May 19 2022
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined The Ben Domenech Podcast to discuss the latest aid package for Ukraine, combatting manufacturing shortages, woke corporations, the future of the Republican Party, and more. See below for lightly edited remarks and listen to the full interview here.
On the contents of the aid package to Ukraine:
“I understand how [Americans] feel that way and I don't think we can just keep writing billion dollar expenditures to anything overseas. We have a significant amount of things we need to take care of in our country … The analogy I use is, when you get on an airplane and they tell you when the oxygen masks deploy first, put on your own mask, and then put on your child's. I think the reason is if you pass out, you won't be able to help anybody, much less your own child. I think there is some of that here embedded.
“Although it's called the Ukraine support bill, a substantial amount of that money is, frankly, to buy the weapons that we gave them. We give them Stinger missiles, [then] we don't have those anymore, and we need them. So, we've got to go out and buy them. If I lend you something and you use it, I don't have it anymore, unless I spend money to buy it back. That's a big chunk of it. There's money in there to reopen our embassy. What happens is when you close an embassy in any country, because you think the Russians are going to take over Kviv, you have to destroy everything in there, all the equipment, all the computers. You don't want your Russians getting a hold of that stuff. Now you've got to move back in, you've got to rebuild it. Part of that money is involved as well in buying up bulk supplies of food, because we're going to have a food crisis around the world.
“Why that matters to the United States is when people are starving in other countries, it'll raise our prices, too. They take off. They either overthrow their government, meaning some radical group could take over, like Hezbollah, for example, in Lebanon, or if Egypt's overthrown by radicals or something like that. These are countries that are very vulnerable. At the same time [there are] migratory patterns. We have countries in the Western Hemisphere that could face food shortages. If they do, you're just going to see the number of people trying to get into our country climb exponentially.
“I'm not sure if 40 billion [dollars] is the right number. We probably could have done it with a little bit less. There was a lot of really bad stuff that was taken out of it.
On the baby formula shortage:
“Now you pivot over to the baby formula problem. The key is, irrespective of Ukraine, this bill that the House is pursuing to spend, I think it's $20 million for the FDA, isn't going to solve the baby formula crisis. The baby formula crisis is not that there's no money out there to buy it. The baby formula crisis is there isn't anything to buy.
“It's not being made because they shut down a factory in December because two babies died. Then they didn't reopen it and it took too long to reopen. The government basically said, ‘Yeah, we'll shut you down.’ That's what the FDA makes you do, obviously with it. But no one was keeping an eye on when are you going to restart? Because if you don't restart or someone doesn't restart, it's going to lead to a crisis.
“When the company that makes over half the baby formula in the country shuts down its major manufacturing facility, how could you not know that at some point it was going to lead to a shortage that is going to be severe? [It] really chalks up to incompetence. It's not a demand issue, which is when you put more money into the economy, it's a supply issue. A week ago, I asked the president to invoke the Defense Production Act, and he finally did it yesterday, six days later. That’s something that should have been done last week, [but] frankly, should have been done months ago.”
On how to prevent manufacturing and trade crises from reoccurring:
“The basic ingredients that go into developing these formulas are not scarce. It really comes down to you having a market share of over 50 percent embedded in one company. Then really at that point it seems to not have been any sort of market decision as to why, it's not even clear that European exporters would have wanted to enter a market that was so … already clearly dominated by one company over time in that case. Now, we do have the authority and the ability to lift those trade restrictions. I most certainly think that's something that should have been a part of the solution.
“It’s as simple as this, if you're competent and you know what you're doing, you're sitting there and you're saying, ‘okay, the company that makes half the baby formula is offline. At some point, unless they restart pretty quickly, we're going to have a shortage. Let's start working on this now so we don't have a shortage.’ And now, meaning January, February of this year when they were distracted, voting on all kinds of messaging things up here, and when the Biden Administration was more focused on calling everyone who didn't want to take over of election laws, comparing them to Jim Crow supporters, as opposed to focusing on a real problem like this issue.
“I think our number one challenge when it comes to trade, when it comes to cheating on trade, is China. It's China one, two, and three, and then everybody else.
“Is there unfairness in some of the arrangements that exist with Europe? Yes. But no country in Europe, or Europe collectively, is trying to displace America as their military ally. They're not trying to displace America's place in the world and sort of become dominant at our expense. I think there are two very different categories.
“When it comes to China and dependence on China, there's one set of things that we need to consider doing in the national interest. When it comes to countries in Europe, if things are unfair, we should address them. I don't think we necessarily need to get into trade wars or have unnecessary barriers to entry on all sorts of things. It extends to like sunscreen. Some of the best sunscreens in the world are in Europe, but you can't import them into the United States because of FDA regulations and things of that nature. There's a lot to talk about it in that field. The answer is it depends where it's coming from. If it's coming from an ally, it's a lot less harmful than it is coming from a place like China, which is not the case, unfortunately.”
On lessons the United States can learn from the Russia-Ukraine conflict in combating China:
“I would say I agree with the people that say our focus should be primarily on China. I don't think we can allow ourselves to be distracted into this long, protracted engagement. For Russia, at this point, and for the foreseeable future, is in no shape to invade anyone. They have their hands full as it is in Ukraine, and they suffered devastating losses there. That said, I would tell you that if we gave, just as an example, Ukraine ten Stinger missiles from our stockpiles, that's ten less Stinger missiles that we have. Someone's going to have to pay for us to restock. Otherwise we're not going to have them in the future if we might need them against someone, God forbid, like China.
“In the case of the pivot point, and the focus on it, I think there's a couple of lessons. The first is, and this is a, I think, well informed opinion of mine, there's probably a divide in China between their military leaders, who don't know what it's like to go to war and how painful and costly it is, have all these new toys, and are feeling big about themselves, their political leadership, and their Communist Party. That's sort of more cautious because they frankly feel like maybe ‘We were not ready to invade Taiwan yet because we could lose and that would be the end of our rule.’
‘We need to continue to ensure that those doubts are in place. The way you do that is, do we have military capability to counter what China is doing? Their goal is to make it impossible for us to intervene. If they've got these anti-ship missiles that cost a fraction of what an aircraft carrier does but kill aircraft carriers, they're calculating America's not going to lose two very expensive aircraft carriers defending Taiwan. We've got to have counters to those things because if they know we can't intervene, that's a green light to go. That's the first thing we have to really focus on.
“The second is the lesson. There's two lessons. The first is in Ukraine. If the West in the United States is not capable of responding to an invasion of Ukraine by a country that we really aren't dependent on for anything, how in the world are we going to intervene or do anything if they go after Taiwan? They're watching to see what the reaction is because the reaction against Russia, which is a much weaker power than China, is not strong, it's going to be a lot less strong when it comes to China.
“The other lesson is for Taiwan. The lesson is you don't need to match the Chinese Air Force and Navy. What you need to do is make it very painful for them to ever invade you. You have to have the capability to turn into a porcupine. The reason why porcupines don't get eaten in the wild is because they are painful to chew on and difficult to swallow. That's what Taiwan needs to become, a very costly and expensive place to take. That's the kind of assistance we should be providing them, understanding that it's an island. It’s not like there's no land border we’re going to be able to drive things across, but they're going to have to have the capability to hold on for a substantial period of time until assistance can come on their behalf. All of those things go into the risk calculus that Chinese leaders will make before deciding that they want to militarily take Taiwan.”
On the Biden Administration’s handling of China:
“There are some people that are making this argument, and I think that's being balanced by people that are saying, ‘China is somebody we need to do a climate deal with. So we really shouldn't be getting antagonistic.’ [As well as] people that have hopes of returning to the corporate sector after their service in government, after this revolving door spits them back out, and they want to make themselves valuable to companies that will want to send them to China to cut business deals or be engaged in business deals and things of that nature.
“One of the things that is being revealed more these days is … how much leverage the Chinese Communist Party has over corporate America. It's a huge market, and no CEO wants to have to explain to shareholders why their profits are down because they got kicked out of the most populous nation on earth. Even though they may have a very small piece of that market over there, it's a lot of money for them. It makes them look good in their quarterly earnings reports to their shareholders. There are people in the government, frankly, who want to go back and work in that sector. I think there's a lot of voices in the Biden Administration that just don't get that part of it right.
“There's also a lot of Eurocentric thinking. There's still a lot of people who are born into and raised in the post-Cold War foreign policy mentality of it's still about Europe, it's still about the Middle East and counterterrorism, important topics, no doubt, who have not fully embraced, have no expertise in, or just are never going to be convinced that the real challenge in the long term is this great power competition with an adversary in China that's unlike any adversary the US has ever confronted.”
On corporations’ embrace of woke priorities:
“For most of these corporations, I believe what happens is, because they make a lot of money, they are targets of the socialist Left. Just like you pay protection money to the mob, the protection money they pay to the left-wing mob is A, they donate to groups like Black Lives Matter who then end up siphoning it off for their personal use — it's a complete, total scam group — or B, they take on these social causes. They sort of say, ‘Yeah, we know we make a lot of money, but socialists, don't come after us, because we're paying our protection money by taking on these social issues and showing how responsible we are.’ So that's part of the challenge.
“Part of the challenge, frankly, is that some of the people who lead these organizations are well schooled in years of elite education. Probably really expensive prep schools, followed by double Ivy education, where they’ve basically been indoctrinated into all of this. And then they live in communities where they're surrounded by people that believe all this stuff and they want to make sure they keep getting invited to the right clubs, the right parties, the right social gatherings in the Hamptons and elsewhere in California and places like that.
“In the case of Disney, here's what's interesting. This issue, this bill, as I hope most people now understand, and I think the overwhelming majority of Americans and Floridians agree with, it's very simple. It says you can't teach kids from the ages of five to nine about sexual identity and gender identity. Just don't talk to them about it in schools, it's not an age appropriate thing. If there's going to be a conversation about it at that age, it should be their parents and their families that have it. That's what the bill says. Who could disagree with the fact that six-year-olds should not be indoctrinated? Or I should say, in many cases, really confused and battered by these gender conversations when they're still trying to figure out how to color between the lines and read and write and do math. It has nothing to do with Disney. Nothing. Disney doesn't run schools. It doesn't teach five to nine-year-olds, certainly not on a mass scale or anywhere that I know. Yet they decided to inject themselves.
“Universal Studios didn't. Seaworld didn’t…. But they did for some reason. And I think it's because their employees in California went nuts. So they decided to inject themselves into the middle of this. And how they injected themselves is…by lying about the Florida law and, in the process, by smearing a state that has provided them an extraordinary benefit in this special status that they have. They basically used their corporate power to tell the world Florida is a transphobic, homophobic state led by transphobic, homophobic leaders. It's a lie. It's smearing the state. And so the state says, ‘If you're going to harm the state, why should you have a special arrangement that no other theme park and no other business in Florida has?’ which is their own form of self government. And I think that's why Governor DeSantis and the legislature took the steps they took. We'll see how that plays out, obviously, because it doesn't take effect until next year….
“They certainly have a right to opine, corporations do. And it's funny, you know, the same people who were at the Supreme Court arguing…years ago that corporations should not be allowed to participate monetarily in the political environment, have no problem whatsoever when corporations use their corporate power to speak out on behalf or get involved on behalf of issues that they care about, and that's writ large across the board.
“So I think for Republicans, it's pretty simple. These guys always come to us when they want some regulation lowered or some tax code lowered, but on everything else, they basically spend all their time boycotting our states because of the decisions our state-elected legislators make or attacking us and in some cases interfering with us.”
On the importance of federalism:
“Part of being a conservative is being a federalist, the belief that the federal government has limited powers. There are certain things that the federal government and our Constitution has the power to do, and the rest should be left up to states. Not that these issues don't matter, not that these issues aren't important, but they're better solved at the state level. Education, who runs our elections, etc. And so part of the challenge is our system is set up to reflect it. We were founded by men who did not want this country to have a federal government that was that involved. And they created a system that made it very difficult for the federal government to take action.
“They created a Senate that's very different from the House. We have to have a bill that passes both, signed by a president, passes constitutional muster and Supreme Court. So it's a place where it's easy to stop things and hard to make things happen, which is why I think you've seen so much power shift to the courts, but also to the administrative monster that is Washington and the rule-making. They make a lot of law and so forth. But part of that is, it's hard to get things passed and done.
“And so it's interesting because we have people a couple years ago that wanted us to get rid of the filibuster, to do all sorts of things that we wanted. Had we done that, had we gotten rid of the filibuster in the Senate, as an example — and that's not part of the Constitution, it's a Senate rule — but let's just suppose that when we had the House, the Senate, and the White House, we would have gotten rid of the filibuster. We would have passed a bunch of stuff. But now the Democrats would have passed a bunch of stuff. They would have passed, on top of the one point nine trillion dollar spending that kick-started inflation, they would have spent another three or four trillion dollars…. They would have taken over federal elections had there not been a filibuster. They would pack the Supreme Court. Who knows what they would do if they were not limited by that? I can tell you what they're already doing on nominees. Some of the craziest, zaniest, radical people that have ever served in American government are being appointed by this administration because they can break a tie with the vice president's vote.
“So I think we have to also understand that [part of being a] conservative is being a federalist. We have states, states can solve a lot of these issues. It's the right place to have most of these debates. That doesn't mean there aren't things we need to be doing when it comes to foreign policy, trade policy, national security and broader issues that involve the whole country. But I think that's a perspective to keep in mind.
“My hope is [also] that we're going to…understand we're living in a different world now, [that] that's going to cause us to reevaluate a lot of the public policy decisions made in the last twenty years, in many cases through bipartisan consensus that no longer is applicable to the world we now live in.”
