Category Archives: Marco Rubio

Will Graham and McCain stand alone against Trump on intel?

Donald Trump’s insistence on doubting intel indicating that the Russians tried to tip the election in his favor is a remarkable instance of his flaws coming together over one issue.

Combine his lack of faith in people who obviously know more than he does (a large set) with his inferiority complex (in this case, his touchiness over the suggestion that anything other than his own wonderfulness won the election for him), and you have a guy willing to sacrifice the nation’s intelligence-gathering apparatus for the sake of his own fragile ego. This, of course, takes petty self-absorption to a level previously unseen in U.S. history.

Which is, you know, a pretty good illustration of why it was utterly insane for anyone to consider for a moment voting for him to be president of the United States. But that’s water under the bridge, right? This is the irrational world in which we now live.

I was a bit encouraged when I saw this headline leading The Washington Post this morning: “Trump’s criticism of intelligence on Russia is dividing Hill GOP.” An excerpt:

McCain will hold a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Thursday on “foreign cyber threats” that is expected to center on Russia. Intelligence officials — including Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., Defense Undersecretary for Intelligence Marcel J. Lettre II and U.S. Cyber Command and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers — will testify, and some Republicans are hoping they will present evidence that Russia meddled in the elections.

“The point of this hearing is to have the intelligence community reinforce, from their point of view, that the Russians did this,” Graham said. “You seem to have two choices now — some guy living in an embassy, on the run from the law for rape, who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us. I’m going with them.”

Graham was referring to Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder accused of helping Russia leak emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee….

Unfortunately, it’s not much of a split, going by this story. So far, it looks a bit like another case of John McCain and our own Lindsey Graham standing on the side of reason and national security, and too many others cowering, unwilling to tell the incoming emperor the obvious: that he has no clothes, and that it’s not a good look for him.

Sure, McConnell has spoken up in the past, and Marco Rubio might get on board with McCain and Graham. And Paul Ryan, bless him, had the presence of mind to call that Assange creep a “sycophant for Russia.”

But only time will tell whether the GOP Congress will live up to its obligation to check and balance the absurdities of our president-elect…

Marco’s ‘media maestro,’ our own Wesley Donehue

Meet Marco’s digital media maestro: Wesley Donehue

You may have thought Wesley Donehue had already had his one and only brush with fame when he had yours truly on his show, Pub Politics, nine times.

You could be forgiven for thinking so.

But these days, he’s going great guns acting as Marco Rubio’s digital maestro, as CNN puts it. This is evidently a wild ride, and Wesley seems to be thoroughly enjoying it — as would I, in his place.

Watch the video above…


All those times we DIDN’T kill bin Laden

Bin Laden in 1997, being interviewed by a Pakistani journalist.

Bin Laden in 1997, being interviewed by a Pakistani journalist.

The Washington Post did a fact check on Marco Rubio’s assertion that “The World Trade Center came down because Bill Clinton didn’t kill Osama bin Laden when he had the chance to kill him.”

Rubio also said that Clinton passed on the chance to kill bin Laden “Not once but four times….”

Let’s set aside the blame game. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall particularly expecting Bill Clinton to kill him. I sort of knew who bin Laden was back in the ’90s and that he was a real problem for us, but this was well before it was an accepted thing that POTUS would have a kill list on his desk, à la President Obama.

I said something about this on Twitter and Facebook, and Jim Hammond reminded me of one incident that was well-covered at the time, and it started coming back to me.

That said, the fact that the Post identified nine incidents in which the U.S. nearly went after or nearly got bin Laden, not just four, is fascinating — not as fodder for blaming this president or that one, but because its interesting to review what was really going on in that relatively complacent, “end of history” decade. An excerpt:

1. May 1998: Tarnak Farms raid plan rejected

The CIA planned hard on an effort to capture bin Laden and to bring him to the United States for a trial. But at the last minute the CIA senior management lost its nerve and apparently never brought the plan to Clinton for a decision.

From the 9/11 Commission report:

A compound of about 80 concrete or mud-brick buildings surrounded by a 10-foot wall, Tarnak Farms was located in an isolated desert area on the outskirts of the Kandahar airport. CIA officers were able to map the entire site, identifying the houses that belonged to Bin Laden’s wives and the one where Bin Laden himself was most likely to sleep. Working with the tribals, they drew up plans for the raid. They ran two complete rehearsals in the United States during the fall of 1997. By early 1998, planners at the Counterterrorist Center were ready to come back to the White House to seek formal approval…

One group of tribals would subdue the guards, enter Tarnak Farms stealthily, grab Bin Laden, take him to a desert site outside Kandahar, and turn him over to a second group. This second group of tribals would take him to a desert landing zone …From there, a CIA plane would take him to New York, an Arab capital, or wherever he was to be arraigned. Briefing papers prepared by the Counterterrorist Center acknowledged that hitches might develop. People might be killed, and Bin Laden’s supporters might retaliate, perhaps taking U.S. citizens in Kandahar hostage.

But the briefing papers also noted that there was risk in not acting. “Sooner or later,” they said, “Bin Laden will attack U.S. interests, perhaps using WMD [weapons of mass destruction].” The CIA planners conducted their third complete rehearsal in March…The plan had now been modified so that the tribals would keep Bin Laden in a hiding place for up to a month before turning him over to the United States-thereby increasing the chances of keeping the U.S. hand out of sight. …On May 18, CIA’s managers reviewed a draft Memorandum of Notification (MON), a legal document authorizing the capture operation. A 1986 presidential finding had authorized worldwide covert action against terrorism and probably provided adequate authority. But mindful of the old “rogue elephant” charge, senior CIA managers may have wanted something on paper to show that they were not acting on their own….

