On Sunday and Monday, Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio announced their candidacies for president. In the nature of such things, neither announcement came as a surprise. (The Economist had quipped shortly before the Clinton announcement that “For most Americans this will be as surprising as the news that Cinco de Mayo will once again be on May 5th.”) Similarly, both announcements offered little in the way of substance. Indeed, Clinton’s may have broken all previous records for airiness, consisting almost entirely of brief videos of a predictably diverse and uniformly attractive collection of citizens.
For her part, Clinton said only that:
Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.
Everyday Americans need a champion and I want to be that champion. So you can do more than just get by, you can get ahead and stay ahead, because when families are strong, America is strong.
That statement was presumably intended to stake out a perch acceptable to the Progressive (aka Elizabeth Warren) Wing of the Democratic Party. But what Clinton might attempt to do to “unstack” the deck remains to be seen. A short but interesting piece by John Cassidy in The New Yorker, “Hillary Clinton and the Democrats’ Inequality Agenda,” briefly discusses the economic measures that progressives will likely urge her to adopt.
Foreign affairs did not receive so much as a mention in the Clinton announcement, and it is another major area in which there may be some gap between Clinton and other Democrats. See, e.g., Vox, “Hillary Clinton will pull the Democrats—and the country in a hawkish direction.” In any case, one of Clinton’s challenges will be to figure out the extent she wants to run on the Obama record in foreign policy or away from it. Running away from it, of course, will be a challenge of its own given her role as Secretary of State. But we will leave for another day an appraisal of Clinton’s performance in that position.
Earlier this year, in expressing our tentative endorsement of Jeb Bush, we cited Senator Rubio as one of four “plausible alternatives” to Bush. (The others were Governors Scott Walker, John Kasich and Mike Pence. We would be inclined to delete Pence after his inept handling of the Indiana RFRA). We continue to place Rubio in that category. While his announcement was not as slickly packaged as Clinton’s, it had the advantages of a live performance and of telling his own quite compelling personal history. And it at least touched on some major issues albeit not in a particularly informative way:
If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace ObamaCare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs.
If we create a 21st century system of higher education that provides working Americans the chance to acquire the skills they need, that no longer graduates students with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to jobs, and that graduates more students from high school ready to work, then our people will be prepared to seize their opportunities in the new economy.
If we remember that family – not government – is the most important institution in society, that all life deserves protection, and that all parents deserve to choose the education that’s right for their children, then we will have a strong people and a strong nation.
How we might realize those aspirations was left to the imagination of the audience. Of the issues touched upon, Rubio has been the most specific with respect to tax reform, having previously offered a proposal jointly developed with Senator Mike Lee. The proposal sought to address the plight of middle class families, most notably by creating new $2,500 tax credit for each child. At the same time, it would eliminate the tax on dividends, interest and capital gains. The proposal has drawn criticism from various directions. For example, The Washington Post objected that it would “balloon the debt.” The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, seemed untroubled by that fact, but grumbled about the tax credit (“an obvious political gambit with no economic growth payoff”) and complained that the proposal would only lower the top rate to 35%. We will doubtless hear more on Rubio’s approach to tax reform during the primary debates and, if he should become the nominee, the general election campaign. We will withhold judgment for the moment, but are inclined to doubt that the proposal will get very far in its present form.
Rubio did address foreign policy, although only in glancing and generalized terms, and with one curious omission:
And if America accepts the mantle of global leadership, by abandoning this administration’s dangerous concessions to Iran, and its hostility to Israel; by reversing the hollowing out of our military; by giving our men and women in uniform the resources, care and gratitude they deserve; by no longer being passive in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression; and by ending the near total disregard for the erosion of democracy and human rights around the world; then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous.
The curious omission was the failure to make even a passing reference to the Islamic State. It is particularly curious in view of the fact that Rubio had joined Senators McCain and Graham in advocating a more robust response to that threat. With respect to Iran, we are skeptical of the framework agreement, and have supported the idea of a rigorous review by Congress, but we believe that America’s capacity for global leadership would hardly be enhanced by summarily abandoning the agreement.
We are sure that Hillary Clinton and Marco Rubio will both have much more to say on the country’s challenges in the very near future and we intend to listen and try to understand their arguments.