On bringing the issue of abortion down to the state level:
“People say it's the abortion issue. Really, to me, it's not an issue about abortion, it’s an issue about life. I get abortion’s involved in it. And that's the central question in terms of what policymakers are dealing with. But I have no desire to impose anything on anyone. My desire is to protect human life.
“The most important principle, I think, behind everything we do in government and, frankly, much of what we do in society, is, human life has dignity. It needs to be protected. Human life matters. And so we do all kinds of things. Virtually every law we pass is, in one way or another, a way to protect human life or improve human life and the dignity of human life in our country and in some cases around the world.
“I believe that a human being has a right to live irrespective of what stage in its development that human being is in. And that includes from the moment of conception where they're fully human. They're not fully developed, but they're fully human. Everything that it takes to be a human being is there at the moment of conception. And I think our laws and our policies should reflect that.
“Now, some people have a different point of view. That's why we have a republic, for those debates we’re having. We've never had that debate in America. What we had is a Supreme Court that…made up a constitutional right to something and never allowed the country to have that debate. And it'll be a loud debate and it will be divisive. But these are the kinds of things you have to do in a free society.
“And so I think the fact that this issue could potentially return to the political realm means for the first time in fifty years, American policymakers and society and the public will have to have a debate about the importance of human life. At what stage do we protect it and what the laws to do so should look like? We've never had to have that debate before because Roe acted as a buffer against either the Left having to justify its position or the Right for that matter, and those who are pro-life and so forth.
“So as far as what I'm thinking about, I think I want us to be a country that values human dignity and human life, a country that basically says that no child is a tragedy. Maybe the circumstances surrounding it are horrifying. But the human life itself is not a tragedy. And maybe the circumstances around it aren't what you planned. But the human life involved itself is a blessing, not a liability.
“And then we have to have policies that reflect it. So to be pro-life means we have to also be willing to step up, primarily in the societal sector and the private sector, but certainly reflected in our policies, and say: ‘If someone is born into difficult circumstances, we want that person to succeed. We understand that someone who was born into difficult circumstances may need some help in terms of, especially early in their lives, getting to a certain point, and [we should] have policies that reflect that.
“I'm not ever going to say that some fifteen-year-old girl who's gotten pregnant and [is] scared and afraid to tell her parents, that that's easy. That's not easy. That's a very difficult circumstance. But I also want that fifteen-year-old girl to know that irrespective of everything else that's going on, there's a human being involved now, a second human being. That's a blessing, not a curse. And we want to be helpful. We want them to know that there are options that will help them bring that human life to term, and more importantly be supportive, not just say, ‘You're on your own.’ And obviously, I think a lot of that's going on already in the civic space. But we want to make sure our government and policies reflect it, not necessarily spending that all the time, but certainly the things that we build up around it.”
On building a new common-sense coalition within the Republican Party:
“I hope the Republican Party, beyond anything else, is defined as the party of common sense. There's a term that's thrown around a lot, but there are just things that make sense. We learned them from fifty-five hundred years of recorded history. We've learned it from years of our own experience. There are things that we know are true and not true. We had a hearing yesterday in the House here. I saw a clip of it, and some lady was asked, ‘Do men get pregnant and could a man be pregnant?’ She said, ‘Yes, it could.’ But there's no such recorded instance. I will tell you that the moment that happens, we all want to know about it. And that would be a pretty major development in human history if that were the case. But these people say it with a straight face.
“We had the radical abortion bill that the Democrats wanted to vote on last week. The only mention of ‘woman’ in that bill is in the title, and the whole thing is about ‘pregnant persons.’ So people look at that and say, ‘Okay, look, no matter how you feel about abortion,...you guys are acting stupid.’ When you make us try to believe that things that never existed and aren't true are true, you begin to insult people's intelligence. But the problem is, that’s seeped into everything. This disinformation and misinformation board is another example of it.
“So you want to be the party of common sense, you want to be the party of competence. And I always think we're going to be the home of a center-right movement of people that believe that we want a limited federal government, not because we don't care…about people's challenges, but because we feel to the extent there's a government role in solving many of those problems, that government is the state and local government, because they're closer to you and you have more influence over them.
“And within that umbrella that I just described, I think there's room for a lot of diversity of opinion. There already is. We're the party of Rand Paul and Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Ted Cruz. That's a pretty broad ideological spectrum. The Democratic Party's pretty uniform. You don't see a lot of diversity. And every week that goes by, every primary that happens, more and more of the people joining the Democratic Party are of the Far Left. The far Far Left.”