Frank Rich: 'Far Right' Rubio Is 'Truculent Neocon,' Some Hillary 'Scandals' 'Are Not'

Appearing as a guest on Tuesday's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, New York magazine's Frank Rich asserted that GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio is "quite far to the right" and has a "very truculent neocon foreign policy" as he and host O'Donnell discussed whether the Florida Senator has the best chance of the "establishment" Republican candidates of being nominated.

As Rich did not apply an ideological tag to Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, he was surprisingly bearish on their chances of winning a general election "even though they may be running against a Barry Goldwater-like Republican they should be able to easily trounce," as he labled both Democratic candidates as "problematic." He also suggested that Clinton is "her own worst enemy," but claimed some of her problems are "controversies" but not "scandals" as Republicans call them.

At about 10:20 p.m. ET, host O'Donnell asked if Rubio is in the "best place" as the "most conservative" of the "establishment" candidates, leading Rich to voice agreement with his premise:

Yes, I think it probably is because he's positioned himself, you know, quite far to the right. I mean, he's, you know, against abortion in cases of incest and rape. He's sort of, he's anti-gay marriage. He has a very truculent neocon foreign policy, so, and he's backed away from any kind of immigration reform. So it's really, he's not that far away in views from either Cruz or Trump or Sarah Palin or the rest of them. But he's still not the genuine article, I think, to those on the right who prefer Cruz and Trump.

As the discussion turned to the Democratic race, after predicting that things will get better for Clinton against Sanders in the states after New Hampshire, Rich then added:

But the fact remains, in my view, she's a dull candidate, not terribly inspiring, and I think the Democrats have a problem because I think they have two leading candidates who are problematic in a national election, even though they may be running against a Barry Goldwater-like Republican they should be able to easily trounce.

After O'Donnell asked if the Democratic nominee would emerge "softened up" because of the competitive primary battle, Rich responded:

Yeah, I think there is some of that. I also would argue, though, that Hillary Clinton softens herself up in a way because she just -- it's not clear what her message is, she's not transparent about the various controversies, some of which Republicans called scandals that are not, but they are controversies and things that should be straightened out.

You feel still that the whole quid pro quo or not of, you know, fundraising for the Clinton foundation of hugely paid speaking engagements. There's a reason why polls say that people don't trust her, and she's got to clear that up. And I really feel she's her own worst enemy, much more than either the Republicans or Bernie Sanders is.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Tuesday, February 2, The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC:

10:20 p.m. ET
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL: Let's isolate on Rubio for a minute. Isn't he the most conservative person who is associated with that so-called establishment lane? And is that the best place to be if that lane has any hope?

FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Yes, I think it probably is because he's positioned himself, you know, quite far to the right. I mean, he's, you know, against abortion in cases of incest and rape. He's sort of, he's anti-gay marriage. He has a very truculent neocon foreign policy, so, and he's backed away from any kind of immigration reform. So it's really, he's not that far away in views from either Cruz or Trump or Sarah Palin or the rest of them. But he's still not the genuine article, I think, to those on the right who prefer Cruz and Trump.

(...)

RICH: But the fact remains, in my view, she's a dull candidate, not terribly inspiring, and I think the Democrats have a problem because I think they have two leading candidates who are problematic in a national election, even though they may be running against a Barry Goldwater-like Republican they should be able to easily trounce.

O'DONNELL: And do you anticipate that Democrats witnessing possibly a version of the phenomenon that George H.W. Bush suffered when Pat Buchanan ran against him and lost, but softened him up in ways that people hadn't anticipated maybe for the general election which Bill Clinton eventually won?

RICH: Yeah, I think there is some of that. I also would argue, though, that Hillary Clinton softens herself up in a way because she just -- it's not clear what her message is, she's not transparent about the various controversies, some of which Republicans called scandals that are not, but they are controversies and things that should be straightened out.

You feel still that the whole quid pro quo or not of, you know, fundraising for the Clinton foundation of hugely paid speaking engagements. There's a reason why polls say that people don't trust her, and she's got to clear that up. And I really feel she's her own worst enemy, much more than either the Republicans or Bernie Sanders is.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters