America's core values. We must recognize that our nation is a global leader, not simply because it has superior arms, but also because it has superior aims. America is the first power in history motivated by a desire to expand freedom, rather than simply expand its own territory.

In recent years, the ideals that have long formed the backbone of American foreign policy—a passionate defense of human rights, the strong support of democratic principles and the protection of the sovereignty of our allies—these values have been replaced by at best caution, and at worst, an outright willingness to betray those values for the expediency of negotiations with repressive regimes.

This is not just morally wrong. It is contrary to our interests. Because wherever freedom and human rights spread, partners for our nation are born. But whenever foreign policy comes unhinged from its moral purpose, it weakens global stability and forms cracks in our national resolve.

In this century, we must restore America's willingness to think big, to state boldly what we stand for and why it is right. Just as Ronald Reagan never flinched in his criticism of the Soviet Union's political and economic repressions, we must never shy away from demanding that China allow true freedom for its 1.3 billion people. Nor should we hesitate in calling the source of atrocities in the Middle East by its real name—radical Islam.

As president, I will support the spread of economic and political freedom by reinforcing our alliances, resisting efforts by large powers to subjugate their smaller neighbors, maintaining a robust commitment to transparent and effective foreign assistance programs, and advance the rights of the vulnerable, including women and religious minorities who are so often persecuted, so that the afflicted people of this world will know the truth. The American people hear their cries, see their suffering, and most of all, desire their freedom.

These are the three pillars of my doctrine: American strength, the protection of our global economy, and a proud advocacy for America's core values. This approach will restore American leadership to a world badly in need of it. It will reestablish a foreign policy based on strategy and principle, rather than one based on politics and polls; one that is overseen by the White House, not micromanaged by it; and that will restore America's status as a nation that shapes global events, not one that is shaped by them.

I want to allow plenty of time for discussion on how this vision would work in practice, so let me close with one final thought. The president of the United States is often called upon to make difficult decisions in the defense of our nation. And these decisions come with a cost far greater than money. My greatest honor in serving in the U.S. Senate has been to work with our men and women in uniform, our intelligence professionals, our diplomats and our veterans.

I have seen the tremendous sacrifices that they and their families make. But I've also seen the tremendous impact that those sacrifices have had on the world. I've talked to Filipino typhoon survivors who knew—who knew that an American carrier over the horizon meant food and water and survival. I've talked to Japanese and South Koreans who knew an enduring U.S. presence allowed their nations to prosper.

I've spoken to Europeans convinced that America's role as a security guarantor had prevented conflict on what had been a blood-soaked continent for centuries. I've talked to American business leaders who knew their ability to access millions of international customers and create thousands of domestic jobs has hinged on American strength.

Most personally, I have seen American freedom and security play out in the lives of my parents, my children, and myself. But increasingly in recent years, I've also met people frustrated by the direction of American leadership—Cuban dissidents devastated by the president's concessions to the Castro regime for nothing in return; North Koreans disappointed by America's reluctance to speak out against modern-day gulags; Arabs and Israelis worried about America's indifference to Iran's growing influence; Syrians crushed that America did not help prevent their country from descending into chaos; Afghans worried that Americans will leave them like we left Iraq; Europeans anxious about Russia's bellicose rhetoric and actions; and many of our people concerned about their safety in a truly increasingly chaotic world.

Of all the important duties of the presidency, and there are many, protecting our people and their interests wherever those interests lie is the highest honor, the greatest burden, and the most profound privilege.  The first duty of the president as written in the Constitution is not taxer-in-chief or regulator-in-chief, it is commander-in-chief.

Every presidential candidate must be prepared to execute this duty. And anyone who advocates averting our eyes from the dangers of the world must be prepared to explain against six years of counter-evidence how retrenchment and retreat will lead to a safer world, because they will not.

Only American leadership will bring safety and enduring peace. America led valiantly in the last century, from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. And because of our leadership, that century became known as the American century.

Following the end of World War II, Pope Pius XII noted as much. Here's what he wrote: "America has a genius for great and unselfish deeds. Into the hands of America God has placed the destiny of an afflicted mankind."

Well, I believe America still has that genius. I believe mankind still remains afflicted. And I believe that its destiny still largely remains in our hands. And I believe that this generation of Americans will continue to advance the cause of peace and freedom in our time. And when we do, not only will America remain safe and strong, but the 21st century will also be an American century. So thank you for this opportunity.

(APPLAUSE)

ROSE: Thank you, senator. Let me begin by this question. In previous conversations with me you have said that one problem today is that we're trying to fix 21st century problems with 20th century ideas. Yet all of the men that you cited were of the 20th century.

RUBIO: Well, first there are timeless truths, right? The sun still rises in the east and American power still matters in the world. The challenges are different.

So for example today we face multiple challenges. It's not just a confrontation with another powerful nation-state, the Soviet Union, which we faced throughout—after the end of the Second World War and through the end of the Cold War.

We face traditional nations, China, with its own ambitions, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. And Russia, our Putin wants to be the president of a great country, but he can't achieve it economically so he tries to achieve it militarily.

