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Marco Rubio: America must lead world, and Obama doesn't get it

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, said to be on Mitt Romney's list of possible running mates, said Wednesday the US must exercise strong leadership, for the world's sake. Overall, his eagerly awaited speech on foreign affairs treaded lightly on Obama's policies.

By Staff writer / April 25, 2012

Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks about foreign policy, on April 25, at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, considered a “short-lister” to share the top Republican ticket with MItt Romney, is adamant about this: Only American leadership can deliver the global freedom and prosperity the 21st century promises.

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That was the main message Wednesday from the son of refugees from Fidel Castro’s Cuba, during a speech billed by some in Washington as the Republicans' opening shot in an election-year battle with President Obama over US foreign policy. Their aim: to paint Mr. Obama as timid in standing up to the world’s tyrants and as disregarding the robust American leadership the world needs.

But Senator Rubio did not differ with the Obama administration on much of fundamental importance. He said he would have kept the US at the helm of NATO’s Libya operation longer, would do more to challenge Russia as it attempts a world leadership comeback, and would offer a prescription for Syria that sounds much like what the administration is already doing.

Rubio’s sharpest warning, in fact, was a challenge to those from the left and the right who call for turning inward and who insist that America’s days of global leadership are past. Rubio described this argument as “one that increasingly says it is time to focus less on the world and more on ourselves.”

Rubio referred to Robert Kagan’s book, “The World America Made” (known to be on Obama’s bedside table), and noted that every world order has had its dominant nation. When constituents ask him, "Isn’t it time for someone else to lead the world?," Rubio says his “short answer is … there is no one else to hand off the baton to, even if that were a good idea.”

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