Marco Rubio Urges For “Moral Clarity”

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, went through hearings on Wednesday from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he answered several tough questions.

The much-anticipated hearings for the president-elect’s controversial choice starred not only Rex Tillerson himself, but a senator who was once known as the rising star of the Republican Party: Marco Rubio.

In December when it was rumored that Tillerson would become President-elect Trump’s secretary of state nominee, several Republican lawmakers, including Rubio, expressed concern over Tillerson’s relationship with Russia and their president Vladimir Putin. Rubio tweeted:

Rubio later issued a statement that expressed his concern in more detail.

This immediately led to several former high-ranking Republicans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, to talk to Rubio and lobby for Tillerson. Tillerson himself met with Rubio in private on Monday.

However, Rubio did not back down on Wednesday. Rubio pressed Tillerson on sanctions against Russia, human rights’ violations in Saudi Arabia, and when Rubio asked if Putin was a war criminal, Tillerson responded, “I would not use that term.”

While it is true that Tillerson’s international business experience is a good quality for a Secretary of State and brings a unique perspective regarding foreign relations, that strength did not make up for his lack of experience in diplomacy in his hearing. On several occasions, when Rubio pressed Tillerson for answers regarding human rights’ violations and war crimes from foreign leaders, particularly Russia’s Putin, Tillerson wavered, insisting that he needed more information before being able to give a definitive answer. His refusal to label Putin a war criminal, or at least admit that the Russian military had committed war crimes in Aleppo, leads one to suspect that Tillerson is not ready to admit that his friend Putin is destabilizing the world.

This is a controversial topic in Republican circles, because while it has been traditional Republican policy to take a strong stance against Russia, President-elect Trump has made clear that he would like a friendship with Russia and President Putin.

While being friends with any country is in theory better than being enemies with one, the friendship must be mutual, and there must be conditions met. If Russia is committing war crimes, why should the United States be friends with Russia?

The questions did not stop with Russia, however. During the second part of the hearing, Rubio asked Tillerson to condemn the drug war being waged by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, and Tillerson side-stepped the question and insisted that we needed to remain an ally with the Philippines. Then Rubio asked Tillerson if he believed that Saudi Arabia was a human rights violator, given the lack of religious freedom and freedom for women in the nation. Tillerson responded by saying that Saudi Arabia had different values, although they are progressing towards becoming more free, and by labeling them as human rights violators we could jeopardize our human rights progress in the region.

The idea that we should not place labels that may be offensive to other countries and leaders is a theme in Tillerson’s reasoning throughout the hearing, and it is not a theme that resonates well with human rights activists.

Human rights activism is at the core of Rubio’s foreign policy beliefs, and was disappointed that Tillerson could not call human rights violations for what they are. “In order to have moral clarity, we need clarity. We can’t achieve moral clarity with rhetorical ambiguity,” Rubio said during his final remarks. He said that people from China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, and other countries with poor human rights records look to the United States for leadership in the world, and when they see that the United States is not prepared to condemn these human rights violators, “It demoralizes these people all over the world. And it leads people to conclude this, which … hurt us during the Cold War: America cares about democracy and freedom, as long as it’s not being violated by someone that they need for something else.”

Rubio urged, “That cannot be who we are in the 21st century. We need a secretary of state that will fight for these principles.”

Remember, Rubio believes that American strength in foreign policy is what helps the world become stable – not by going into war, but by being the moral leader in world affairs and by making sure that no power voids can be created and filled by those who seek to destabilize the world. The weakening of American foreign policy in general through the Obama Administration has arguably led to the rise of Russia and Iran as more powerful adversaries and well as the rise of ISIS. And while Tillerson has not suggested that he would like to continue with Obama’s foreign policy, his unwillingness to label dangerous adversaries in the world is troubling and could degrade America’s moral stance in the world.

There is still no confirmation that Rubio will choose to vote yes or no on Tillerson in committee. He said in an interview, “I’m prepared to do what’s right.” And it may be right to vote no.

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Ford Cancels Mexican Plant, Adds 700 New Jobs In Michigan

On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company canceled their $1.6 billion plan for a Mexican plant and will instead invest $700 million in expanding a current plant in Flat Rock, Michigan, according to CNN.

This decision comes almost two years after President-elect Trump initially criticized Ford for their plans to build a new assembly plant for their next generation Ford Focus in San Luis Petosi, Mexico, even though the company insisted that no American jobs would be lost as a result of the move. Instead, the automaker will invest $700 million and create 700 new jobs in Flat Rock, Michigan to build self-driving and electronic vehicles. According to the Detroit Free Press, the new Ford Focus will instead be produced in a plant in its Hermosillo, Mexico factory.

This announcement comes one month after President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence announced that Carrier, the Indianapolis-based air conditioner company, would keep approximately 1000 jobs in the area out of 2000 jobs that were going to be lost to Mexico. Yet the Carrier deal was met with criticism because of the tax breaks and government grants offered to the company in order to coerce them to keep the jobs domestically, which conservatives view as government interventionism in the free market economy.