But then we also face rogue states. North Korea basically a territory governed by criminal syndicate. Iran, a nation governed by a radical Shia cleric. And then non-state actors with increasing capacity, both ISIS, Al-Qaeda, et cetera.

So I mean the challenges—the need for American leadership is still true. The challenges are different and require a different approach.

ROSE: Should we be the world's policeman?

RUBIO: I don't think that's necessarily the role that I would advocate. The title is not world's policeman.  But I do think that the world—these problems require a global response. But a global response requires someone to convene the world to take action. And only America's capable of doing it.

In the absence of American leadership, our NATO and European allies cannot come up with a strategy to confront the aggression from Russia. Nor can our allies in the Middle East, or for that matter, our allies in the Asia-Pacific region. American leadership is critical in creating the alliances necessary to confront these challenges.

ROSE: Talk about leadership on two different ways. This weekend there's a meeting with the president and Arab leaders who'll come in here to talk about the Middle East and the problems of the Middle East.

There's a report from the BBC today, and other news organizations, that a drilling missile strike at a mosque just killed the number two leader of ISIS because the number one leader has already been disabled by a drone strike. I mean the two examples seem to suggest American leadership.

RUBIO: Well, a couple points. First, I certainly think that it's good that we've got leaders of the GCC meeting at Camp David with the president. I think it's an action that should've happened a while ago. And I regret that the king of Saudi Arabia is not among them because I think that's an important part of the coalition.

I would've expanded beyond the GCC countries...

ROSE: But that may be a series of reasons why he's not here.

RUBIO: Well, I would expand it beyond just those countries in the GCC. I would also expand it to include Egypt and Jordan, predominantly Sunni governments who have a shared interest because they're concerned about tow primary challenges.

One is the rise of extremism, primarily Sunni extremism. And these Sunni countries want to confront and defeat Sunni extremism. And the other is the rise of Iran's ambitions to dominate the region. And so they have a—that's a perfect example of a group of nations that could come together to confront both of these challenges. But it will require America to bring them together.

And so that meeting and that effort I hope should've happened a while back. But I suspect, while I'm not privy to the notes of those meetings, that much of those meetings will be dedicated to conversations about bringing these countries at some point of ease with regards to this negotiation the president's undertaking with Iran.

ROSE: About the effort to reduce the impact of ISIS, do you give the president bad marks? Because I mentioned the drone strikes. I mentioned the airstrikes that took place at Tikrit that were part of the successful effort there with the Iraqis and militia groups to run ISIS out of Tikrit.

RUBIO: First of all, I believe we could've prevented much of what's happened with ISIS had we become engaged in the Syrian conflict earlier. At the initial stages of that conflict the vast majority of people opposing Assad were Syrians who were rebelling against the leadership of that country.

And I advocated at the time, and I did so forcefully, that we should identify people we could work with on the ground in Syria and empower them. And I argued that in the absence of doing so we would leave a vacuum, and that vacuum would be filled by foreign fighters, primarily radicals.

And that's how it exactly played out. And that's what gave the—that's the conditions that allowed both ISIS and al-Nusra, a group that's on the rebound within Syria, to come back.

Once ISIS began to emerge I did not consider them a JV team. In fact, I repeatedly warned that they were much, much more of a potent threat than the president was giving them credit for. And I argued for an earlier engagement, both targeting their hubs of—their nodes that they use for logistical operations, but also the transit points that they needed in order to project power moving forward.

I still think that it's good we're conducting airstrikes. The truth is we probably need more. But I really think it's critical that a Sunni force confront them on the ground. And part of that could be Iraqi Sunnis. And I see today that they're starting to train some.

But I also think it's important to go to our allies in the region, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the GCC countries that are willing to also put forces on the ground to help stabilize that country. And...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: There's no doubt in your mind that they're willing to put forces on the ground in Iraq.

RUBIO: They've expressed that.

ROSE: But at the same time...

RUBIO: But they need our help to do it. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: But at the same time the additions...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: ... technical support.

ROSE: The Saudis asked Egyptians and others to help in Yemen, and the Egyptians refused to send their own ground troops to help.

RUBIO: Well, because there's two areas of concern there. Number one is I think they're willing to be more helpful than they have been, particularly in confronting them on the ground with the combined force. The problem is they need American logistical support, air support and some special operations embeds to help that be successful. They're not going to do it on their own...

ROSE: Should we do that in Yemen? Should we be offering air support in Yemen?

RUBIO: Well, the Saudis are conducting that operation. And it's telling that they did it without really notifying the United States well in advance of what they were about to do.

ROSE: The U.S. did give them some advice and helped them with targets...

RUBIO: Well, we've given them some increasing advice. It still has not been to the level it should've been. And again, ultimately that's a much more complex situation because it does involve Iran. But it also involves Al-Qaeda nodes and others that are now in the country.

But the answer is, in terms of confronting the threat of the spread of regional influence by Iran, Yemen has become just the latest flashpoint, again, a place where a joint pan Arab Sunni force that would stand up to both extremism and Iran's ambitions could confront these challenges with U.S. logistical and air support.

ROSE: And advisory support on the ground.

RUBIO: Yes. I think ultimately you could embed Special Operations Forces to help them improve their capabilities.

But ultimately these countries have expressed a willingness. They understand it is their fight. I mean they're not just fighting for territory. They're fighting for the very identity of what it means to be a Sunni Muslim. And they're confronted by a very serious challenge.

And Sisi I think outlined this very effectively in an interview he did a couple of months ago in the Wall Street Journal where he said it is important we understand the threat they pose to our faith, to the Muslim faith. And that they need to be confronted and defeated because this extremism doesn't just threaten the world, it threatens Islam.

ROSE: When you look at the strategy of the president today against terrorism, and then we move to Iran, I mean your significant difference with him is what?

RUBIO: A couple points. The first is I think early on in his tenure especially...

ROSE: (Inaudible).

RUBIO: No, I think he viewed even before that he viewed American engagement abroad as a cause of friction. In essence, the notion that we had problems around the world because there was a grievance against the United States because of something we had done. And in fact, much of these conflicts are ideologically based. They're not grievance based.

Iran' s problem with America is not a grievance, certainly not just a grievance. It goes deeper than that. It's ideological. It's their belief that they want to be the dominant power in the region and they want to export their revolution to other territories.

And so the president when—during the Green Revolution in 2009, refused to take a side early on, said he wouldn't interfere in the sovereignty of that country. Meanwhile, Iranians were in the streets protesting...

ROSE: What should he have done?

RUBIO: I think he should've expressed—and that's why I talk about my third point. That it's important that our foreign policy be deeply tied to our values. The president should've firmly stood on the side of those Iranians that desire true democracy in their country and real political change. He did not do that in the early stages of that conflict.

Beyond that I think I had serious problems with a reset with Russia, a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of Vladimir Putin who even when he was not in power pulled a lot of the strings about where that country was headed.

ROSE: We'll come to Russia in a moment. Let me just stay with Iran.

You have said that the U.S. is holding back against ISIS because it doesn't want to upset Iran.

RUBIO: Absolutely.

ROSE: Holding back?

RUBIO: Yes, absolutely...

ROSE: Against ISIS?

RUBIO: And I'll tell you why.

ROSE: Because it doesn't want to upset Iran?

RUBIO: Absolutely. First of all, Iran is on the ground in Iraq...

ROSE: Right.

RUBIO: ... heavily. In addition...

ROSE: Advisers...

RUBIO: Not just advisers. There're Iranian fighters on the ground embedded side-by-side with these Shia militias. The Shia militias are largely agents of the Iranian government.

Iran does not want a U.S. presence in Iraq of any kind. They've tolerated airstrikes primarily because they can't do anything to stop them. And to the extent that they're killing ISIS people far from Iraqi territory they have tolerated to a certain point.

But they are not happy with U.S. engagement.  They have said so publicly, and in fact have trafficked in outrageous rumors which I honestly believe some of them believe that the U.S. is actually helping ISIS and that we actually helped invent ISIS. They don't want us there and most certainly don't want any American presence there.

I believe these Shia militias on the ground pose an extraordinary threat to Americans in the diplomatic facilities and in Iraq right now. They're embedded side-by-side with regular Iraqi forces. They have full access to all of the Iraqi government buildings, et cetera.

And I believe that if the United States had taken a more aggressive position that you—there would've been...

ROSE: Against ISIS or against...

RUBIO: Against ISIS...

ROSE: ... Iranian presence in...

RUBIO: Well, no. Against ISIS and its stronger presence in Iraq that it would've destabilized the talks with Iran, sort of certainly impacted by them, and may have triggered them to respond in kind with attacks from their agents, these Shia militias.

ROSE: What is your principle argument against a possible Iranian deal that seems to be on the table now?

RUBIO: Well, my primary objection to it is that it allows Iran to obtain the capability to enrich uranium or reprocessed plutonium. There are multiple other countries in the world that have nuclear energy.

Iran does not need nuclear energy. They're an oil rich country. But assuming they want it, there is a way to do it, the way dozens—hundred—you know many other countries around the world do by importing the material.

The fact that they can retain a country that has had—that sponsors terrorism all over the world, a country that is developing long-range rockets, a country that we know has been working on acquiring a nuclear weapon capability despite their lies, and has always had a secret component to their plan, is now going to retain the infrastructure needed to enrich uranium, reprocess plutonium. That is an unacceptable risk...

ROSE: Well, there is a reduction in the number of centrifuges.

RUBIO: But that...

ROSE: And there's a reduction in terms of what those centrifuges can do, in terms of new research and development.

RUBIO: Well...

ROSE: And people like the secretary of Energy have been there in negotiation has laid this out clearly.

RUBIO: Sure. But here's the problem with that. Number one, they retain all the infrastructure they will need to in the future break all those caps. Second, enforcing such a deal requires for there to be open, full inspections. Iran is saying they will not allow access to military facilities. That's problematic because...

ROSE: But it's in...

RUBIO: ... it's in the military...

(CROSSTLAK)

ROSE: The United States has not...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: ... find the bomb.

ROSE: The United States has not acknowledged that that would be the reality. They say...

RUBIO: Well...

ROSE: ... that these will be the most intrusive inspections yet. And if in fact the Iranians stopped them then they have a year to stop any Iranian development.

