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Foreign Aid Matters, And Why Senator Rubio Deserves Praise

April 25, 2012

There is reason every American, including every Democrat, should be applauding Republican Senator Marco Rubio today.

Not only did the freshman senator make a strong statement about the need for foreign aid, but did so in a political climate where the least informed often make the loudest noises, and thereby turn too many into timid speakers.

Not so with Senator Rubio.

Today Rubio stood up to the Tea Party, and the most out-of-touch members of his own party.

Let me start at the foundation of why I am so delighted at the news today. 

First this is one of those genuinely bi-partisan moments of which there are far too few of these days.  Many people on both sides of the aisle will be able to agree about foreign aid being a most important part of our national budget.  For those of us who know these dollars need to be increased, and spent wisely, the words from Rubio are truly welcome.

In times of peace, and in times of conflict foreign aid dollars are used for a variety of ideas and causes that solidifies America’s position in the world while assisting those around the globe who need support and guidance.  

From assistance to our allies which helps to maintain a world in which we are more secure, to aiding in the development of more markets overseas, and creating friendships in the court of world opinion all lead any rational person to understand why foreign aid matters.

That was the point Senator Rubio was making today.

Rubio also broke with his party – and importantly, many members of his Tea Party base – by endorsing a robust foreign aid budget as a means to “strengthen our influence, the effectiveness of our leadership, and the service of our interests and ideals.” He cited programs to combat AIDS in Africa and urged other forms of humanitarian intervention.

Rubio addressed the threat of a nuclear Iran through the lens of the Syrian crisis, saying the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be a “significant blow to Iran’s ambitions.” He proposed significant action to help the opposition forces overthrow the government, including the formation of a coalition with Turkey and the Arab League nations and providing food, medicine, communications tools and possibly weapons to the Syrian people. 

He criticized but did not name some members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including some Republicans, for failing to capitalize on the possibility of a post-Assad Syria because they were afraid of the challenges it would pose. 

That was one instance in which Rubio broke with some members of his party; he also endorsed negotiations with Iran though he cautioned that they must lead to action rather than further negotiations. Like Romney and Obama, he said he was open to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon with the use of military force, though he suggested that outcome would be tragic. Asked whether he would support Israeli military intervention, Rubio said he was “not in a position to sit here and dictate to Israel’s leaders what they should or should not do.”

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