Can Marco Rubio Bomb His Way Back Into the Right’s Good Graces?

Yes, it’s suddenly a fine time once again to be a Republican super-hawk, what with the GOP rank-and-file getting back in touch with their inner Dick Cheney, and even Rand Paul getting all macho about “destroying” IS. At that neocon fortress, the Weekly Standard, Stephen Hayes can’t help but gloat.

The Republican flirtation with dovish noninterventionism is over. It wasn’t much of a fling.

No, it wasn’t.

Hayes quickly warms to the idea that this new mood of joy in blowing thing up overseas as well as at home will be a big factor in 2016. And though he mentions Paul’s back-tracking and some upcoming “big” speech by Bobby Jindal on defense (presumably because his effort to be the most ferocious Christian Right figure in the campaign hasn’t much worked), Hayes has no doubt who the biggest beneficiary will be:

Among the most-discussed prospective candidates, the reemergence of these issues probably benefits Marco Rubio as much as anyone. Rubio, who serves on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, has made a priority of national security since his arrival in Washington in January 2011. And it was a point of emphasis for him in the 2010 campaign that sent him to Congress.

According to several people close to Rubio, the senator has not made a final decision about whether he’ll run for president in 2016. But a recent interview made clear that if he does run, he will do so as a proponent of U.S. global leadership and military dominance.

Not immigration reform? Just kidding.

Rubio called for dramatic increases in defense spending. He said the United States should be prepared to send ground troops to Iraq if necessary to defeat ISIS. He argued that the United States must “be able to project power into multiple theaters in the world.” He said that the United States should embrace its role as a superpower and “conduct a multifaceted foreign policy.”

For the first time, I’m seeing a glimmer of how Rubio might be able to overcome the horrendous damage he suffered among conservative activists with his advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform. His frantic back-tracking on that subject has simply reinforced the impression that he can’t be trusted. But being the chief bomb-thrower in the field–literally, not figuratively–could covereth a multitude of sins. From the emotional point of view of “the base,” wanting to kill a lot of dusky people is a decent substitute for wanting to keep a lot of dusky people from entering the country and going on welfare.

Hayes does go too far in suggesting that the militaristic mood in the GOP could go so far as to lure still another candidate in the race–one whose name would normally arouse widespread hoots of derision:

In a recent, hour-long interview, Lindsey Graham said if he is reelected to the Senate in November, he will begin exploring a bid for the presidency.

Be still, my heart. The prospect of a 2016 presidential cycle played out against the background of Lindsey Graham squawking hysterically about terrorist threats is almost too much to bear.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.