RUBIO: We should never have treated, in my opinion, from the position that Iran does not have the right to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium.  We should insisted that they stop work on long-range missile technology that has no other purpose but placing a warhead to launch abroad.

We should have insisted that they be open about all their secret programs in the past, so we had a baseline to base future monitoring activity.

And what Iran is gambling on here is pretty simple. They know that once the international sanctions are lifted, there is no way they will ever be reimposed. They believe that they can evade sanctions inspections, especially one the world's attention is diverted to another topic. In some ways, they have learned from the North Korean experience on how to follow this.

And I'm convinced that at some point, maybe not next year, but at that some point, they will pursue a nuclear weapon capability. And in the interim, they will exploit any ambiguous language. They will—any ambiguities or loopholes in this deal to advance their nuclear ambition.

ROSE (?): And you talk about Iraq and an issue that came up yesterday with Jeb Bush, talking about the invasion, looking back. He was asked a question by Megyn Kelly, and he says he misunderstood the question.

So I'll ask you the question that I think she intended to ask, which was, if you look at the Iraq war, after finding out there were no weapons of mass destruction, would you, if you knew that, have been in favor of the Iraqi invasion?

RUBIO: Well, not only would I not have been in favor of it. President Bush would not have been in favor of it. And he's said so.

ROSE: But Vice President Cheney and others have said, in the same administration, we'd have wanted to go ahead, notwithstanding.

RUBIO: Well, President Bush has said that he regrets that the intelligence was faulty. I don't think the Congress would have voted in favor of authorization if they didn't know that.

But let's also be fair about the context. Yes, there was intelligence that was faulty, but there was also a history with Iraq of evasion. It was a country that had had mobile units in the past that it used for both C.W., you know, chemical weapons and biological capability. It is a country that had actively not so long in the—in the past, at the moment that that decision was made, had invaded a neighboring country in Kuwait.

It was a country that had an open dispute going on with international bodies about the inspections and allowing international inspectors to come in an view things.

Ultimately, though, I do not believe that if the intelligence—if the intelligence had said Iraq—Iraq as not having a weapon of mass destruction capability, I don't believe President Bush would have authorized to move forward.

ROSE: With respect to Israel, you obviously are seeking the support of Sheldon Adelson and a lot of other people across the country who have Republicans.

Is your view on Iran any different than the view of Prime Minister Netanyahu?

RUBIO: Well, I don't—I view them as the same threat he does. The difference is, he lives a lot closer to them than I do. And, therefore, I certainly—and he's the prime minister and the leader of a country who every Friday afternoon Iran says they want to destroy in their prayers, and a country that Iran—who's Iran's leader has posted on a Twitter page a 12-point plan to eliminate from the face of the Earth.

So, obviously, the threat he faces is more immediate and real.

That being said, my interest in Israel is not about people that will support me politically. It's a longstanding belief. And it's—and it's based on two principles. The first is a moral one. Israel was created as a homeland for the Jewish people in the aftermath of the Holocaust, so never again would there not be somewhere on Earth where the Jewish people could seek refuge or live in peace, especially facing persecution.

And the other is this, it is the only free-enterprise, democratic, pro-American country in the Middle East. If we had more free-enterprise, pro-American democracies in the Middle East, my speech would be a lot shorter.

ROSE: Do you continue to support a two-state solution?

RUBIO: I don't think the conditions exist for that today. I mean, that's the ideal outcome...

ROSE: Thank you.

RUBIO: ... but the conditions for a two-state solution at this moment do not exist.

ROSE: So we should forget about the possibility of a two-state solution?

RUBIO: Well, as I said, that's the ideal outcome. But the conditions do not exist.

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: The reality is that in your judgment there cannot be a two-state solution.

RUBIO: As conditions currently exist, no. And there's a number of reasons why.

Number one, there's no unity in the Palestinian government or there's no responsible leadership. They teach their children that it's a glorious thing to kill Jews. They mismanage the current system of government they have in place today. And they've rejected not one, but two very generous Israeli offers for peace.

The conditions simply don't exist. I think the most we can hope for in the short term...

ROSE: So what's the alternative?

RUBIO: Well, in the short term, it's to continue to hope that the Palestinian Authority and its law enforcement agencies will be able to provide a level of stability in that territory so that they will be allowed to grow their economy and their prosperity and ultimately that the conditions will rise up, with new leadership, that will allow something like that to happen.

ROSE: I brought this paper with me because the Pope, as you know, has said that he thinks we should support a Palestinian state, as you know.

He also is seen to be part of the renewed relationship with Cuba. And he went—Raoul Castro went to see the pope. And he says, Raoul Castro said, I'll consider retuning to the church.

Now, you're a good Catholic.

Try to be.

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIO: That's gonna be a pretty long confessional when Raoul Castro (inaudible).

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

ROSE: Yeah.

So what's wrong with the pope here?

RUBIO: Well, look, the pope is a—the pope is a shepherd of a faith. And his desire is peace and prosperity. He wants everyone to be better off.

His job is, he's not a political figure, although he's the head of state of a nation, and a sovereign state in the Vatican City. His desire is for—is to shepherd the faith and the flock. And that's what he's trying to do.

