The Kony Factor in Rubio’s ‘Major Speech’

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Mike Allen’s Playbook features an excerpt from a “major foreign policy speech” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio is giving today at the Council on Foreign Relations. Rubio may not be Sarah Palin, but he does make more grand pronouncements about foreign policy than you’d expect from a 40-year-old freshman senator and ex-state legislator. I’m also puzzled by this passage excerpted by Allen:

And I disagree with voices in my own party who argue we should not engage at all. Who warn we should heed the words of John Quincy Adams not to go ‘abroad, in search of monsters to destroy’ …

“I disagree because all around us we see the human face of America’s influence in the world. It actually begins with not just our government, but our people. Millions of people have been the catalyst of democratic change in their own countries. But they never would have been able to connect with each other if an American had not invented Twitter. The atrocities of Joseph Kony would still be largely unknown. But in fact, millions now know because an American filmmaker made a short film about it and then distributed it on another American invention YouTube. 

Without a full transcript it’s hard to say for sure, but it sounds like Rubio acts as though no one was paying attention to Kony’s wickedness until the Kony 2012 video went viral. But surely Rubio knows that President Obama dispatched U.S. Special Forces to Uganda back in October, months before Kony became a household name (and was rewarded with attacks from the right). We’ll see whether the full speech gives Obama credit for this.

The “major speech” is a strange convention of politics, by the way. Politicians grandiosely apply the “major” label to their own remarks, mostly as a way of attracting press interest, and often serving up a platitude gumbo to enhance the pol’s “stature.” The term has now been so watered down that any speech not billed as “major” feels like a throwaway, as though the speaker doesn’t care if you pay attention. For once I’d like to see someone give a “minor” address–say, on policy towards Guam–just to make the point.

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