Maybe There Is Actually Hope for 'Centrist' Politics?

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RubioBrookings1.jpgI know, that's crazy talk, and I don't really mean it. But compare this passage from Sen. Marco Rubio's speech just now at Brookings with anything you heard in the past year's GOP debates or campaign rhetoric. (AP photo at right.) Emphasis added:

In this new century, more than ever before, America should work with our capable allies in finding solutions to global problems. Not because America has gotten weaker, but because our partners have grown stronger. It's worth pointing out, that is not a new idea for us. Our greatest successes have always occurred in partnership with other like-minded nations. America has acted unilaterally in the past - and I believe it should continue to do so in the future -- when necessity requires. But our preferred option since the U.S. became a global leader has been to work with others to achieve our goals. So yes, global problems do require international coalitions. On that point this administration is correct. [What????]

Preferably, we can succeed through coercive means short of military force. We should be open to negotiations with Iran.

I was in the car, listening to the speech on C-SPAN radio when he said these words; as has been noted, I live a glamorous life. Just like in a movie, I had the momentary clichéd feeling that I might veer off the road in sheer amazement at the strange sounds reaching my ears. This is, after all, the same Sen. Rubio who was an early darling of the Tea Party and who just a few days ago was saying that George W. Bush had done a "fantastic" job as president. (Maybe he just believes in talking nicely about all presidents?)

He is also the same Sen. Rubio who is frequently bruited as the VP candidate for a party whose foreign policy rhetoric this year includes no previous known occurrence  of the phrase "this administration is correct" and that has essentially equated "being open to negotiations with Iran" with "admiring Neville Chamberlain at Munich."

Is this a sign of a post-primary pivot-to-the-center for the party as a whole? Of a "call me crazy" moment by Rubio himself? Of a rogue speechwriter taking control? I don't know -- and it's highly likely that we'll hear the opposite tone again soon. But it is a moment too unusual not to notice. (Heather Hurlburt analyzes the speech at Democracy Arsenal.) Update: Conor Friedersdorf notes the main omission from Rubio's speech.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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