And he has—there are many Roman Catholics on the island of Cuba, and he desires a better future. And anything he can do to open up more opportunities for them, he's going to pursue.

My interest as an elected official is the national security of the United States. And embedded in that is the belief that it is not good for our country nor the people of Cuba to have an anti-American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores. A nation that harbors terrorists. A nation that harbors fugitives from American justice. A nation that harbors advanced intelligence gathering facilities for China and Russia.

ROSE: And, if elected president, the first thing you would to, among the other—the first—among the first things you would do, would undo everything the president has done with Cuba?

RUBIO: Well, I would reimpose sanctions that could only be lifted through reciprocal steps on behalf of the Cubans. In essence, if they want more telecommunications opening, then the Cuban government will have to allow freedom of the press. If they want more engagement with American business and travel, then they will have to allow more democratic opening for alternative groups in society.

The conditions are actually in law right now. The embargo, which is separate from what the president has done, could be lifted tomorrow...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: But the president quickly says all the sanctions have been in place for 50 years and they've achieved none of the objectives that you want to achieve.

RUBIO: I think that's not...

ROSE: Fifty years, those sanctions have been in effect. Why not—why not try something new?

RUBIO: Because that's not true. What he's saying isn't accurate.

Number one, the sanctions that he's talking about, if he's talking about the embargo, the purpose of the embargo was not to topple Fidel Castro. That was the purpose of the Bay of Pigs. That didn't work.

But the—but the purpose of the embargo was to prevent the trafficking of stolen goods. And, let me be clear about something, if you travel to Cuba, you stay at a hotel, you are staying in a stolen property.

When you go to Cuba and you buy any product that's produced in Cuba, you are usually gonna buy a product that is produced from a stolen property.

Over $7 billion of property was stolen on the island of Cuba from Cubans, from Americans and from others, never compensated.

So, imagine for a moment, if the government here in the United States went into your business, seized your property, forced you into exile in Canada...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: ... and a year later Canadians are buying your products from your stolen property.

ROSE: Understandable. But is that—is that the rule or the exception in revolutions?

RUBIO: In terms of?

ROSE: Simply taking over a country and taking over the property and not necessarily going about restoring it to those who might have owned it beforehand.

RUBIO: Well, it's not about restoring it to those who might have owned it...

ROSE: In other words, Cuba's different from saying...

RUBIO: Well...

ROSE: In terms of property rights.

RUBIO: Well, ultimately, it's not about restoring. They have—they never compensated for that property. And what the embargo said is, we're not gonna allow you to traffick in stolen goods with our economy.

But let me take another point to you. There is no Japanese embargo on Cuba. There is no South Korean embargo on Cuba. Why isn't Cuba full of Samsung phones? Why isn't it full of Toyotas? Why does everybody drive a car from 1956?

ROSE: Why?

RUBIO: Because they're incompetent. Because their leadership is incompetent. Because they view themselves as the leaders of a plantation of 13 million people who they control.

There is no Cuban economy; the entire economy is owned by a holding company named GAESA, which is run by Raul Castro's son in law. The hotels, the telecom companies, the rental the cars—everything is underneath the umbrella of that holding company.

So we don't have an opening to Cuba; we have an opening to GAESA.

ROSE: Let end this so I can give members here an opportunity to talk to you.

This is in today's New York Times, and—and it's a philosophical question. It says the following—and this may very well be what you were talking about in your speech earlier in this—in this session:

"It's a mood of overreaching uncertainty and profound anxiety"—talking about America today—"and it's so ingrained at this point that we tend to overlook it."

And he continues: "If one of the aspirants can give credible voice to Americans' insecurity and trace a believable path out of it, he or she will almost certainly be victorious in 2016."

RUBIO: Frank Birney's piece.

ROSE: That's right.

RUBIO: He's right. That's exactly what's happened. For about a decade now, Americans have been getting bad news.

You know, we had the American Century. Economically, we had a country like parents...

ROSE: Well, the question—what is—go ahead.

RUBIO: I'm sorry. OK.

So—so my parents came here, right? They had no skills, they were immigrants, and they were able to achieve a middle-class lifestyle.

They owned a home, they raised their family, they were able to retire with dignity, they were able to leave their children better off than themselves, and they took enormous pride in all that America (ph) achieved around the world and—and here at home.

And now in the early years of this new century, there's a feeling that none of that is true anymore. Globally, we no longer appear to be able to shape events like we once did, and domestically, you have millions of people that are working hard, maybe at the same job they had 25 years ago. But now they're no longer firmly in the middle class; they live paycheck to paycheck.

And the question is, why is this happening? Why do the old ways of doing things no longer work, and why can't anybody tell us what the new way of doing things is?

And the answer is because the world is undergoing an extraordinary economic and geopolitical transformation, and we need transformative leadership that helps us make that transition.

ROSE: And what—(inaudible) may have been—I may assume that everything you've said before is the answer to this question. What is your believable path?

RUBIO: Well, I think the 21st century has the potential to be better than the 20th century. But it will require us to have economic policies that make us globally competitive in a global economy. That's why tax reform and regulatory reform and energy policies and dealing with the debt are so important.