Discussion of this memorandum brought to the surface an unease about paramilitary covert action that had become ingrained, at least among some CIA senior managers. Despite misgivings, the CIA leadership cleared the draft memorandum and sent it on to the National Security Council.

From May 20 to 24, the CIA ran a final, graded rehearsal of the operation, spread over three time zones, even bringing in personnel from the region. The FBI also participated. The rehearsal went well. The Counterterrorist Center planned to brief cabinet-level principals and their deputies the following week, giving June 23 as the date for the raid, with Bin Laden to be brought out of Afghanistan no later than July 23.

On May 20, Director Tenet discussed the high risk of the operation with Berger and his deputies, warning that people might be killed, including Bin Laden. Success was to be defined as the exfiltration of Bin Laden out of Afghanistan. A meeting of principals was scheduled for May 29 to decide whether the operation should go ahead. But the principals did not meet…The plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.

Working-level CIA officers were disappointed….No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation. The tribals’ reported readiness to act diminished. And Bin Laden’s security precautions and defenses became more elaborate and formidable.

Fascinating stuff…

You know you’ve gone too far in attacking Obama when the WSJ defends him

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama signs remarks for introducer Sabah Muktar backstage prior to speaking at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in Baltimore, Md., Feb. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Meant to post this the other day…

I kind of went “Huh?” when I saw that Marco Rubio had been critical of President Obama’s visit to a mosque, saying POTUS is “always pitting Americans against each other.”

From Trump and Cruz I expect such non sequitur grumbling. Not from Rubio.

The Wall Street Journal‘s editorial board agreed with me the next day:

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio gave PresidentObama a hard time for his speech Wednesday at the Islamic Society of Baltimore, and we wonder if the Florida Senator read it. The speech was one of Mr. Obama’s best attempts to fulfill the promise he made in 2008 to promote racial and political comity.

We’ll admit to expecting worse, since Mr. Obama has typically addressed the issue of Islam by apologizing for Western behavior (2009 in Cairo) or analogizing Islamic State to the Christian Crusades (2015 National Prayer Breakfast). But in Baltimore he sought to reassure Muslims about their place in this country by invoking the best traditions of American religious freedom and tolerance….

Yeah. That’s pretty much what I heard.

Things seem to be lining up to create Mo for Marco in SC

The Rubio camp released the above video today.

It’s kind of minimalist — doesn’t say a lot. But then, TV ads tend to be that way; this one just seems more that way than most.

But it brings up the subject of… Things are building a bit for Marco Rubio in South Carolina, a state that he had always planned to do well in.

He won the Mainstream Republican race in Iowa… Tim Scott endorsed him… now Rick Santorum has done the same

… which national observers think won’t mean much in New Hampshire, but could mean a good bit here in the Bible Belt — specifically, in South Carolina.

Are they right? I don’t know. But I’m sensing some Mo for Marco.

No, I take that back. I’m not actually feeling the Mo yet. It’s like surfing — when you feel your board rising, it’s a bit late to start paddling to catch it. This is more like when you’re looking over your shoulder and seeing what could turn into a righteous wave by the time it gets to you…

ARRRGGGGHHH! Marco Rubio just lost ground with me

I’ve been struggling to figure out which candidate I’ll vote for next month, and Marco Rubio has been in the mix for consideration (since he meets the critical “not Trump or Cruz” criterion).

But he just lost a lot of ground with me.

Watch the above ad. It’s only 30 seconds.

Did you hear it? Did it grate on you as much as it did on me?

Yes, he really did say, “It’s time for a president…” (note that — A president, as in just one) “… who will put THEIR left hand on the Bible and THEIR right hand in the air, and keep THEIR promise to uphold the Constitution…”


I really don’t think I’ve ever heard it done so egregiously by any candidate for any office — three times in one sentence!

Yes, we’re a republic, but that’s no excuse for abusing the Queen’s English so…

Rubio is a pawn star in new ad

I visited Marco Rubio HQ over on Huger earlier this week. If I hadn’t known exactly where it was (in the building that used to be a flag store), I might have driven past it. There was no signage visible from the road other than one of those wheeled signs with the movable letters.

I was there to touch base with Buzz Jacobs, newly named senior adviser to the campaign. Buzz was one of the architects of John McCain’s come-from-behind (remember when they said he was out of it, in mid-2007) victory here in 2008.

Nothing to report on that conversation — we just spent the time catching up, off the record. But I did ask him to put me on the Rubio email list — I’m sort of inundated with stuff from Cruz and Christie, but hadn’t been getting anything from this campaign.

Buzz obliged, and so I share with you the above new ad, which came in this morning.

I’m not entirely sure of the value of being hawked as a great investment by a pawn shop owner, but hey, there are popular TV shows now about that business, right? So what do I know? (And I find myself trying to place the background music — I think I heard it on a video game I had years ago.)

One thing Buzz did tell me was that they would have a more noticeable sign out front soon. And he meant really soon, because there were some young guys putting it up as I was leaving.

So it seems the Rubio campaign is getting settled in for the home stretch in South Carolina…