However, the Ford decision was not made because of any deal with President-elect Trump. Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Company, told CNN’s Poppy Harlow that the company’s decision to cancel plans for the Mexican plant was done independently, but that they were encouraged by pro-business policies that the president-elect has outlined that could encourage businesses to invest in the United States. “We didn’t cut a deal with Trump. We did it for our business,” Fields said.

This appears to be a win-win-win scenario. Ford believes that it will benefit from new policies by the president-elect to make creating jobs in the United States worth the investment, but without needing to be bribed by tax breaks and government grants. The investment in manufacturing self-driving and electrical vehicles could also benefit Ford, since Fields said he wants the company to be a leader to the future of automobile manufacturing. Ford also saves money by cutting its investment from $1.6 billion to $700 million.

While it is uncertain how much influence President-elect Trump had in Tuesday’s decision besides what Fields highlighted, the president-elect could use this opportunity to give credit to himself, as the decision does make him look like he is saving and creating hundreds of jobs even before he is sworn into office.

And while the original decision to build a plant in Mexico was not going to mean losing American jobs, domestic job creation is always a plus. It helps Michigan continue to be No. 1 in job growth in the manufacturing sector after falling between the years 2000 and 2009.

Overall, this is welcome news for the new year, and we can hope that job growth can continue with pro-growth policies under a Trump presidency.

Screaming at a Woman Is Harassment, but Not if It’s Ivanka?

Some people like to take every chance they can get to express their hatred for President-elect Trump – even if it means berating his daughter in front of her husband and three children.

According to TMZ, a passenger on a JetBlue commercial flight that Ivanka and her family had also boarded “began verbally berating her” and her family. He screamed, “Your father is ruining this country,” and “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.” TMZ reported that she ignored him and distracted her children with crayons. As JetBlue personnel took him off the plane, he continued, “You’re kicking me off for expressing my opinion?!”

Several other news sources reported on this incident as well, using headlines such as, “Airline removes men who ‘expressed displeasure’ flying with Ivanka Trump” and “A Man Was Reportedly Kicked Off a JetBlue Flight After Confronting Ivanka Trump.”

Considering their use of the words “expressed displeasure” and “confronting” indicates that these news outlets intended to downplay the harassment by not calling it what it is. And the man who shouted at Ivanka and her family claimed that he was merely expressing his opinion. The husband of the harasser, Matthew Lasner, tweeted this morning about the incident. The tweet has since been deleted and his Twitter account removed.

Some people on the left, notably those who dislike President-elect Trump, have defended the harassment. Jessica Valenti, self-described feminist author and columnist for The Guardian, tweeted the following:

It is funny that she implies that Ivanka is a grown woman and therefore can handle harassment, because that doesn’t seem to be Valenti’s standard approach to women and harassment. Four years ago, she tweeted this:

And just last week, she tweeted this:

“Horrible to harass anyone at any age.” Unless your last name is Trump, of course; then you’re a grown woman and you can handle it. Didn’t Ivanka’s brother Eric say something similar regarding sexual harassment in the workplace?

Yet Valenti is not the only one defending the harasser. Others have claimed that those who defend Ivanka in this situation are therefore saying that Ivanka should never be criticized for her father’s campaign or incoming presidency. That is nonsense, of course, because nobody is saying that Ivanka is immune from criticism, yet that is the false choice that anti-Trump tweeters present to their audiences in order to justify their defense of harassment.

I understand their concerns; I am a conservative who did not vote for Donald Trump in the primaries and did not even vote for him in the general election. Technically, I am in agreement with those on the anti-Trump side who believe that the incoming president has run a campaign of divisiveness and hate. I even believe that Ivanka has enabled that divisiveness and hatred by supporting her father, although she herself had not contributed to it.

In a free country, we should be free to criticize public figures and the people who publicly and actively support them.

But we should never, ever harass them. Not only is it illegal, it is immoral and dangerous to our political climate.

Yet that is exactly what this man did to Ivanka. He harassed her. He screamed at her in front of her husband and children.

If this man had chosen to take a different approach, one that involved no screaming and no loaded declarations that her father is ruining this country, and instead decided to speak to her in a normal voice and had communicated his concerns civilly, perhaps she would have taken the time to respond, and even if not, at least he would have had a chance to express his opinions without getting kicked out of an airplane and without making the news.

Perhaps it is even true that President-elect Trump’s campaign increased the vitriol of our political climate. Reacting in kind, however, is not how it gets better. In fact, that is exactly how it gets worse. Hate begets hate. Fighting fire with fire only spreads the flames.

Please feel free to criticize the president-elect and his family; our first amendment gives us that right. Please feel free to do so publicly if you happen to run across any of them in person. But doing so civilly, without screaming, yields better results, and maybe even some action. Ivanka has influence over her father; if the harasser had spoken to her calmly throughout the flight, maybe they would have had a good conversation, and she would have relayed his concerns to the president-elect.

Instead we have a news story about a man harassing her, and people on Twitter defending harassment. Which could actually make a positive difference in this country?