The second point is technology has rapidly changed the nature of work. All the better-paying jobs of the 21st century require advanced education, but we have an outdated higher-education system.

And again, it goes back to the things I talked about national security. In a globalized economy, foreign affairs has never mattered more from an economic perspective.

ROSE: OK. Let me take questions.

Mary?

QUESTION: Mary Boies, a lawyer at Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

China has been aggressively building airstrips and ports in disputed territories in the South China Sea, such as on Mischief Reef. They have not denied that they can, in fact, be used for military purposes, and that appears to be their purpose.

How would you show American strength and leadership in the Asia-Pacific area with respect to this kind of activity by China? What is your red line, and what would you do?

RUBIO: That's a great question.

First of all, they're not just building airstrips, they're building islands. I mean, they're building entire islands.

Second, it's an illegitimate claim. It's part of their whole nine-dash line idea that they actually own that part of the world.

Third, I think—I'm encouraged to read this morning that the U.S. Navy is thinking about challenging that, and we should never accept as a—as a truth that they control that.

And I would, in fact, take all sorts of naval actions—not military action per se but military naval vessels transitting through that zone—to clear show that this is international waters open for transit for anyone who wants to go through there.

Beyond that, I think it is critical for us to create a stronger alliance to truly fully pivot to the Asia-Pacific region. I think the trade agreement is a big part of that, but I think creating a military alliance, and increased military alliance that expands beyond just Japan, and South Korea, but includes increasing the capacity of the Philippines. Working even with Australia, and other nations to change the calculus that Japan would have to face if, in fact, they move forward in trying to act on their territorial claims that are illegitimate. And improve the capacity of these nations to defend themselves in completely change the cost-benefit analysis.

One more point I would make is military spending is critical in this realm because China is investing billions of dollars in anti-access technology designed to make it too expensive for American power, particularly aircraft carriers to get close to the region. We also have to invest in the ability to defeat those anti-access capabilities that they've committed to.

QUESTION: Right in the middle—back there, yes sir. Right, then we'll come back to the front.

Yes. You. You.

QUESTION: Senator, the—Mark Rosen (ph), Bank of America, Merrill Lynch. President Putin has...

QUESTION:...Stand up, please, sir.

QUESTION:...has invaded Georgia some years ago, more recently, Crimea, and all the problems on the border of the Ukraine—the invasion there as well. What would you do—I think Governor Romney, when he ran for President said that he thought Russia was a major foreign policy problem for the United States, and he was laughed at at the time. It turned out to be much more accurate than it had seemed then.

How would you deal with the threat of Russia, and its apparently expansionary policies?

RUBIO: Well, let me first clarify the threat. The threat is not necessarily the Russia—or Russian people, it's Vladamir Putin who wants to be the leader of a great country, wants to put behind him what he feels was the humiliation of the 1990's, and reestablish Russia on par with the United States, and potentially even China, in his mind. And the result is because he can not achieve that economically, he has decided to that militarily by making it very clear that any nations in his periphery must never turn West-ward, must always turn in his direction.

I actually think the sanctions that have been put in place—although I'd like to see them increase, particularly on the part of the United States—the sanctions are going to prove to be long term, devastating, for the—and already have been, for Moscow, and for the Russian economy, and for their ambitions. Beyond that, I think it is critical, whether it's the Baltic states, those who are members of NATO now, or even Ukraine, who is not...

(AUDIO GAP)

...a member of NATO to have the necessary equipment or(ph) to handle crisis there, but these nations did not invest enough in ability to protect their own territory because everybody felt the Cold War is over—there is no threat from the East anymore, which we now see that that's not true.

The point is, Putin believes that he can take aggressive action in Ukraine, and potentially, in other countries that have Russian speaking populations under the guise of moving in to protect them because he feels there's no consequence for doing so. He doesn't believe that these nations are going to be able to inflict enough pain on him militarily that he will pay a price domestically, and it's one of the reasons why they have been so paranoid about covering up the death of Russians which an opposition group yesterday revealed was over 200 hundred Russians who died in operations in Ukraine over the last year and a half...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: We have to change...

QUESTION: You'd welcome a Ukraine initiative to be part of you—of NATO, and you would support it?

RUBIO: I'm open to Ukraine—joining NATO, but their capacity has to—if we won't even pry them off defensive, military capabilities, and—why would—to say they're going to join NATO is a longer reach in terms of this administration. We need to help them be able to defend themselves.

QUESTION: Senator, Zoe Baerd (ph) of the MARCO (ph) Foundation. You recognize the relationship between the U.S. economy, and the transformations in the globe, and the extraordinary growth in the markets around the world with the growing middle-class. You also have acknowledged that most of the job growth in the U.S. comes from small businesses. So, could you talk for a minute about how you would get Americans in small businesses to understand that the world is their market, and how we can transform the culture of this country to be part of the world?

RUBIO: Well the first thing I always explain to people is that we Americans are four to five percent of the worlds population. So, there's only so much prosperity we can do if all we do is sell things to each other. We need their to be millions of people around the globe who can afford to buy the things we make, products we innovate, the services we provide, and in order for that to happen you need global stability, which is why global leadership is important because without it there can not be global stability.

