Wednesday night, CNN hosted a town hall event for GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio. With candidates fielding questions from entrepreneurs, retired military officers and teachers without interruptions from other candidates, viewers likely felt like this was how all presidential events should be. While all 3 candidates did well, the consensus was that Ted Cruz missed a great opportunity to elevate himself. CNN’s article explains how Sen. Cruz missed a great opportunity.
It isn’t that Sen. Cruz said things that were inaccurate. It isn’t that Sen. Cruz shouldn’t have taken the opportunity to ridicule Mr. Trump’s cease and desist letter. It’s that Sen. Cruz didn’t take the opportunity to look presidential. Instead, Sen. Cruz sounded like the solicitor general for the state of Texas. While it’s indisputable that Sen. Cruz was Texas’ solicitor general to the US Supreme Court, it’s equally indisputable that Sen. Cruz is running for president of the United States.
Sen. Cruz sounded like an exceptional attorney, which he is. Sen. Rubio sounded like a well-informed statesman who could appeal to the different parts of the Republican Party. In short, Sen. Rubio made an attractive case for why he should be the GOP’s presidential nominee. The first person to question Sen. Rubio was Maggie Grisell, a senior at Furman University. Here’s the transcript of Ms. Grisell’s question and Sen. Rubio’s reply:
QUESTION: …Welcome to Greenville. I’m sure you’re well aware that college and student debt loans are on the rise currently. As someone who’s planning to attend dental school this upcoming fall, my only in-state option is about $100,000 dollars a year, setting me up for about half a million dollars of debt before I have the chance to make a dime of it back. Do you currently think that there’s a problem with the cost of education…
RUBIO: … Yes.
QUESTION: And, if so, what’s your plan to make it more affordable, specifically how do you deal with cutting costs for students, but still maintaining a high quality of education?
RUBIO: I think that’s a great question. In fact, I believe I’m the only Republican candidate that consistently talks about student loan debt, and one of the reasons why is because three years ago I still owed over $100,000 in student loan debt. Which I was only able to pay off because I wrote a book, it’s called an, “An American Son”, no available in paperback.
RUBIO: People always laugh, I love that joke – It’s not a joke, it is available in paperback.
RUBIO: So, I’ve actually worked, and I have a bipartisan agenda on this issue, and it comprises four main things. The first is alternative accrediting, OK? Today there are only six accrediting boards in the country. You can only award what is recognized as a four year degree if you are accredited by one of these six institutions. It’s basically a monopoly because today in the 21st century we have the ability to learn multiple ways. You don’t just have to sit in a classroom. There are so many different ways now to acquire information. And, so what I’ve pushed for is an alternative accrediting model that allows there to be an accredited learning outside of the traditional school setting.
For example, give people credit for what they learned through life experience, work experience, military experience. If you have mastered a subject, you should not be forced to sit in a classroom and pay to take a course on something you already know if you’ve proved you’ve already mastered it. This alternative accrediting model would allow us to do that, and there’s already options out there. Coursera, Udacity, but they’re not accredited so you can’t use financial aid, and the private sector doesn’t recognize it. I think we need to do that. That is especially important for non-traditional students.
For example, let’s say there’s a single mother, she’s a receptionist, she makes $11 dollars an hour. The only way she’s ever going to get a raise is to go back to school and become a dental hygienist, or a paralegal. But, she can’t go back to school because she has to work full-time during the day, and raise her kids at night. If there was an alternative accrediting model that allowed her to acquire learning on nights, on weekends through life experience, work experience, that gave her credit for what she learned in her years on the job it would at least shorten that time, if not allow her to complete that degree course. So, the first is alternative accrediting that would allow you to get the maximum number of credits without having to pay for it in a traditional institution.
The second is an alternative to student loans called the student investment plan. And, this would allow you to go to a private investment group who would invest in you the way an investment group invests in a start-up business. In essence, they would believe in you so much, and in your success, that they would pay for your college. If you become financially successful, they’re going to make their investment back with a profit. If you do not, they’re going to lose their money and made a bad investment. But, all the risk is on them.
The third is to make income based repayment the automatic method of repaying a loan. I actually have that law right now that I’m working on with Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia. And, why that is important is because I would rather collect $20 dollars a month from a student than nothing. Because if you’re collecting $20 dollars, at least you’re collecting $20 dollars a month and they’re not defaulting on the debt, because if you default it ruins your credit, and no you can’t buy a house, now you can’t – it really hurts you.
And, the fourth is called right to know before you go, which I’m working on with Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon. And, what that law says is that before you take out a loan, schools have to tell you how much people make when they graduate from that school with the degree that you’re seeking. Why is that important?
Number one, it will probably teach you that the market for Roman philosophers has tightened significantly. So, you may not want to borrow $50,000 dollars to be a Roman philosopher unless you’re going to teach it, or go on to grad school. But, the other is it’s going to allow you to compare schools. It’s going to allow you to look at two different schools, and say I want to major in history. A history major from this school makes $50 grand a year, and it only costs $20,000 dollars. A history major from this school makes $50,000 dollars a year, but it costs $100,000 dollars.
That’s a ton of reading but it’s a 21st Century approach to help people stay employable. It addresses student loan debt and the cost of specific degrees vs. the earning potential for those degrees. Most importantly, this is the type of answer that will open young voters’ eyes and make them young conservatives.
This fits with Sen. Rubio’s promise to unite the GOP while growing the conservative movement. If that isn’t the goal of each presidential candidate, then that should be held against those presidential candidates. If political parties aren’t growing, they’re falling behind. It’s a fallacy to think that it’s possible to maintain the status quo.
The next question for Sen. Rubio was from Gen. Hampton McManus. After Sen. Rubio’s answer, CNN moderator/host Anderson Cooper asked Sen. Rubio a question. Here’s that brief exchange:
COOPER: I just want to follow up with that. Just a quick follow-up. As you know, Governor Bush again continued his line of attack on you saying you’re inexperienced. What do you say to Republicans in South Carolina who say, look, do we really want another first-term senator in the White House?
RUBIO: Sure. Well, I would just tell you that I believe Barack Obama is a failed president not because he was a one-term senator. Barack Obama today has seven years of presidential experience. There’s only two people in the world that have more experience than he does being president, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. And today, seven years after he became president, he is worse in the seventh year than he was in his first. So clearly experience was not the issue. The reason why he has failed as a president is because his ideas don’t work. His philosophy, his ideology is a failed one.
While it’s doubtful that Mr. Trump or Gov. Bush will let that be Sen. Rubio’s final word, Sen. Rubio is right. President Obama’s foreign policy isn’t a disaster just because he didn’t have the requisite experience. It’s a disaster because President Obama’s ideology didn’t permit him to see the world as it really existed. Further, President Obama never looked at national security through the prism of keeping America safe. President Obama constantly saw national security through the prism of politics first and keeping his political base with him at all times second.
Finally, President Obama was an anti-war pacifist through and through. If you start with a predetermined outcome, which is never to get involved, it’s difficult to fit the situation into that ideology.
The bottom line is that Sen. Rubio looked prepared to be the commander-in-chief on Day One. Sen. Cruz looked ready to be a Supreme Court justice or the solicitor general of the United States.