Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said Sunday the Biden administration should have gone public about the Chinese balloon much earlier than it did.
“Presidents have the ability to go before a camera, go before the nation, and basically explain these things early on, and his failure to do so, I don't understand that, I don't understand why he wouldn't do that,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “And that is the beginning of dereliction of duty.”
The Florida Republican expanded on that message in an interview with ABC News Sunday.
“I recognize that you shoot something out of the sky that's the size of three buses and it lands in the wrong place it could hurt, harm, kill people or damage infrastructure,” he told ABC. “But by the same token, I think that if that was the case, then I think it really would have been helpful for the President of the United States to get on national television and explain to the American people ‘this is what we're dealing with. this is what I'm going to do about it, and this is why I haven't done it yet.’”
Rubio also expressed skepticism on Sunday that the recovery of the balloon would lead to the discovery of anything new about Chinese intelligence operations, or that the Chinese received information from the balloon that it couldn’t have gotten by other, less visible means.
“I think more than anything else, beyond just the ability to collect information, it is the ability to send a clear message,” Rubio told CNN, “and that is that ‘we have the ability to do this and America can't do anything about it. If they're not going to be able to stop a balloon from flying over U.S. airspace, how is America going to come to your aid if we invade Taiwan, or take land from India, or take islands from the Philippines and Japan?’”
Still, Rubio told CNN that he is “not sure there should be a direct individual consequence,” for the Chinese incursion into US airspace.
“I think the broader relationship between the US and China, to anyone who has any doubts about it, now the bottom line is here, and that is we are now a – China has been for some time and will be the primary strategic adversary of the United States and we should be focused on it.”
He also dismissed threats from the Chinese that the US had set a dangerous precedent by shooting down what they claim is a civilian balloon as “silly talk.”
“Listen, if we were to fly anything over China, they're gonna shoot it down. They're gonna shoot it down, and they're gonna hold it up and they're gonna take pictures of it and they're gonna go bonkers about it. So, I don't know what statement they're making – you can't fly anything over China now, anyway.”