Beyond that, we need to have access to these markets, and that's why I support these free trade agreements, and obviously they need to be finalized and we need to see the details of them, but we don't have trade agreements with the Pacific Rim, and that includes nations in Latin America, but also in Asia. We are basically walking away from access to billion—over a billion and a half people or more. And these are markets that are growing rapidly, they're consumer markets. We're not engaged in the fastest economic growing area in the world. All of our business are not going to prosper.

Beyond that, I have an advantage. I come from Miami. In South Florida, many of our businesses are directly impacted by global affairs. For example, the Colombian free trade agreement has been a bonanza for many—everybody from the guy who drives trucks, to—and brings in the fresh flowers every day, to the actual people that import them. So I think it's important to explain to more Americans how critical it is that we have access to millions and millions of people around the world who can no afford to become their customers because today you can buy things on line, you don't even have to come here to transact business from someone.

QUESTION: Yes sir. Here, and then go back over to the lady in the rear.

QUESTIONS: Neil Ferguson. Senator, I was delighted to hear you refer to radical Islam as one of the threats that we face. The great ideological threat that the Presidents' you referenced faced, that is Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, was Communism. Is radical Islam the equivalent ideological threat that we face, and if so, what is your strategy for defeating it.

RUBIO: Well first off, I don't—that's an interesting question, obviously they—all these different threats have different characteristics. Communism was most certainly an economic and political view of the world, but it also tried to, basically, create nation states that would implement their policies.

Radical Islam, while there is desire to create a caliphate on behalf of ISIS, is more defuse, and involves interconnected groups that may conspire together to take action, but don't necessarily have an easy understood future governance idea behind them. I mean, there's no economic model behind them, per say. In fact, the history of these radical jihadist groups is, once they take over your town, they do a terrible job of picking up the garbage and providing services for the people that they're governing, but they're very brutal in the way that they govern.

The strategy is multifaceted. The first is these groups can only prosper if they have a safe haven. That is why Libya has become a premier operational space now, it provides a safe haven. And it's become safe haven not just in Libya, it's become a launch point for attacks on Sinai. Iraq became a safe haven, and Syria became a safe haven before that. 9/11 was possible because that was—al-Qaeda has a safe haven in Afghanistan.

So, the first part of our strategy is we can not allow safe havens to emerge anywhere in the world. These ungoverned spaces where these groups can set-up camp, and establish themselves—and do not under estimate where ISIS is involved today. They are actively trying to absorb both al-Qaeda elements, and Taliban elements in Afghanistan, and even in to Pakistan. They're present almost throughout all of North Africa. They've extended their reach in to virtually all the countries of the Middle East to some capacity, and they do, as admitted by our own law enforcement agencies, have individuals that have never even traveled abroad, that are sympathetic to their cause, radicalized on-line, and actively plot to attack us here at home, and Europe, and elsewhere in the West.

So denying them the safe haven is the key part of it, and taking the decisive action—acting in that regard. And that's why I thought being involved in Syria early, and not providing that safe haven was critical to preventing the growth of ISIS later on.

QUESTION: At the back to—Richard, go ahead.

QUESTION: Richard Cohen, Washington Post. As far—as far as we know, Hillary Clinton supported early intervention in Syria, and you were critical of her just before. Can you tell us specifically where she went wrong as Secretary of State.?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, what are the success of her tenure as Secretary of State? The reset for Russia was a disaster because it misunderstood Putin's ambitions, and Putin's motivations. I don't know that she was openly supported of a Libyan engagement, perhaps that was reported in a book somewhere...

UNKNOWN: Syria.

RUBIO: Sir, I'm sorry. In Syria?

I thought the Libyan engagement that I just mentioned a moment ago was not handled appropriately. The United States intervened for a very short period of time militarily, I believe it was 72 hours, and then the rest of the operation was left to the Brits and the French, loyal allies who worked hard, but do not have our capabilities.

The result in Libya was a protracted conflict that killed people, destroyed infrastructure, left behind the conditions for the rise of multiple militias who refuse to lay down their arms. I actually traveled to Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, before he was captured, and came back and warned that if we did not get—we had allowed the conflict to go too long. If we didn't now get engaged on the front end to prevent that from happening, not only would Libya become a failed state, but it would also become a haven for extremism to take root as it happened now.

I thought they were completely negligent on affairs in Latin America. Very little discussion during their tenure about how to improve our standing in the region, particularly with countries that are prospering and doing well, or moving in the direction that we think the world should move. Mexico, and Chile, and Peru, and Columbia.

And we've also ignored the situation and countries that are moving in the opposite direction, whether it's Argentina, or Bolivia, or Ecuador, Venezuela. So, I just don't believe that there's many success that they can point to during her tenure. She was this chief architect and spokesperson of a foreign policy that will go down in history as disastrous.

QUESTION: Right there in the back—the woman, yes the woman to the back.

QUESTION: Lauren Leader-Chivee, All In Together Campaign, you spoke beautifully early on about the importance of holding another nations to high standards in terms of human rights and our moral authority around the world. I think many would argue that's been eroded through continuing—the continued opening of Guantanamo Bay, even some of our own criminal justice issues in the United States. Can you talk a little about your view of how to resolve Guantanamo if we're going to insist on human rights—high-level human rights on the rest of the world.

