Marco Rubio on Russia-Ukraine Crisis, Venezuela and Arizona LGBT Bill
Around the State
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., still a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2016, took to the national stage during the weekend to weigh in on international crises and domestic policy.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, offered his take on the increased tensions between Russia and the Ukraine. Rubio hammered the Putin regime as a “government of liars.” On Saturday, Politico published a piece from Rubio in which the Florida Republican lays out options on how President Barack Obama can respond to Russia’s actions in the Crimea.
“You’re dealing with a government that lies as a matter of course, and it’s very difficult to enter an understanding with them on anything when they are willing to lie and cover things up in this way,” he added.
David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press,” pressed Rubio on the matter. “You’re saying, as you did in a piece that you wrote for Politico about how to confront Russia, that we’ve got to the use blunt talk,” Gregory said. “So I ask you for some blunt talk. Is Russia an enemy of the United States now?”
“I think they’re increasingly behaving like an enemy of international peace and international norms,” Rubio answered. “If you look, after the end of World War II and certainly through the Cold War era, the spread of democracy and freedom established norms for nations to interact with one another so we would never have another world war. Russia, under this President Putin, does not seem interested in any of that. So they are an enemy of that. And they are certainly, as it regards to that, an enemy of the United States with regard to those things I just outlined. And if you look at the positions they’ve taken, on issue after issue, Russia has been an obstacle to U.S. national interests.”
The Florida senator also tackled the Venezuelan regime’s crackdown on protesters demanding more democratic reforms.
“You’ve also been focused on foreign policy challenges in our hemisphere in Venezuela, as there are protests there against the Maduro government and a crackdown against protesters in the streets,” Gregory said. “What would you like to see this administration do?”
“Well, two things,” Rubio said. “First, I think we need to clearly pronounce ourselves as more than just ‘concerned’ about what’s happening in Venezuela. We need to say very clearly the United States, and its people and its government are firmly on the side of the ambitions and desires -- the rightful desires -- of the people in the streets, the students and young people protesting against these violations. Beyond that, I would like to see specific U.S. sanctions against individuals in the Maduro government that are systematically participating in the violation of human rights and anti-democratic actions. I think those two steps would go a long way in that regard.”
Rubio responded to constituent concerns about the political instability in Venezuela later on Sunday and said he did not support American military action against the regime.
“I’m not arguing that the U.S. should intervene militarily,” he said. “I do think, and I have filed a resolution asking the White House to do two things of great importance. The first is I think the president should pronounce himself very clearly that he condemns, in the strongest possible terms, what Nicolás Maduro and their government are doing to the people of Venezuela. And I think that’s important because, up to now, all we’ve heard is that they are ‘concerned’ about what’s happening in Venezuela. They shouldn’t be concerned, they should be outraged, and they should say so. And people all over the world who love peace, love freedom, love liberty, love democracy, and love human rights and respect it, need to know that the U.S. is on their side.”
Rubio also said he sees some similarities between the situation in Venezuela and the rise of the Communist regime in Cuba.
“In many of these emails and letters that we got, there was a link created between what is happening in Venezuela and what has happened previously to Cuba,” Rubio said. “And that’s an important link because it is real. You see, not only is Venezuela looking more and more like Cuba, but the Venezuelan government is practically controlled at some of its highest levels by Havana. And you see that in the tactics that they’re employing. They’re right out of the Castro playbook.”
During his appearance on “Meet the Press,” Rubio was asked about his take on a measure in Arizona which would allow business owners to refuse to do business with gays, citing religious reasons. The bill passed both chambers of the Arizona Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer, R-Ariz, last week.
“Well, I don't believe that gay Americans should be denied services at a restaurant or hotel or anything of that nature,” he replied. “I also don't believe, however, that a caterer or photographer should be punished by the state for refusing to provide services for a gay wedding because of their religious-held beliefs. We've got to figure out a way to the protect that, as well.”
His answer prompted the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to berate him for trying to play both sides of the issue.
“True to form, Rubio once again tried to placate both sides on the issue,” insisted Michael Czin from the DNC on Sunday. “ Rubio's position and record are crystal clear -- he believes that some businesses should legally be able to discriminate against Americans just because of who they are.
“This isn’t the first time Rubio has said that he thinks some businesses should be able to legally discriminate against other Americans,” Czin added. “Last year, Rubio joined with numerous other Republicans to co-sponsor federal legislation similar to the Arizona bill. It’s clear where Sen. Rubio stands -- and it’s not on the side of fairness and equality for all Americans.”
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org.