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Rubio Anointed Neocon Choice

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At the end of last week, third-place Republican primary candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won a major endorsement, effectively making him the neoconservative candidate of choice and the GOP establishment’s top pick. That endorsement didn’t come from a former president, a labor union, or a high-profile pastor. Instead a publicity-shy New York hedge fund billionaire, Paul Singer, gave Rubio the nod. With it, so the conventional wisdom says, will go millions of dollars of super PAC contributions along with his considerable fundraising prowess.

Singer’s emergence as one of the GOP’s key donors coincides with sizeable investments in Washington’s most hawkish politicians and think tanks. Singer has made significant contributions to Senate hawks like Mark Kirk (R-IL)Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) as well as neoconservative and pro-Likud organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for Defense of DemocraciesThe Israel Project, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The New York Times, which broke the news of Singer’s endorsement on Friday, noted that Singer is “known for his caution and careful vetting of candidates and [being] passionately pro-Israel and a supporter of same-sex marriage,” and emphasized that Rubio’s willingness to endorse hawkish pro-Israel positions may have contributed to his ability to secure the endorsement sought by many of the GOP’s presidential primary candidates. The Times’ Maggie Haberman and Nicholas Confessore wrote:

Mr. Rubio has aggressively embraced the cause of wealthy pro-Israel donors like Mr. Adelson, whom the senator is said to call frequently, and Mr. Singer, who both serve on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, an umbrella group for Republican Jewish donors and officials. Mr. Bush has been less attentive, in the view of some of these donors: Last spring, he refused to freeze out his longtime family friend James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state, after Mr. Baker spoke at the conference of a liberal Jewish group.

Rubio’s Foreign Policy

Rubio has gone out of his way to stake out hawkish foreign policy positions. Last month, he released a video in which he cryptically said that “what this president and his administration are doing in Israel is a tragic mistake” and accused Obama of betraying “the commitment this nation has made to the right of a Jewish state to exist in peace.” He went on to pledge unconditional support to Israel if elected president.

Rubio foreign policy adviser and fundraiser Phil Rosen tweeted last spring that Obama feels “entitled to screw Israel.”

And the Senator from Florida has said he would “absolutely” revoke the Iran nuclear deal if elected president and blasted the Obama administration for criticizing Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This wouldn’t be the first time Singer has thrown his financial weight behind Rubio. Between 2009 and 2014, his hedge fund Elliott Management was Rubio’s second largest source of campaign contributions, providing him with $122,620, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In turn, the presidential hopeful has taken several steps to advance the special interests of Singer and Elliott Management.

The Case of Argentina

For instance, Elliott leads a group of holdout creditors who bought up Argentine debt at pennies on the dollar and then sued the country to pay up in full. If successful, Elliott could collect as much as $2 billion. Singer’s philanthropy has often gone to groups—such as the American Enterprise Institute, The Israel Project, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies—that promote the controversial work of Argentine Special Investigator Alberto Nisman. In 2006, Nisman released a report claiming that top Iranian leaders ordered the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people. But the report relied almost exclusively on the testimony of members of the Mujahedin e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition group that former members liken to a cult.

Recipients of Singer’s funding frequently level charges of anti-Semitism against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and accuse her of participating in a cover-up to hide Iranian involvement in the attack while never disclosing their funding from Singer and his strong financial incentives for attacking Kirchner.

Last May, Rubio, mirroring the rhetoric of Singer-funded thinktanks, introduced a Senate resolution demanding a “swift and transparent” investigation into Nisman’s death and accused Kirchner of conspiring “to cover up Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist bombing.”

Rubio’s entire presidential campaign has been marked by efforts to position himself as the neoconservative candidate of choice, even going so far as to make his campaign slogan “A New American Century,” noticeably similar to the Bill Kristol-founded Project for a New American Century, which helped lay the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq.

Singer’s endorsement seemingly indicates that Rubio is making progress in securing the support of the Republican Party’s biggest donors and most committed foreign policy hawks. All this raises the question: how long will it be before Sheldon Adelson, the GOP’s biggest donor and advocate of launching a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran, pledges his support to Rubio’s campaign.

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Bret Stephens is a columnist for the New York Times who previously worked at the Wall Street Journal and the neoconservative flagship magazine Commentary.


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