Marco Rubio's new book, American Dreams, reads in some parts like a presidential manifesto—and in others like a conservative guide to governing with a reform agenda in the 114th Congress.
That's precisely the crossroads at which Rubio now finds himself—deciding whether to run for the White House in 2016, or roll up his sleeves and focus on policy in the new GOP-controlled Senate.
Rubio has spent the past several years maneuvering into position for a possible presidential run in 2016. And the official timing of his book release—Jan. 13—has always seemed orchestrated to coincide with the dawn of campaign season. With that in mind, National Journal, which obtained an early copy of American Dreams, pulled the nine most fascinating passages from the book—ones that could preview what a Marco Rubio presidential campaign looks (and sounds) like:
1. Rubio holds nothing back in attacking Hillary Clinton. The Florida senator takes several strongly worded shots at the Democratic front-runner. "Hillary Clinton has proven herself wedded to the policies and programs of the past," Rubio writes in the book's introduction. "The election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency, in short, would be nothing more than a third Obama term. Another Clinton presidency would be a death blow to the American Dream." Later in the book, Rubio criticizes Clinton's remark last year—"Don't let anyone tell you it's businesses and corporations that create jobs"—and links it with Obama's "infamous declaration, 'If you've got a business, you didn't build that.'"
2. Rubio doesn't apologize for authoring a comprehensive immigration bill, but does offer a new, "piecemeal" proposal. It starts with stemming the flow of illegal immigration. Then, Rubio calls for separate bills introducing an E-Verify system, entry-exit tracking for visas, and an overhaul of the visa process that focuses on retaining high-skilled workers. Once those pieces are in place, Rubio prescribes a solution for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.: Bring them out of the shadows, deport those with criminal records, give the others temporary "nonimmigrant visas," make them pay taxes and fines to keep it, then, finally, after a decade, allow them to apply for permanent residency.
3. Rubio previews a unifying, aspirational stump speech—one that borrows from the Barack Obama playbook. "I believe deeply in the conservative reform proposals" written about in the book, Rubio writes. "But what they seek to achieve—a rising, striving America for all of us—isn't partisan. There isn't a Republican Dream and a Democratic Dream. There is only one American Dream. Before us lies the chance not just to restore it, but to bring it within reach of more people than ever before. This is our chance to claim our heritage as a people who always leave behind a nation better than the one left to them. My grandparents and parents kept the dream alive. So did yours. Now it's our turn."
4. Rubio makes no mention of his potential 2016 Republican rivals. Unlike his first book,An American Son, Rubio's new book contains no reference to—or acknowledgment of—former Gov. Jeb Bush. In American Dreams, Rubio speaks highly of certain Senate colleagues—but makes no mention of either Rand Paul or Ted Cruz. Nor does Rubio mention Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, or any other potential GOP opponent. The one exception: Rubio lavishes praise on his friend, Rep. Paul Ryan, whose name is mentioned nearly a dozen times.
5. Rubio goes light on biography, and heavy on policy. Perhaps that's one reason why Rubio mentions Ryan so often. (Ryan, as National Journal reported late last year, is highly unlikely to run—and might consider endorsing Rubio, whom he views as a like-minded reformer.) Whereas Rubio's first book relied heavily on his family's multigenerational immigrant story, American Dreams focuses on major policy debates and proposals—health care, regulation, the tax code, student loans, Social Security, defense spending, and foreign policy, among others. This is part of a conscious rebranding effort to help Rubio be viewed as a young policy wonk, not just an exceptional orator with a compelling biography.
6. Rubio outlines a muscular foreign policy built upon three pillars. Rubio has consistently been the most hawkish voice in the 2016 conversation, and the book articulates something of a Rubio Doctrine. First, he says the U.S. "must boldly oppose efforts by other nations to infringe upon the freedom of international waters, airspace, cyberspace and outer space." Second, he calls for "moral clarity regarding what we stand for and why"—which means "being unabashed in support of the spread of economic and political freedom" and "resisting efforts by rising and resurgent powers to subjugate their neighbors." Third, Rubio advocates a bigger budget for the Pentagon, which he says will "demonstrate a strength in defense capabilities that, as Presidents Washington and Reagan envisioned, leaves our enemies unwilling to provoke us."
7. Rubio agrees with Sen. Elizabeth Warren that "the game right now in America is rigged"—but says the government is rigging it. Rubio makes several mentions of Warren in the book, referring to her at one point as a "liberal populist hero." He implicitly positions himself as her counterpart—a conservative populist hero who faults both political parties for promoting "crony capitalism" that creates excessive government regulation that, in turn, protects big business and stifles competition. "After all, big corporations can afford to influence government, and the little guys can't," Rubio writes. "And the more power government has over the economy, the more those with the power to influence government win."
8. Rubio teaches a college class at Florida International University, and cited Uber to convince his students of the dangers of regulation. When Rubio heard his political-science students discussing the ride-sharing service that their friends use in other cities—and wondering why it hadn't come to Miami—he seized the opportunity. After explaining that Miami has a government-imposed cap on "sedan medallions," he told them Uber isn't legally permitted to compete for their business. "As my progressive young students listened to me explain why government was preventing them from using their cell phones to get home from the bars on Saturday night," Rubio writes, "I could see their minds change."
9. Rubio thinks Obama's apology to art-history professors was "kind of pathetic." In critiquing the higher education system, Rubio emphasizes "the responsibility of students to make their education a wise investment" and not dismiss less glamorous professions. As such, he was "very encouraged, when President Obama told a crowd in Wisconsin last year: 'Folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.' " When Obama apologized for the remark soon after, "I thought that was kind of pathetic and I said so," Rubio recalls. "The point he was making was an important and legitimate one. We no longer live in an economy in which most young people have the luxury of going deep into debt for an education that prepares them for an entry-level job at Starbucks."
(Image via Flickr user Gage Skidmore)