RUBIO: Sure, I believe that innocent people, peace loving people, are deserved to have their rights respected, and I think terrorists who plot to kill Americans and are actively engaged in plots to attack America deserve to be imprisoned, and taken off the battlefield. And that's the role that Guantanamo plays.

It results from the only place we were able to gather intelligence. Today, we're not—we're not really gathering enough intelligence from potential advisory and attackers, and many of the people who've been released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield against America in multiple different parts of the world. So I don't necessarily view the same—I mean when you are an active combatant against the United States, in an effort to defeat us in a global war that seeks to to destroy as many Americans as possible, you need to be taken off the battle field and treated for what you are, an enemy combatant, and that's the role Guantanamo plays, and should continue to play.

QUESTION: Yes. (INAUDIBLE).

QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) So what would you do now about Syria? Would you support the No-Fly Zone like the Arabs and the Turks are asking? And when it comes to Iran if President Obama goes ahead and concludes with Iran a deal, you become President, what do you do then? Especially what you call radicalization...

QUESTION: In the interest of time, you have to choose one or the other...

(LAUGHTER)

RUBIO:...they're interrelated, so I can...

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: ...Just...

RUBIO: ...Well, just on the Syria front, briefly. One of the great sticking points between us and our allies in the region is they're interested in getting rid of Assad as well. They don't believe that if we don't deal with Assad, they don't think we have a plan, that it will continue. We'll be (inaudible) Nusra. We'll be next even after you defeat ISIS.

And I hope someone will ask me the Iran question...

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: All right. Yes? Yes, ma'am, right here.

I'm taking great pleasure in so many women are raising their hands.

QUESTION: Betty Mashram (ph).

You're supporting the military quite strongly over various episodes today. Right now, a great part of the defense budget goes to healthcare. So the military is becoming a healthcare organization, and this does not include the V.A.

So, how are you going to support the military's healthcare programs and the returning veterans?

RUBIO: Well, the returning veterans, obviously they're out of uniform, will go into the V.A. system, which needs to be modernized. The V.A. system was designed 80—70 years ago, is no longer responsive to the needs of veterans today. I will tell you, a significant percentage of the workload in my Senate offices in Florida are V.A. claims. And I believe that veterans should be given a right to go outside the system if they cannot access in a timely way the care they need in the system.

And as far as military spending is concerned, military spending is not the cause of our national debt. And every single time that we drastically reduce military spending, it has required us to come back later and make up for it in much more expensive ways. Now, should we improve out contracting processes? Absolutely. I wish our military contracting looked a little bit more like our space contracting, where there was more competition, more choices, and less change orders that add price to it.

But I can tell you that the number one obligation of the federal government (inaudible) at a time when many potential adversaries are rapidly increasing their capabilities.

ROSE: Senator...

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Where are you going to get the money (inaudible)?

RUBIO: Well, the money is there. I think the question you're asking is: What are we not going to pay in exchange for doing it? And that is a question about the debt. The driver of our long-term debt is not discretionary spending. The cause of our long-term debt are two very important programs—Social Security and Medicare—that as currently structured will not survive—will not survive. My generation will not know Medicare and Social Security if it in fact continues on the road it is on right now.

And that's why I've called for reforms that leave people like my mother, who is on Social Security and Medicare, exactly the same way that they are; wouldn't change the system for them or people near retirement age. But my generation's going to have to accept a hard, but fundamental truth, and that is that our Medicare and Social Security will either look different or it will not exist by the time we reach retirement age.

And that is the driver of our long-term debt. And the next president of the United States will not be able to fully serve two terms without confronting this reality, because those programs were designed when there were 60 workers for every retiree in the case of Social Security. There are now three workers for every retiree. It will go down to two workers for every retiree. And the math does not add up.

And we need to reform those programs or they will not exist for me or for my children. And if we do it now, we can do it in a way that doesn't disrupt current beneficiaries at all. The longer we wait, the more disruptive, more painful, and more difficult it will be.

ROSE: Senator Rubio, I promised President Haass I would go beyond his suggested 4:40.

RUBIO: That's a great watch. It that the I-watch (ph)?

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

ROSE: I promised I wouldn't—President Haass I wouldn't go beyond 4:40, and his wife is giving me ugly—she must have some kind of pressing appointment. But I know you're—so (inaudible) will get to her appointment for sure. I assume you have other things you need to do as well.

With great pleasure, thank you for coming and speaking to us.

RUBIO: Thank you. Thanks for having me. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

END

"My foreign policy consists of three pillars. The first is American strength. This is an idea that stems from a simple truth that the world is at its safest when America is at its strongest. When America has the mightiest Army and Navy and Air Force and Marine Corps and Coast Guard and intelligence community in the world, the result is more peace, not more conflict."
- Marco Rubio
"The title is not world's policeman. But I do think that the world—these problems require a global response. But a global response requires someone to convene the world to take action. And only America's capable of doing it."
- Marco Rubio
"Only American leadership will bring safety and enduring peace. America led valiantly in the last century, from Truman to Kennedy to Reagan. And because of our leadership, that century became known as the American century."
- Marco Rubio
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