CPAC Speakers Against the World

Facing an audience of conservative activists, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul let loose with a little safe China- and Egypt-bashing.

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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican Party's most visible advocate for Latino and undocumented immigrants, skipped the vexing issue of immigration reform in his remarks at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference, going instead for a round of China-bashing that went on so long it seemed calculated to stoke nativist spirits in the room, as well as affirm American values. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, meanwhile, provoked boos after mentioning calls for the party to "shift appeal to the growing Hispanic demographic," and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won cheers with sarcastic dig at aid to Egypt.

"While we are here bickering in this country, arguing about whether we should spend more than we take in or what government's role should be, there is a nation trying to supplant us as the leading power in the world," Rubio warned.

"The Chinese government provides their people no access to the Internet. The Chinese government will hold citizens prisoner without any right to recourse. The Chinese government coerces and tortures people until they get confessions. The Chinese government restricts the ability of people to assemble. If you escape China, they actually put pressure on governments to forcibly return you. The Chinese government has coercive birth limitation policies, which means that in some cases they are forcing abortions and sterilizations. The Chinese government uses forced labor. And this is what they do to their own people.

"We want that to be the leading country in the world?"

"No!" replied the audience.

"We want that to be the leading voice on this planet?" Rubio continued.

"No!" came the cry.

"That's the stakes. That's what's at stake in America's greatness. This is not just about national pride. The truth of the matter is -- don't take this for granted -- what we have here is different and special historic. In the vast history of the world and of mankind almost everyone that's every been born was poor and disadvantaged with no ability to get ahead. What's made us different is that here, people have had the real chance to get a  better life no matter where they started out. Do not underestimate what that has meant for the world," Rubio said.

"Now, as soon as I finish speaking, I can tell you what the criticism on the left is going to be. Number 1, he drank too much water. Number 2, that he didn't offer any new ideas. And there's the fallacy of that. We don't need a new idea. The idea is called America, and it still works."

And with that, the final section of his remarks, the audience broke into cheers.

Paul, who addressed the audience right after Rubio, mocked the president for suspending White House tours under the sequester. "He had to do this because these cuts were imposed by the sequester. But meanwhile, within a few days the president finds an extra 250 million dollars to send to Egypt," Paul said, provoking several rounds of boos from the attendees.

"You know -- the country where mobs attacked out embassy, burned our flag and chanted death to America. He found an extra $250 million... You know -- the country whose president recently stood by his spiritual l leader, who called for death to Israel and all who support her. I say not one penny more to countries" ... and Paul's voice was eclipsed by applause.
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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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